Father Mark, Reflections

What do you see?

I remember as a child being fascinated by simple things, that most of the time as an adult I am too preoccupied to see. It’s easy to dismiss the childlike joys that used to delight us getting lost in the adult world.

When we were children we would lay on backs in the front yard and look up in the sky for hours watching the clouds–their stillness and movement, their stability and changing formations captivating us. There was a juxtaposition of peace and bliss from cloud watching. We would look for shapes in the clouds that might remind us of objects. One thing I remember for sure, when I was looking at clouds, I was never bored.

Much later as a young priest, I went to school to learn about pastoral care, blending spiritual direction and psychology together as an approach to healing. During one course we explored some of the theories and approaches of psychological assessment one of which was the Rorschach or inkblot test, using the imagination to see things in the inkblots. It was actually a lot of fun and reminded me of watching the clouds and why my imagination would see in the shapes of the clouds. A decade or so later I was actually given a Rorschach test as a part of a mental health assessment for a chaplain’s position at an Episcopal home for children. I enjoyed the experience allowing my imagination to run freely with the psychologist as I viewed the pictures.

All of this may seem infantile or a waste of time, but I find that if I put my imagination in the closet, my spiritual life suffers. I recall Jesus teaching his disciples about not forbidding children to be drawn to him for it is the child-likeness (not childish) is a prerequisite for seeing and entering the life that Jesus offers us with himself. Einstein, the scientific genius that he was, late in his life realized that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

It is the lack of imagination that restricts children from learning more than what the text book offers, inspiring thinking in order to apply knowledge to life. Imagination cannot be taught but only ascertained when a child is enabled to engage the environment from his inner world, the same inner world where the Holy Spirit lives. This is why Christianity as the saying goes, “is more caught than taught.” Remember Cleopas and his friend after encountering the risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus exclaim, “Did our hearts not burn?” Imagination, akin to spiritual intuition, connects the heart to the mind and soul.

Another blessing of imagination is that it confounds the delusion that the mind can be tricked into that we have to be in “control.” We are about as much in control of life as the Wylie Coyote can walk on air after he chases the Road Runner off the edge of a cliff. The imagination naturally rests one’s spirit in the hands of God and lives without fear of not being trapped in the delusion of control.

We whose lives have been changed and suspended from the course we had desired and planned on two months ago are face to face with ourselves in a mirror, wondering what happened, what we are to do and asking “how’s it all going to turn out?” are now faced with an unknowable mystery. Are we comfortable living in mystery? If not, maybe it would be beneficial to reach into the closet and allow our childlikeness to revisit us with the Spirit’s imagination and discover that which can only be found in Him. Perhaps we should spend a half hour gazing at the clouds and allowing our minds to be rebirthed in the blessings of awe and wonder of a Creation that holds the secrets of its Creator–only to be revealed by his imagination working in us.

The anonymous spiritual author in the 14th Century, didn’t call his work “The Cloud of Unknowing” for nothing. It is by entering the cloud, that we begin to know. This is a paradox. so it must be true.

What do you see in the clouds? Spend some time there and allow the awe and wonder of God show up. Rest in the awe and wonder of God–and let go.

In His Mystery and Awe,

Fr. Mark