Growing up with my Dad, I was very well acquainted with the concept of The Dark Night of the Soul, although I wouldn't have called it that. When I did run across St. John of the Cross' book in a Catholic bookstore in my early 20s, I grabbed it immediately for my Dad, thinking "here's a guy my Dad can identify with". Dad struggled with God. Hard. He got in God's face, so to speak, and pretty much demanded that He give up the goods and bless him and his family. He did this the loudest --and the most angrily, I think-- when it looked like everything was going to crap. Which was rather more often than he --or we-- liked. Mostly it was financial stuff, or job frustration, or the constant underlying sense that every single one of us Moffs was wasting what we had to give the world due to our collective ennui. or inertia. or incredibly low expectations.
As it turns out, God DID bless him, and us. Dad's life now is not anything he would have thought possible on many, many fronts, and his faith is huge. So is my Mom's, which none of us would have expected. My brother and I are doing pretty well, all things considered, and are more or less solid individuals, each with our own faith that has withstood various tests over time.
So now, after about a year of feeling pretty darn good about life and seeing blessings pretty much everywhere I looked, I have hit a wall. I have no intention of doing a long Debbie Downer blog post about depression, questioning one's life purpose, etc., etc., (and I'm aware that I keep coming back to this topic on the blog... annoying) but it's been a big pushback to my theology... which had become, shall we say, chipper. To quote a Cowboy Junkies lyric that is quoting William Faulkner: "A man in a crisis falls back on what he knows best". So, as I have before at similar points in my life, I'm praying more --which is undeniably not a bad thing--, listening to the Pixies and Modest Mouse and other ironic music, and contemplating Ye Olde Dark Night of the Soul.
I remember reading "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson and thinking, "wow, this poem is really too long", but really digging the central metaphor of God, chasing us like a hunting dog, chasing us as we run from Him --and we all do ("for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" "there is none righteous, not even one")-- chasing us through all the side roads and back alleys of our sins and shallowness and the sense bred into all of humanity since The Fall that WE should be in control, not Him. I loved the inevitability of it, the vision Thompson had of a God that WOULD have us in the end. There's an echo of this in one of my cornerstone (favorite) hymns:
Oh love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
that in Thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
I have believed, as long as I can remember, that God will do anything, ANYTHING He has to, to get us to focus on Him, to make the choices necessary to put ourselves in right relationship to Him... because He is the Divine Lover that will have His Beloved. And I've relied on that at times when I felt approximately 3,784,906,579 miles away from God's Will... that if I turned to Him and said, "Hey there, I've really messed up", I'd hear the hound's bay on the breeze and know that I was about to be rescued from myself. Again.
So the question now is, what, exactly am I to make of this current dark night? I have a few explanations of why He'd configure things so that I have to get on my knees RIGHT NOW, but I'm not satisfied by any of them. I kept thinking I was stressed, tired, maybe a little burned out, but no, that's not it.
Maybe the point is to make me slow down, because I'm going to miss something important if I don't. Maybe I've already been missing the something important and now He's holding me in place and making me FOCUS. I'm in the final quarter of the Year of Not Dating, and I don't have many conclusions --except that it's damned hard not to date when you're healthy and your biological clock is deep in the second half-- so maybe that's it. Or maybe it's way bigger and has much less to do with me, which would make more sense and really be something of a relief. I don't know.
So I'll just hang out here for as long as this lasts, and keep praying, and try and be patient with the insomnia and other stuff... and wait for the grey veil to lift and the meaning of this to come clear to me, which I believe in faith it will.
Don't forget to hope
4 weeks ago