Last night was an honest moment with the community. I wasn’t planning on being vulnerable. I wish I didn’t have to be. And I wish I didn’t allow myself to be! But I thought better against it, thought that there was much liberty in it, and thought that perhaps it was a practice of renunciation.
After the Word, Kit asked to everyone, “What did God save you from last year?” Given that it’s the New Year and all – it was still January after all. And someone had said that January was just a trial month for 2018. The year officially starts only in February.
Looking back on last year, my God had saved me from three things:
Bottomless pit of despair
I can still vividly remember 2016, and how suffocating it was. I remember the darkness. I remember the heaviness. I remember drowning.
And then, 2017 was a little better, perhaps in a sense that there was something other than despair to oscillate from. But I still had bouts of falling into the dark pit. I still had bouts of drowning. I still went through the dark night of the soul.
This time though, I was able to… embrace it a bit more. I didn’t try so hard to escape it, at least not as much. I came to grips with the multidimensionality of my faith – that every emotion, whether uplifting or painful, was part of my faith journey as a faithful. That despair is as much part of my faith as hope is. That doubt – not necessarily unbelief – is as a beautiful dimension of my faith as belief. That depression, brokenness, lamentation are as much part of my faith as joy is.
I think I will still find myself falling into the dark pit of despair but I don’t have much despair for despair anymore. The pit doesn’t seem so bottomless. There is a quiet assurance that light will always manage to peer through the crevices of wood and dried leaves and fodder should I ever look up.
Idolatry of certainty
I have this almost neurotic need to be sure. But my God had shown me that life’s trajectory isn’t as clear-cut, isn’t as defined, isn’t as certain as I’d like it to be. He has shown this ambiguity and uncertainty even in Himself – even He isn’t one to be boxed, systemized, figured out. If He were, what we’d then be worshipping is not Him, but certainty.
ATS was a way to teach me the beauty in uncertainty and the gift in doubt. We’ve been there one year this January. We entered ATS not knowing exactly what would come out of it – such a counterintuitive move on my end. That’s why when people ask, so what’s next? That’s not such an easy question to answer, and my uneasiness begins the moment I sense their inability to understand my inability to answer. But the truth is that my God had given me a lamp that shed light only the first step on the path – I can’t quite see where it leads. And this has allowed me to trust God – ah, trust, something I’ve always, always found difficult to do by default. It has allowed me too, to continually seek to discern where He’s blowing the winds that I may adjust my sails accordingly.
I’ve learned how to appreciate the silence of God. I’ve learned that in His silence, that’s where acceptance lies. Sometimes the moment calls for not saying anything but feeling what needs to be felt. And He has done that for me and with me.
He has also directed me to things outside of myself – what a gift because it has become an exhausting ordeal to have to look within myself to help my self escape myself. I’ve learned to look to the outside to find things that help find the otherwise lost parts of the self, things that bring to life the otherwise dying parts of the soul, things that help fan the embers of the otherwise long-since extinguished fires of the heart.
I’ve learned to direct myself to something else other than myself – that’s why I’ve been trying to capture every single thing that capture my senses – the sight of the sunset, the subtle color changes of the rays of the sun when they peer through tree leaves and branches, the sunlight that trickles into a blinded window, the sound of silence (my favorite) in an empty room or in pauses between sentences, the look of the multi-tiered night sky from which the stars hover, the soul-resonance with music whether in songs played on Spotify or songs played by nature, the texture of the strawberries and banana and oatmeal in a single spoon, the multiple taste of coffee in a single sip, the smell of books, the feel of the wind against my palm while in a moving car, the fireworks that light up in my brain upon reading words that go together in perfect eloquence and elegance, the emotions that get stirred in my gut when a movie or a play or a book ends superbly…
I have a feeling the theme of this year would be somewhere along the lines of seeking silence, seeking solitude, seeking to overcome, seeking to renunciate, and seeking the small things, all for the sake of the Self — to be in touch with it yet to escape it.
All things considered, I think 2017 was a year of much growth and much stretching, of ups and downs, of an oscillation between two extremes. Hmm, the same would probably be said for 2018. The same but not quite. I’d probably use the same words, but perhaps mean it not quite in the same way. Hopefully in a deeper, richer, in a more life-lived sense.