23 January 2011

Detoxifying Hiddenness

I've said it before and I don't mean to harp on the point, but 2010 was a difficult year for us. Seeing it there, in those black and white letters, "difficult year" seems so far understated that I struggle to connect it to the events of that last 15 months.

You may have noticed that I haven't continued my series of God in the Yard posts. It's not because I haven't been reading the book, trust me. I've read chapter 8, "Cycle:sabbath" over and over, but haven't been able to make heads or tails of it. The words tumbled into my mind, rattled around a bit, and then seemed to dissipate like so much ether. I couldn't grasp them, couldn't find meaning that didn't become mist the moment I tried to articulate it.

And then we moved, cross-country, embracing unknown because it seemed better than what we had but, more than that, because we heard the echoes of a call we couldn't yet understand but that we could still choose to follow. I read the chapter again, curled up in this new-old room (we're living with family for the moment), and the meaning became conscious, like tipping over an iceberg to find the immensity underneath.

L.L. Barkat talks about the Sabbath as an act of hiding, as opposed to absence. It's a day to "veil our work for a time, the way night hides the things of day, and it is okay."

Forget a day. That phrase, friends, feels like a description of the entire last year.

Ok, it's not perfect. We didn't exactly choose to walk away from our jobs (though in some ways we did). We didn't choose to send our dreams up in smoke, or even to set them aside. We didn't choose pain and depression and sickness and difficulty and fear.

But we have felt hidden. Oh, have we felt hidden! Shoved under the bed like the Velveteen Rabbit when the boy forgot about him, more like. Missed. Forgotten. Ignored. Unseen. Over and over and over again.

Our temptation - my temptation - runs twofold. Either God has better people, more charismatic people, more gifted people, people who represent him better, and there's nothing left for us when he's doled out tasks to them, or he's ashamed of us, somehow, hiding us under the blanket so the world doesn't see.

This hiddenness has not felt good. It has not felt okay. It has not felt like a gift. But I read Barkat's words and wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was.

Enforced Sabbath. It's not an idea I'm comfortable with, but it sends shivers up and down my spine that I realize are reverberations. Resonance.

"Sabbath is a weekly invitation to go nowhere," she says, "to believe that hiddenness is part of presence . . . in the sense of rhythm that sees nowhere-somewhere, presence-hiddenness, as inextricably linked, with God on both sides of the dance."

If Sabbath is a chance to see this once a week in daily life, part of the reason we have a Sabbath is to see how these cycles play out in the rest of life. So, while I don't think our difficult year is a Sabbath, precisely, it plays out this same cycle. Right now, we're nowhere, hidden from the world and success and even ourselves, sometimes. But that's not the end of the story. And maybe, just maybe, we are headed somewhere.

It seems, then, that two choices lie before us when we think God has forgotten us: we can claim hurt and anger, let them simmer into bitterness, and forget God right back, or we can remember the cycle, the one we're to live out weekly, and settle into the hidden time while waiting for him to come back.

For me, I choose the second. Living it out is hard, like living out anything that requires embracing paradox. But Barkat's words remind me of what I would have known if I was a good Sabbath practitioner: God doesn't leave, and He doesn't forsake, but sometimes He covers us for a time and asks us to trust Him for the uncovering.

GIY button

Joining also with Ann in naming grace. Grace is . . . 

 . . . gappy baby teeth
 . . . friends who pray
 . . . an array of choices where there used to be none
 . . . living in the land of fabulous clouds
 . . . a cross-country network of friends
 . . . books that make it feel like home
 . . . tree symmetry revealed
 . . . how story reveals truth and truth is the best story 
 . . . he, who embraces the Hard in the name of the future

holy experience


Heather said...

Oh, my friend, I know this place. I know this hurt and loneliness and feeling of purposelessness.
But I also know the end of the Velveteen Rabbit story, and the end is why it was one of the books I've already bought for our baby.

Laura said...

This is good. this opening of the eyes...the hands. I read God in the Yard last year and did a series of posts but already so much fades from my mind. I wish there was a way of stamping this learning on my heart but it seems like I often lose the lessons and they must be repeated from time to time.

Hidden. Maybe, like...treasured away?

I hope things are going well, that you all are settling in and the path is being made straight.

Joelle said...

Dear one, thank you for thinking out loud. Your blogs are always such a wonderful window into authentic soul. I don't know exactly where you are, but I imagine I've been in places similar and am ever so grateful that not every day is Sabbath. I've treasured a literal Sabbath all my life as an opportunity to "hide." But that can be pretty intense, numbing, tight. Grateful for Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then again Sabbaths. Glad for change and new seasons and chapters to life. Bless you.