Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 24, 2004


When the forest is bathed in an encroaching mist, lit by the setting sun below the horizon, it is a mystical scene. It speaks of times before time, and I don’t know why. I feel drawn into it, entranced, in awe.

The gentle breeze blows, the mist shrouds any light. I feel the scene in my soul.

Maybe this is it, or maybe it is something else. I feel the encroaching acedia biting my being. It wants to take hold, seize me in its smothering embrace. All day it sought me, all day I went from one task to the next. Learning, exercising, keeping my body and mind moving despite the enervating force.

I consider again what it is I am doing, and feel again that all there is to do is carry onward, do that which I know to do, that which will again occupy weeks. Other tasks loom distant, presenting themselves, though not fully, whispers, hints, which raise expectations without yet being revealed as anything more than shadows.

I grasp, and what I take hold slips through my fingers. My heart exults, then drifts down to earth. I feel the way Wesley noted when I consider standing outside in a prayerful pose. There is no relationship there, not really. I do, because it is right. My heart connects with God only through the translation of others. I consider whether this is a sign of artificiality on my part, or whether God only presents himself to me through the eyes of fellow believers. Alone, staring into the mist, I see nothing, feel nothing which speaks of friendship.

That doesn’t detract from my yearning, my seeking, for I know enough to say that God is likely drawing me ever onward. There is contentment in the presence of God resting. There is delight in experiencing in full the wonder of the divine. Enough so that we stay. We do not know what to do with joy, so we squander it. And God knows how easily we can become amused, so he distances himself, letting us seek him in the only way which works, through the emptiness, through the unsated thi

Ah, but the call upon us does not guarantee utter delight. None of whom I’ve read speak those words through their lives. Not David, not Wesley, not Mother Theresa.

So, I feel as I do, without letting these feelings burden me with a false sense of reality. This is the reason for always keeping one’s eyes on the goal. Only understanding the end can make the path worthwhile.


Light mist blew west along the driveway, thin and ethereal, the trailing edge of fog gone by. Now only the barest fog remains, an organdy sheet laid softly on the land, disturbed in the breeze. In the distance someone saws, or does another kind of work which entails loud whining machines. I remember my urban suburban days, where daily on some point of the compass there would be such sounds. Now it is a rarity, and I am glad for the fact. Whining noises and wind chimes, the bane of this present world, introduced noise pollution which no one seems to mind, only these same people don’t know the delight of hearing the wind shake the leaves of an oak, or stir the needles of a fir, whistling and whooshing, a quiet symphony of trees.

It is a beautiful song sung in a world which has no longer an ear for such music, and thus must add raucous beats, discordant dings. and grating choruses. Personally, I have a wind sock, which tells me of the wind with a little dance and swish of fabric, a swish which joins in the music already playing through the trees.

Spring continues, a real season here in the mountains. I notice we get all the seasons, with none overbearing.

Justification. That’s what’s on my mind. It’s a spiritual term, one of those big words that people like to throw out to impress and convince. I’m considering it this morning, but not with its theological implications. No, I’m much more earthly now, more worldly in my thinking. One of the hardest things about this present life is not the absence of cash coming in, or the distance from friends, or any of the other sacrifices. It’s justification. Before others, before myself, that is. The whole assumption being that God is the source of that, the real source. Only with a lacking faith, my mind turns more to others at times than to God. I want to prove myself, to show everyone, to show myself, that what I do I do for a reason, a good reason.

So I wrote a lot, trying to convince people of my reasons for retreating to a mountain cell, writing to convince myself that I was not doing this out of flagging ambition or stifled assertion. Most of the others weren’t convinced, and I waver in my own belief.

There is a place for the focused pursuit of God, I believe, where being an adult means being mature before Christ, not proving to this world how I can do exactly what 99% of people accomplish. Maybe that’s my issue, I don’t feel a need to prove myself, or I don’t most of the time, so I’m happy to do that which brings real progress in my soul, in my spiritual state, willing to let loose the security of this present world to grasp ahold of that which is eternal.

Others who feel a need to prove, look disprovingly on me as not playing the game rightly. Assuming my reasons are what theirs would be in retreating, the feared show of weakness, the abhorred reality of incapability.

That is the case, and yet at moments of confusion, at times in which I stumble, I feel the weight of justifying myself. I know, of course, knowing myself, that the real challenge is not others… it’s me. The person who had dreams of a federal judgeship while in college, who planned for many years the precise path, working at the foundations. Or the person who came up with what, I think, were some rather nifty ideas about church, who found himself dialoguing with some great thinkers and influencing thoughts, knowing that given the right context he could make a real mark in the church world. That person found frustration along those paths, the heavy hand of God leading and guiding, and yet not removing the inner ambition, the drive to have a voice.

Now, voiceless, influenceless, without any aspect which one could admire or respect, living what many would think is the worst reality for someone of my age and education, I struggle to show that my ambition has redirected, become more attuned to the Divine. I struggle because I myself rebel, doing those little things which assert my independence, when in reality my only freedom will come in completely letting go.

I feel the need to prove myself, to myself, to those who doubt. At the same time I realize this need is precisely against my higher goals. Only when I let loose my demand to justify myself will I find the contentment which eludes.

I know in my mind what I cannot achieve in my heart. So the dissonance arises, stifling any expression, making me unsuited for either reality. Ah, but at least I know what battle to fight. That is something. I hope.

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