Today’s ridiculously outrageous thought: The destiny of the entire world turns on a single chance conversation. This is not a conversation between powerful or influential people but between two or three random individuals who only know one another in passing, or as neighbours who don’t normally have much to do with each other.
I had such a conversation yesterday. I won’t say who it was with, in case the people concerned are reading this blog, but I believe that the ideas, the implicit understanding that was sensed between us may lead to something of historical significance. That is a big claim and all the more so because I have no idea how such a transformation of destiny will come about, and I certainly won’t know I had anything to do with it when it does.
It was one of those conversations which somehow stumbled us into God. From God we moved swiftly on to the state of the world, to governments and to the great question of why does a good God allow suffering? We didn’t attempt to answer that one. If we had, I think the conversation would have ended then and there, because there is not much one can say about suffering really, except that God chooses to be ‘in it’ with us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.
Then we went back to talking about the anguish we are personally experiencing in regard to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and girls, and to the evil that is the Taliban. Then we branched off a bit, to the suffering endured by the animals we love and the brilliant but harrowing Hungarian film White God that I watched earlier this week. It’s a film about dogs that is really a coded message about the evils of modern fascism and how easily that can not only justify, but normalise, eugenics.
Then God reappeared and one of the people I was talking with said he wasn’t religious but he did enjoy the peace he experiences in churches. Churches are beautiful, he said, and he likes to just sit in them and experience that strange peace. Not being religious, he wasn’t sure if it really had anything to do with God. I said that the peace was probably emanating from the walls, especially if it was a very old church, which most of them are around here. The peace was, or is, the sum total of the prayer that has gone on in that place over centuries and of which he was a part, just by being there.
I don’t know how we got back to Afghanistan, but we did start to make some new connections. For one thing, his being in the church and sensing its peace makes him part of that peace and hence part of God, whether or not he thinks of himself as ‘religious’.
Our identifying, even in the smallest measure, with the pain of Afghanistan (see my previous post on the limits of our capacity for reality) also makes us part of God’s own grief. God’s grief is often described in the bible as his ‘wrath’ which is why that word is so often misunderstood. God does not get cross. He grieves passionately.
But to return to Afghanistan; if we hold what we’re feeling about it and about the suffering of those who are fleeing that country, if we feel the fear and pain ourselves, suddenly God is back ‘in it’ with us.
This returns us to the ridiculously outrageous thought I shared at the beginning of this post. We’re now back in God and therefore at the heart of His very purposes. Our anguish, our anger and sense of hopelessness in regard to the horrors going in the world, and in regard to climate change and its own attendant horrors, now become an ‘engine against th’Almighty’, to borrow from George Herbert’s poem about prayer.
We are both the prayer and the solution, which I realise is a ridiculous claim, since how can we possibly prove any of this? The nearest we can come to making a connection between our own feelings and the grief of God is to be aware of the fact that compassion embodies a wide range of emotions, including the right kind of anger, a shared sense of hopelessness with those we are thinking about and a passionate desire for justice and right action.
So I can only say that anyone whose heart is moved in the slightest way in the direction of compassion has already moved into God’s heart. She or he is the very outworking of the engine of love, a love that bears witness to the light and refuses to be overwhelmed by the darkness.
If all this sounds too vague, or your heart needs a little help to feel the depth of God’s passionate grief, scroll down again through the news with the prayer ‘Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison’, ‘Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy’ in your mind and heart. And watch that Hungarian film – White God. It’s still available on Mubi.