The Song of Experience

I am, to put it mildly, in something of a dilemma. Here I've been, keeping this blog for a little over two years, not entirely secretly (at least, not to myself) in the hope that somehow, if I wrote about it honestly and openly enough, I might undergo something like a spiritual journey, ending in enlightenment or, at the very least, awakening, much as Elizabeth Gilbert herself describes in Eat, Pray, Love. Well, as I am sure some of you have already guessed, something huge has happened to me over the past six weeks that I am all-too-willing to class as a major spiritual event (I don't know how to categorize it otherwise), perhaps even the transformation that I had been hoping for, but--irony of ironies--I can't talk about it here on my blog! I really don't know what to do now. Even hinting at the source of my awakening could be problematic, although it is possible that hinting in the way that I am now could be even worse. Oh, there are so many things that I want to tell you, but can't.

What can I say? I have, like Gandalf fighting the Balrog, passed through fire and deep water; I have faced demons that I did not know I harbored. I have been humiliated and exalted, felt myself erased from existence and reborn. I have witnessed a soul touched by grace and redeemed; I have discovered strengths and passions I never knew that I had. I have confronted my greatest fears and wrestled with them until they revealed themselves in all their shabbiness. I have laughed more, cried more, loved and hated more in the past six weeks than ever before in my life. I have found God and felt His love.

I know now that God has been with me all along, guiding me whenever I was willing to listen. It was God who suggested to me that I should get a puppy so as to have a source of living joy in my life; it was God who insisted that I have our kitchen renovated so that our home would have a proper hearth. It was God who was with me as I practiced centering prayer, sitting quiet and open to the possibility of His touch. It was God who led me, through my sister-in-law, to Byron Katie's wisdom about "loving what is." It was God who kept me, all this past year, when my work had fallen apart and there seemed nothing to strive for anymore, from flinging myself over the back porch and brought me, step by gentle but excruciating step, down into the garden again. I am amazed that I survived, and yet, thanks be to God, I have.

Just looking over the past year's blog posts in order to make the above links sends my heart racing. How close I came to losing my life and my soul! And yet, even connecting the dots here cannot tell the whole story, cannot explain why I had fallen into such a deep pit of despair. I did not know myself at the time. And now that I do, I can't say, except to my priest and my closest friends. It seems wrong not to tell you, especially those of you who have been with me through the darkest nights this past year. Perhaps one day I will be able to tell you, but I'm not sure. And yet, if I don't, how will you understand what I tell you now, about how wonderful life is and how great is God's love?

No, this isn't meant as a tease just to get you curious. It's a real dilemma for me as a writer. I've hit a number of these blocks over the course of the last two years, times when I felt there was something that I simply had to say but didn't feel I could--or should. But I know that this one really is different: it's the Big One, the great lesson that I needed to learn about myself, about God, about what it means to open yourself to the possibility of change, about fear, about beauty, about humility, about love. But, as with all great spiritual insights, I am afraid that if I talked about it, there would be those who would misunderstand. See? It is not a secret I feel comfortable sharing with just anybody. LOL! I finally get all those irritating hints about pearls that should not be thrown before swine.

How's this for a hint? It's all in the Song of Songs. It is likewise, I am now convinced, at the root of the devotion to the Virgin Mary. Again, see? God has been with me all along, whispering to me the secrets of His love. Nothing has been an accident; there is a great purpose behind every practice that I have been obsessed with, every spiritual question with which I have struggled. Even fencing, the ostensible purpose for starting this blog. I'm not quite sure where I'm going to be able to go from here, however. Clearly, I still have something to say. But how to say it, and to whom? Now that you know there is a mystery, will that entice you as readers--or repel you? I can just hear you exclaiming: "Oh, why all this teasing? Why can't she just give us the literal sense?" Maybe I am. Maybe everything I am saying is meaningful only on the surface of what I say. Or maybe not. This, too, is the world that I am now living in, a world suffused with significance and great secrets. But how secret? And known to whom? Who, other than God, knows our most secret thoughts, the things that we share with nobody or only very few?

Perhaps we all share the same secrets and only think that we are alone. Perhaps it is always thus with deep spiritual experiences, with our life of devotion and prayer. Perhaps, too, this is the way it should be, lest we take our awakening too much for granted and make it ordinary, the stuff of small talk and everyday life. There is a reason that we set some activities and spaces and times off as sacred, lest they be profaned. It isn't just that we fear misunderstanding--or ridicule. It is that we need to keep them apart lest they lose their power to connect us with the divine. How is it that Bernard put it? "Only the touch of the Spirit can inspire a song like this, and only personal experience can unfold its meaning. Let those who are versed in the mystery revel in it; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is not a melody that resounds abroad but the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills. It is a tune you will not hear in the streets, these notes do not sound where crowds assemble; only the singer hears it and the one to whom he sings--the lover and the beloved" (On the Song of Songs, 1.11, trans. Kilian Walsh [Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1981], pp. 6-7).

God loves us, I'm sure about that. I only wish I could tell you why I'm so sure.

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