We all have our themes; things to which we go back over and over again as if those people around us haven’t heard the thousand times we have said that same “old thing he says so often.” We all have those oft repeated mantras which we say so frequently that they seem like mutterings or ravings more than aphorisms.
I keep going back to silence, darkness and a candle to begin the day. These three things: candle, darkness and silence are a trio medication I take most days as a means by which to be with my God and with myself – to curate that conversation. “God, this is Charles. Charles, this is God. Yes. We are acquainted.”
After which there seems a brief silence.
The energy of that silence changes and yet the conversation rarely does. The energy of the pause as we both circle around each other sniffing like bright red foxes balanced by massive tails of hope; looking, wondering – that energy can have different tones. Some days it is filled with smoke because I am angry at God and hold It accountable for one of many injustices I find it hard to reconcile. Sometimes the energy between us is taught with the tension of betrayal – some way in which I betrayed myself or someone else in my attempts to get what I think I want – or worse, think I deserve. Sometimes the energy is soft, like fresh snow on a branch just barely able to support it, but willing- balancing.
Lighting the candle in the darkness is not always easy. I use a candle with a thick wick and a wax-width such that it does not crater as it melts; so that the flame is bold, wide, tall and demanding. So my morning begins with my hood all the way down over my face to block the light which seems often too bright at first.
In short, I am hiding. I am hiding from the day to come. I am hiding from the past with all its triumphs and failures, loving embraces and brutal betrayals, good meals and poor choices. I am hiding from the present, with all its inherent responsibilities and vulnerabilities. And of course, I am hiding from the future which will include death alongside unexpected joys the way a play weights and then the curtain falls.
And in the end, I am content to allow myself some time to hide under my hood; and then time emerged alongside that one column of light in a dark room and a dark world. I think we need to hide sometimes with our God, standing as It does just feet away, then inches, staring at us the way Kai stares at me when I am eating something he considers delightful – which is everything. And so too with God who waits with us and considers our inmost thoughts delightful no mater their tone, their fear, their hope, their disappointment, their rank celestial smell, and even their willingness to keep going.
It is tempting, in the hidden darkness of the early morning to ask God “why” when we know, full well, that that is the one question It will not answer. So we hide. Sullen in the unanswered “why.”
But we hide not for too long. A hiding that leads to isolation will usually fail us. We need people. We need each other and that is why churches are so important. They are places of connection where “why” falls away to give way to “how.” So in our hidden darknesses we look up and out at God from under a hood brought low and we welcome the light and then the conversation. Because “how” is a question God seems to like in its inherent creativity. God takes our hands, gently, pulling us from our hiding into the “how” of a new day like an dashing prince drawing a handmaid into the dance of a midnight ball with those beautiful eyes and that winning smile and red sash. And so we dance, one more day and God whispers “peace” with his lips at our neck. And the music carries us when we feel we might faint.