Thursday, January 26, 2012

grace for our hunger, letter four, hilary to preston

It's Thursday, so I'm sitting down to write a letter in a series of letters between me and Preston. He's doing something pretty amazing in his space called "At the Lord's Table: A Blog Conversation" (we all tweet about it with the #ATLT hashtag). I hope you spend some time in those words, from such incredible writers. Today I'm responding to his letter from Tuesday.

Dear Preston, 

Does that wondering ever drive you crazy? I feel it wake up in me some mornings, this hunger I can't shake, to know how it really is. Ra├»ssa Maritain said it best. Someone asked her, "What is it you want in life?" and she, brilliantly, brilliantly, said, "To know what is." And I long with her. 

You write so beautifully about the wonder, how it is different from doubt, which seeks proof, but a part of me wants to know if you have this hunger too, and what you do with it. I talk about mystery, how the three year olds in Sunday school who say that the sheep feel good with the Shepherd, and that He is happy with His sheep, they know the truth more than I do. 

But then I wake up on a morning like this hungry to know what is. I want to know if sacrament is, as you say, carried and covered with a grace bigger than the words and deeds we recognize. I want to know the truth about Baptism and Eucharist and I want to know if anyone has really, really learned to recognize Grace. I want to know. I don't want to wrestle, exhausted, with the angel anymore. I don't want to collapse into the Mystery at the end of each day, blind and feeling my way through with my fingertips.

But perhaps this is the only way we are given - this limitation, this blessed confinement between the things trusted and the things unknown, between what we think we know and what is. I long for St. Thomas' apparent confidence, his trust in human reason and rationality, his idea that "grace perfects nature." He believed that we could see pretty far, and pretty well. I imagine him chiding me for so much complaining, telling me that if I devoted myself to theology, to reading Scripture through my whole being, to meeting Jesus in prayer, I would know.

What was that line in the poem? And I believe the saint. I believe his imaginary reprimand. I imagine that the true story is hidden on high when in fact it came down to live with me. I imagine that God is withholding Himself from me, keeping Himself shrouded in shadow, when in fact He's humbled and revealed and bared Himself on a cross to announce His love to the world.

I think it's time for me to do some of the work. To devote myself to studying Scripture through my whole being, to meeting Jesus, collapsed and exhausted, to wrestle with the angel even when my side is touched by pain or longing or hunger. I think it is time I got on my hands and knees with the three year-olds and asked them to tell me about this Good Shepherd, how good the sheep feel with Him, how happy He feels with them. I think it is time I leaned again on the grace that covers us. Grace for our wondering. Grace for our hunger. Grace for the mystery. Grace for the journey.

I'm praying that grace is yours, today and always, and thankful for you.


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