The object of idolatry is not really the point here. It is the war of wills that any genuine spiritual experience–and you will know such an experience is genuine by the extent to which it demands uncomfortable change–sets off inside the heart and mind of the one who has it. Every man has a man within him who must die.
From Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss (pgs. 131-132)
From Christian Wiman’s meditation, in My Bright Abyss (pg. 161):
Life tears us apart, but through those wounds, if we have tended them, love may enter us. It may be the love of someone you have lost. It may be the love of your own spirit for the self that at time you think you hate. However it comes through, in all these—of all these and yet more than, so much more—there burns the abiding love of God. But if you find that you cannot believe in God, then do not worry yourself with it. No one can say what names or forms God might take, nor gauge the intensity of unbelief we may need to wake up our souls. My love is still true, my children, still with you, still straining through your ambitions and your disappointments, your frenzies and forgetfulness, through all the glints and gulfs of implacable matter—to reach you, to help you, to heal you.
From Christman Wiman’s meditation, in My Bright Abyss, undoubtedly written first to the close loves of his life (pg. 161):
My loves, I will be with you, even if I am not with you. Every day I feel a little more the impress of eternity, learn a little more “the discipline of suffering which leads to peace of the spirit,” as T. S. Eliot said, writing of the seventeenth-century poet and priest George Herbert (read him!), who died when he was thirty-nine and had only recently found true happiness with his new wife and new commitment to God. My loves, I love you with all the volatility and expansiveness of spirit that you have taught me to feel, and I feel your futures opening out from you, and in those futures I know my own. I will be with you. I will comfort you in your despair and I will share in your joy. They need not be only grief, only pain, these black holes in our lives. If we can learn to live not merely with them but by means of them, if we can let them be part of the works of sacred art that we in fact are, then these apparent weaknesses can be the very things that strengthen us.
I’m reading Christian Wiman’s plunging book, My Bright Abyss. Christian is a poet, which means he’s a thinker and feeler and imaginative person. I’ve come through the early chapters of his meditations, small but full chunks about art and death and love and sorrow. He’s turning to the reality (the notion?) of God in the section I’m reading now.
He opens by restating something I’ve heard from you. Christian says behind all of our beliefs, whatever they may be, is the child’s insistent question: Why?
This question has been your favorite for a while. Like cornbread or chocolate or cookies, the word comes from your lips with regularity. I can anticipate it the way I can you being the first to rise from bed.
And with your question comes the distant penetrating truth that whatever I say, whatever your mama says, exhausts. Our answers, however clever, will meet an end, will stall in silence. We will not answer every creation of your curiosity. You have too many questions. You’re too interested in each answer.
And it shows me how deep conversation can go, how full an answer quickly offered can turn into another invitation. At my best, I take a breath and come up with another answer, one that can make sense to you. And even while I’m answering it, I know that that shrunken answer won’t be fully true.
I want to tell you the exact truth, the best answer, even when I know you won’t grasp it. Why? You keep asking. We keep trying. And when we don’t know how to answer, you’re still waiting. And we sit in quiet and ask silence to tell us.