Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: April 27, 2004

evening

A cool breeze throughout the day kept it from becoming too hot. Though, to be honest, I miss the fifty degree days. Tonight the stars shine bright, I love that I see more of them now, I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. The pines are gone, I thought I would miss them. I don’t really, except for the fact that nary a squirrel has been by since they were cut. Too difficult to get on the balcony.

The cloud of swallows flying above and around me earlier today while on the lake still brings a smile. I was reminded of Hitchcock, of course, only they had not the slightest bit of malevolence. Their little faces peeking out of the mud nests, so well crafted beneath the tower. Then flying out, around and back, a flurry of noise and activity all around. It was a great sight, and peculiar since I was steering for better views in a kayak, in the middle of a lake.

They are the same type of birds who come to San Juan Capistrano every year. Their home here seems to be quite secure, if at times a little noisy from the motor boats pulling skiers every so often.

I realized this today, I’m not sure why. There are different types of people in this world. That’s not the realization. I realized as two motor boats were speeding across the lake, filling the area with their loud noise, going fast, a thrill to be sure. They were missing a great deal of what I was experiencing. For them it was a search for speed, to dominate the lake, to impose themselves upon it and move, loud and quickly. That is one type of person.

I’ve always been attracted to other ways of interaction. Rather than dominate and impose I want to experience the thrill of participation, whether it be through the wind carrying sail, or through the quiet movement of pushing myself through the water, able to feel and experience the nuances of weather and water, hearing only the sounds which nature herself makes.

If given the choice more people would choose to go skiing or open the throttle all the way. Not me, no appeal. Today on the lake I had no interest whatsoever in being on those boats. I can go faster in a car, I suppose. I can’t always glide along the water, feeling the chop underneath, hearing the water splash, running my hands through it as I move along. The only time I felt an interest in something else was when I went by a sailboat, whose owner had left the jib up and flapping in the wind. It was the height of sloppy seamanship, but I loved the sight, and would have loved to raise that main and take the boat out for a bit.

It’s not quite as good exercise, however, so I’ll stick with the kayak.

This says a lot about me, I suppose. I’m not one to feel joy in mechanical noise, or to celebrate conquering nature. I want to learn, to feel the fluidity of it all, to glide in this world as one with the world around.

That is the way of the Spirit as well, which is maybe why I despise attempts to manipulate or overmanage. The Spirit is like water and wind, to learn the ways of the Spirit we cannot barrel our way through, trying for speed, making noise which hides the powerful whisper.

To act in a way we listen is a slower way, arriving takes longer. There is not the quick rush, the thrill of the moment. It is difficult, and at times frustrating. That’s why it’s so important to look around, to take in that which goes by slowly, to recognize the nuances of life as it does come, to celebrate the beauty that others miss, to enlarge our soul by way of limited perspective.

It’s about learning to see, and like stars in the night, one cannot see right away all that is there. Nor does it help to go many places, wander around for stimulation, for the mind becomes dulled, too much to take in.

So, as the monks of old, the greats who sought Christ in the wilderness because they could not find him in the usual places, I am learning the lessons. Patience, faith, steadfastness, work, hope, and staying put. I haven’t learned these yet, I still rebel, I still seek that which is beyond me, to find an advantage, to prove myself to others. This is a long road, and I am young.

I look around today and I take joy in what I saw, feeling a need to do still more practical work, understanding that I am doing what I can. Having prayed I trust God has heard my prayer. What I am learning too, is the lesson of living in faith even without seeing, maybe without ever seeing.

Habakkuk said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalts, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

That is the lesson I am learning. To look and be joyful. I’ve said all my life I believe in God and Christ, in love and eternity. Now, it is my chance to show that I really do believe it all. That is the gift of lack and frustration. Faith becomes real. A fractured time can become a treasured time, all in an instant. This all I am learning, not yet grasping, though finally beginning to approach. I hope.

morning

The day is already a little warm, there is no breeze. Very dry as well, I wake up in the night with my mouth parched. The oak leaves are emerging noticeably more. The animals seem to be retreating from the day, very few were out during my morning walk. Only the sound of a raven in the distance, and the requisite jays.

I go through this day in sections, beginning very early, at 2:30, finding myself wide awake and ready for the day. So I get up and work until 6:00, then fall back asleep for a couple of hours.

In the dark of the very early morning I felt a need to pray and a draw to consider. Something has not felt right in these writings, something which I knew and didn’t know, a lesson to be learned from missteps.

It is the fact that I am not living in the present. I speak of doing the tasks before me, only my eyes are looking far past. Such is much of this writing, an encouragement to myself as much a consideration of the world.

I look back into the past, wondering if I went wrong, I look ahead to the future, wondering if I am doing what is right, checking myself in the present to attempt a better strategy. Given my status and goals, that of course is not the best rule, and upsets that which I hope to become.

So, I tend to wallow, focus on the unspiritual spirituality, having faith in part, betraying it in others, grumbling through the use of theological analysis.

Last night I said I have no rest. It is because I will not allow it, I will not rest in faith. The tasks going beyond just standing. In awaiting the tide or silence I worry, lose my peace I am not supposed to lose. Mainly because I do not trust myself, nor the Spirit in me. I go along, almost unwillingly, begrudging the movement away and towards. But at my heart I do not believe, I do not trust. I trust enough to follow the way before me, to distrust the paths which others say lead to life, to seek the trails which lead higher and farther, only I do not trust enough to be content along the way, to view the sights and sounds of the path I am on.

That is a measure of my own soul, my youthfulness revealed. The more deeply I see, the more distant everything becomes, the more I see as obstacles and faults standing in the way. Mountains are deceptive as one approaches, they emerge from the horizon grand and inviting, yet for many, many miles they stay the same, with a feeling coming that one will never come near. Then one day, they are before you and you begin to climb.

I see the mountain, I have not yet begun to climb it. It is the transformation from one life to the next, in an eternal and practical way, in a way which I am learning, only am too slow in doing. I am called to a life I am unsuited for, I think. My natural state is shallow, energetic, wanting to lead and accomplish, wanting to establish and build, to fight. Yet, the wall descends, the Hand has steered, with my heart telling me with undoubted words it is not wrong for my way to have been blocked, and so to fight is to fight him who steers.

Thus, I follow, not letting loose those things which bind, missing friends, missing the ‘could have beens’ or ‘only ifs’, willing to cast all of this I say away for the taste of acceptance and success, for the sake of work paid for, and esteem gained.

It shows the paucity of this age that I can feel mature in a Christian setting, feel myself farther along than many. In some ways I am to be sure, only I’m not far at all. Have I even really begun to understand what this life means?

I don’t think I have. The road lies long before me, and I travel it in solitude.

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