The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Feeling moved

I’m recently returned from a stimulating visit to Finland, where I met up with some old friends and made some new ones. Looking back on my days there I am aware of a number of moments that touched me deeply. I visited an art exhibition ‘Silent Beauty’ which I liked very much, and there was one painting in particular that stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it. I’ve learnt that when that happens I need to pay attention. So I stayed looking at the picture for some time, and then came back to it later. There were no postcards of it for sale, so, with permission, I took a photograph of it, and have been looking at it a lot since. My experience is that when something touches me in this way, God has something to say to me through it, and so its been with this picture. There were other moments in Finland that had a similar effect, they all happened unexpectedly, as is usually the case. I attended a St Thomas Mass on the Sunday, a Mass for Doubters, and was so moved on several occasions that I was close to tears. Since returning home I’ve been mulling on why that happened and what God might be saying to me. Experience has taught me that the obvious answer is not always the deepest one, and I keep mulling.

What is going on when this happens: this finding myself unexpectedly touched deeply? I reckon that its my soul, the divine spark within me, recognising something significant before my head and heart do, and alerting me to it. It takes time for the rest of me to catch up, and for my mulling gradually and often slowly, to reveal the wisdom that’s waiting. This inner divine spark is within everyone of us and we cannot put it out. We can ignore it but not extinguish it. If we nurture and trust it then then it will burst into flame and transform us. This is the God within each of us. The God Whom to some degree, we already know. And this God is regularly drawing our attention to whatever it is that we still need to learn and grow.

I had a wonderful and fascinating conversation with my friend David last night, during which I was sharing this thinking with him. We were talking about prayer, and I was suggesting that the process I was describing is in fact prayer. I reckon that prayer is whatever nourishes our relationship with God, and what I was describing certainly does that. On reflection it occurred to me that this is a lot more than that. It is one way that I pray, but if it is initiated by my soul, the God within me, then it is also God praying in me. God and I are joined in this process: we are praying together: prayer is a co-operative activity.

David went on to say that one of the ways that he prays is through playing the piano. He is able to express feelings through music that he would be hard put to express in words. Sometimes he isn’t playing what other people have composed but the music wells up from within him and he simple plays it. He played me a recording he’d made of one such piece of music, and I was very moved by it. I have come to know him quite well, and it sounded like his soul speaking, which of course, I now see, is God praying through him. He and God praying together through the music that flows through him. Amazing! What a gift.

And there’s more. When I’m moved my other peoples’ music, be it classical, jazz, or rock, then it’s my soul, the divine spark in me, being moved, by God having prayed in other people through their music. And the same is potentially true of all the arts, indeed its potentially true when all of us are being creative, however that might be expressed, which is why honouring our creativity, however modest we may think it, is so important. Its co-operating with the God within us, and together creating something beautiful.

2 Comments

  1. I read with particular interest your attendance, Henry, at the St Thomas Mass for Doubters. I am currently reading ‘A Masterwork of Doubting Belief: RS Thomas and his Poetry’ by John G McEllhenney (Wipf & Stock, Oregon, 2013).
    In a chapter entitled ‘Doubting Believer’ he writes the following about Thomas’ faith in God: ‘Not only couldn’t Thomas become doubt free, he didn’t want to be doubt free. For he recognized the positive role played by doubt. Doubt purifies belief by helping the believer cast off flawed ways of understanding and representing God. It strengthens belief by helping the believer think through and answer questions that the seen world raises about the unseen world. It takes questioning into belief, thereby enabling belief to resist unbelief more effectively.’

    Maybe if the Church allowed believers more doubt their faith and trust in God would deepen.

  2. Amen Mike.
    As a friend of mine quoted to me “the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.”
    God invites us into a relationship involving trust on both sides. A relationship is either growing and changing or its dead. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen “doubt is what lets the light in” and allows change and growth to happen. Whereas certainty knows its got it right and no change is therefore necessary or even desirable. Certainty is thus the opposite of faith.
    How good if churches saw themselves as communities of faith, open to faithful explorers, and not bastions of certainty excluding anyone who thinks differently.

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