[Because of a blitz work demand through Saturday I will force myself to pause! Matt. 21:29]
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ― Robert Frost
I have two kinds of writing I do: Required writing and kindled writing. (Those are my terms, by the way). Required writing involves deadlines and duties, like writing a lecture for a class or an article for the upcoming newsletter. Required writing constitutes quantitatively the vast majority of my writing work, because it has to do with ever-present demands of work or volunteer responsibilities I have taken on. Then there’s kindled writing, which emerges in the moment, is driven by circumstance, impulse or a flash of unexpected insight. That’s what I write here, exclusively. If this blog ever became mandatory, deadline-driven or made money it would cease to be what it is. NealObstat is the writing that allows me the luxury of expressing my inner stirring sense of wonder and awe in the most natural, spontaneous, fun way. And, at least in terms of conscious awareness, it gives me the most intense sense of God’s presence.
It’s what the spiritual authors sometimes call scriptio divina, ‘divine writing.’ When one ‘writes in prayer,’ they say, he becomes much more open to intuitive-symbolic forms of knowledge than is available through discursive, analytical writing. When I write in prayer, in the freedom of wondering ‘without a why,’ many more fresh insights are allowed to emerge. At least for me.
Now let’s be clear, I am not making any claim to divine inspiration or to the superiority of one form of writing over the other. Each has its role and God’s immediate action in anyone’s writing is always an ambiguous affair. And, though I distinguish these two writing styles, they often overlap with one another and are not sealed in tidy categories. But I love and cherish the opportunities I have for kindled writing and am exceedingly (heap on here any and all hyperbolic adjectives) grateful that readers of this blog engage my writing and make use of it for their own benefit. You give my thought wings.
Frequently I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and cry out: “You idiot! Why do you think anything you have to say matters?!” But I console myself with the thought that, inasmuch as what I say approximates God’s self-revelation in Jesus in His Spirit-filled Church, or gives testimony to the greatness of the extraordinary people I am blessed to know, it’s worthwhile. Then I pray the Jesus prayer.
Or I just re-read Numbers 22:21-38 and claim the braying jackass again as my patron saint.
Why am I writing all this? Because Monday I experienced in a striking way a sudden shift between required and kindled writing. I’d spent nine hours that day in required writing for various projects, lectures and courses I have coming up. Although writing is always a gift to me, the stress of deadlines has a way of squishing you inside. I was exhausted mentally as I left the building. I walked to my car with my eyes on the ground, staring mindlessly. As I took my keys out, I was suddenly startled by a whopping crackle of thunder that shook my insides. I looked up and everything outside and inside of me at once changed. The roiling black clouds wedged beneath the dark blue sky to the north, the gray veil of rain quickly advanced toward me, the bluish-white bolts of lightning linked heaven and earth, and the strong cool breeze descending from the core of the storm caressed my face with its clean hands. I fell to my knees and laughed. Anyone watching would have worried about me.
I realized at that moment how shallow my breathing had been all day as I hunched over my laptop and typed. I drew deep into my lungs the refreshingly fragrant cool air that was washing over me. All of this experience completely re-wrote my inner world in an instant, diluted the mental sludge and re-awakened a heart of wonder within me. What for a moment seemed like a future filled with insuperable demands suddenly seemed possible, or at least seemed hopeful. My widened horizons made room for hope, which demands space and which can only be satisfied by the sounds of God’s strident protest against the impossible. The word “capacious” sprang to my mind. I felt immensely spacious within, my narrow walls suddenly stretched big by this rogue, dark, threatening and unsought cumulonimbus.
How marvelous! Startled into the light by the darkness. I thought of Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
And all I wanted to do was sit down in the parking lot, take out my laptop and write. So many new insights came into me. But alas, another work meeting awaited. No time to write them out. But before I fell asleep tonight, I was determined to write out this reflection on the ‘feel’ of it all, at the risk of indulging my own solipsistic fancy. Hopefully in service to hope.
Thank you for walking with me.
No matter how narrow your world seems, look up and allow Him to surprise you. Anyway.