Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Other Prayer

To Be Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper is a series of devotional reflections on Psalm 73. Today I read number ten, "Seek Ye My Face," in which Kuyper meditates on the various ways and depths of experience of knowing God. He distinguishes between knowing God in a doctrinal and in a mystical way.

In looking at the language that we use to speak about knowing God or knowing another person, Kuyper says, “The face, the countenance speaks; speaks by its entire expression, but especially through and by the eye. The eye is as a window of the body through which we look into another’s soul, and through which he comes out of his soul, to see us, scan, and address us.” It follows, he suggests, that the “face of God” is a prominent image in our seeking Him and his seeking us: “…our walk with God could not be illustrated otherwise than by the privilege of being permitted to meet God face to face.”

In the sweaty, selfish, rude world that I inhabit, a world of physical realities like dirty dishes and sore knees and the smell of urine on the bathroom floor, I have to bring myself to a full internal mental stop before I can change gears and find meaning in metaphorical and anthropomorphic language about God. God does not look like George Burns. I get that. “The imagery which here must lend support remains wrapped in mystical dimness,” Kuyper wrote. “A visible face exhibits what is corporeal, and God is spirit.” We are merely using the image of a face.

Kuyper urges us to employ this image to put ourselves in the way of being close to God, close enough to see His “face”—so that “he looks at us and we at him”:

“The main thing is that we no longer satisfy ourselves with a conception of God, a scientific knowledge of God, or a speaking about God, but that we have come in touch with God himself; that we have met Him, that in and by our way through life He has discovered us to ourselves, and that a personal relation has sprung up between the Living God and our soul.”

In my reading and in my prayer, in my spiritual life, in every aspect of my life at this point, I am all-consumed with grief. I mostly cannot care deeply about anything else but about how much I miss Aidan. I find moments of delight with M. Peevie and Mr. Peevie, and rarer ones with C. Peevie because he’s not at home and often out of touch. But those moments are fleeting, and the minutes and hours in between are filled with either longing for Aidan and missing him, or intentionally trying to push that ache to the background so I can concentrate on something else. Trying to push the grief away is like trying not to notice that Benedict Cumberbatch just walked into the room. It's just not going to happen.

So when I read Kuyper, and remember that God is here, God is All, God is personal, and God offers me a relationship with Himself—I think to myself, I should try to act like I believe this, instead of behaving like a practical atheist. If I take this heavy burden to God in prayer, if I seek God’s face, maybe I will find some comfort there.

My prayers are so selfish and self-centered. Really, pretty much 98 percent of my thoughts, actions and words are selfish and self-centered. I’m just trying to get through the day without breaking up into a million Aidan-missing pieces.

Kuyper concludes this meditation with these words: 

“There is a moment in the life of the child of God when he feels the stress of the inability to rest, until he finds God; until after he has found Him, he has placed himself before Him, and standing before Him, seeks His face; and he cannot cease that search until he has met God’s eye, and in that meeting has obtained the touching realization that God has looked into his soul and he has looked God in the eye of Grace. And only when it has come to this the mystery of grace discloses itself.”

This makes me wonder, and hope, that perhaps if there is a God, He is somehow available to me, and that I might actually find comfort and relief by seeking His face. It does not make sense to my troubled, messed-up mind, which only wants Aidan and misses him and cannot fathom the egregious wrong of his sudden, traumatic, and premature death. It does not make sense that anything but Aidan can salve this wound—but I do believe, or at least I want to believe, that this is what God wants to do for me, and can do for me.

Maybe these words can be my prayer, because I have no other.


Annie said...

Eve, you are so intuitive and eloquent. I learn so much from you always, Thanks. I am positive you are helping so many others assign definition to their own feelings of grief. I like to see you being therapeutic for your own grief. I am here for you...and can I come over and clean your bathroom floor? -Annie

jeanie said...

Sometimes (not often ;-) I have no words. I simply want to sit with you in silence, grief, sadness, and hope. Love you friend.

jkww said...

The first thing that came to mind when I read this was "Maybe THAT'S why the Catholics and Orthodox are so into icons." All those faces of Jesus, Mary, saints to latch on to when they pray.

We've been going to Orthodox church these days, and I continue to resist the icons, but Les loves them. He says his prayer life has deepened and become more focused and more peaceful since he started praying while looking at an icon. When I read this post, I actually thought for a moment that maybe pondering Mary and her motherly loss would help. Heaven help me, those Orthodox are getting to me.

When I have been too f-ed up to pray actual prayers, I usually just revert to saying "kyrie eleison" over and over. I can't even bring myself to say "Lord have mercy" in English. It burns too much. Sorry for the babbling. I just had to leave a note. Love you.