These past few days I've been thinking. I do quite a lot of that. Live inside my own head, reflect on this and that, consider, ponder, worry, praise. Rehearse memories, imagine conversations, read, pray, give thanks, complain. Feel guilty or contented, uplifted or sad, impressed by beauty or depressed by brokenness; these and other emotional and intellectual puzzles are the colours and sounds of that world known only to me, and God. And in the most important sense, thankfully, known better to God than to me.
So how much of all of that inner noise and silence, searching and finding, that continuous flowing of thought and feeling that is the life I inhabit, how much of all this muchness of me is prayer. Do I pray or does God pray in me? Is prayer my seeking God or God seeking me? Is prayer indeed "the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed"? As an introvert I hope so, because there is a lot of living goes on inside our own heads, and inside our own hearts, and much of it a shared secret between us and God. Interestingly I find that more reassuring than worrying.
"O Lord, you have searched me and know me....you perceive my thoughts from afar...you are familiar with all my ways...before a word is on my lips you know it completely, O Lord." All this inner noise, like an orchestra tuning up and never quite ready for the concerto at which I am to be the guest soloist, God hears it, knows and understands the pre-performance anxiety. The closed circuit of action and reaction to all that happens in my life, that turns the affective and emotional kaleidoscope of my inner life into ever changing patterns I can't predict, God sees, and knows and understands the passion and the hope, the longing and the shadows, the joy of love found and the fear of love lost.
All this is a reminder to myself of something too often overlooked and under-appreciated. A human being is a stupendous mystery of unique and eternal worth to God, created and known and enfolded in the creative love that calls us into the freedom and glory that is a human life.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
There are of course deep and perplexing questions posed by such theological optimism about my life and metaphysical confidence about the way the universe works. I neither ignore them as irrelevant nor answer them with answers by definition partial, limited and speculative. Like everyone else I have to live with them. As a Christian I have no calling to understate the reality of evil, give intelligible answers to the tragedy of suffering, explain with what could only be uninformed impertinence the mystery of life's injustices cruelties and waste. No, as a Christian, facing the full realities of human existence and being a participant in this essential part of the human story that is my life, I think, pray and act out my life in the long shadow of a cross illumined by the blaze of resurrection.
Donald Mackinnon, was a courageous, intrepid explorer of the metaphysical landscape of 20th Century philosophical theology. He was a giant of a man, with steel wool eyebrows, a a love for his Harris Tweed jacket, and a voice that compelled attention, as with the huge hands and the body language of an Olympic wrestler he grappled and swayed to get a better hold on ideas both massive and elusive, but whose truth if it can be held and stated, are words of life. In one of his last publications he wrote movingly of the witness of the Christian church in a world full of just such tragedies and perplexities as our own.
“The Church exists in part to manifest to the world, albeit in a splintered reflection, that ultimate love whose expression in time is found in the crucifixion of the Son of God – to call men and women to their rest in its unfathomable deeps.”
Out of such ultimate love, we live and move and have our being.
(Both photos were taken early morning - one at the beach in Aberdeen, the other looking across the Mearns from the Bervie Road.)