For me, the first verse of today’s poem captures something really important about the quality of knowing involved in knowing God:
And God said: how do you know? And I went out into the fields At morning and it was true.
This kind of knowing, this kind of acceptance, has less to do with intellectual assent, and more to do with embodied, experienced wisdom. This is the knowing which emerges from encounter with the Divine. Many of us, when we first try to articulate how it is that we know that God is real, or how we have come to understand God’s calling on our lives, struggle for words. It simply is true – and all our attempts to articulate why and how are inadequate.
Today I went not into the fields at morning, but into the woods as the light was beginning to fade, for our Muddy Church. “I went out into the woods / at dusk and it was true.” It was true in the twigs and leaves we arranged into the shape of angels, and the hands that arranged them. It was true in the tight winter buds which promise new life in spring. It was true in the fallen tree trunk around which we shared communion, and from which a few green shoots were starting to sprout. It was true in snatches of conversation with beloved neighbours, in stories of saying ‘yes’, in wonderings and prayers. It was true in bread blessed and broken on a small patch of grass behind a tower block, as the M6 thundered past.
But what was true? That is, as R.S. Thomas so wonderfully articulates, harder to pin down. Something about God’s pervading presence in the world. Something about glimpses of glory in the ordinary. Something about our shared creaturely createdness. Something about noticing, listening, pausing. Something about breathing, breath, life, spirit… Something more. Something just out of sight. Something to yearn for, long for, seek and search for. Something to be wrestled with. Something we know when we see it.
This kind of knowing is, as Carys Walsh puts it, “an acceptance of God as the heart of the world which does not deny struggle.” It is an acceptance which trusts God to be present more in doubt and questioning than in neat answers or dogmatic certainty. It is an acceptance which knows God as much through sorrow as through joy, and which sees God as much in the mundane as in the spectacular. It is the sort of acceptance which doesn’t wait for all the lose ends to be neatly tied up, the contradictions smoothed over, the ‘correct’ things in place, before it says “Amen”.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’..