Talking nonsense

So I was writing about the River of God and trying to express what it is like to ‘go deeper in it’.  But the words won’t do – the language cannot cope; all we have is poetry and symbolism – analogy and parable.  I am even more aware of this today as I prepare for a session this evening I have entitled ‘Wilderness and Journey’ – looking at those concepts in Scripture and how we can apply them to our own life journey and experiences. It may be very clever to be able to draw out these parallels, but sometimes it can all seem just so esoteric and airy-fairy… “what are you ON about? How does this relate to real life?”

Yes, it is all too easy to get carried away with pictures and ideas. I love the ‘big picture narrative’ and often find a creative way of looking at my life helps make sense of what is happening. The Bible is full of this sort of stuff and it can be very useful to identify with its stories at different times of our lives: OK, I haven’t been thrown in a lions’ den or a fiery furnace lately, nor wandered around in a desert for 40 days or years – but surely we can all identify with the metaphor?

Sometimes metaphors are not enough – sometimes meaning cannot be found; all we can do is put our heads down and keep going, doing what must be done each day. Philosophising is a luxury when you are worried about paying the bills, nursing a broken heart or coping with a sick child. And as Richard Rohr said in his email meditation for today, “A lack of purpose, of meaning—is the precise suffering of suffering! When you find a pattern in your suffering, a direction, you can accept it and go with it. The great suffering, the suffering of Jesus, is when that pattern is not immediately given. The soul can live without success, but it cannot live without meaning” Hence the universal cry: WHY?! Hence my constant search for patterns in all that we have been experiencing in this family…

So I was going to say more of what I mean by going deeper in the river… but now I am not sure I can find the words.  I am trying to translate my experience of being overwhelmed by something too big for me using similes… phrases like ‘wading through mud’ and ‘fear of falling’ are the only ones I can use to describe such emotional struggles – just ask any poet!  But my conviction is that I have moved beyond playing in the shallows of this spiritual ‘river’ precisely because of the suffering we have undergone: I have heard ‘deep calling to deep in the roar of the waterfalls’ (Psalm 42v7) and have struggled not to drown. In fact, ‘giving in to the floodwater’ instead of constantly fighting for my life has proved one way of coping – as I have expressed in Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation and Sink or Swim. But there I go with metaphors again and it simply doesn’t capture the sense of desperation, fear, hope, weariness and resignation…

Deep water

Surely going deeper in ‘the River of God’ is not a negative thing? No – it isn’t! But once again it is a picture of surrender to something – Someone – much bigger that I am. I have had to face challenges in the last 3 years, and through those challenges grow stronger. Suffering is part of life and growth, like it or not – in fact it is the way of Christ and it is only ‘IF we share in His sufferings – Jesus’ self-denial, submission and obedience – we will share in His glory’ (Romans 8v17).  My point is that in order to get into the deep we do have to let the water carry us where it will… in order to know, live and speak the deep things of God, it requires surrender and yielding, utter trust in the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord. To be honest, I am ‘in over my head…’ that was the alternative title for this post! – but there is nowhere else I would rather be: having abandoned everything else I feel safer than I have ever felt.

However simplistic and trite, poetic language and pictorial understanding do sometimes shine a light on the way forward, enabling meaning and understanding to be grasped by the heart… Why else did Jesus use parables? And his listeners at the time didn’t get what He was on about either! So I am sure I will continue to talk lots of nonsense, because to be honest, it doesn’t even have to make sense in words: it just IS – like breathing, like prayer.  Or as I realised recently, life these days is more ‘feel’ than ‘sight’ – less understanding and more blind faith and heart response, learning to be naturally supernatural – soaked to the skin in Spirit-life and breathing underwater!

I quoted one of her songs about this a few posts ago – Sink or Swim – but Florence also puts the dilemma of expressing the tender language of the heart so well that I’ll end with those lyrics.  Thanks, sister Redhead, and let’s keep talking ‘nonsense’ 😉

And the heart is hard to translate,
It has a language of its own,
It talks in tongues and quiet sighs and prayers and proclamations,
In the grand days of great men and the smallest of gestures,
In short shallow gasps…

But with all my education,
I can’t seem to command it,
And the words are all escaping
And coming back all damaged,
And I would put them back in poetry
If I only knew how,
I can’t seem to understand it…

And I would give all this and heaven too,
I would give it all if only for a moment,
That I could just understand the meaning of the word you see,
‘Cause I’ve been scrawling it forever,
But it never makes sense to me at all.

And it talks to me in tiptoes
And it sings to me inside,
It cries out in the darkest night
And breaks in morning light.

But with all my education,
I can’t seem to command it,
And the words are all escaping
And coming back all damaged,
And I would put them back in poetry
If I only knew how,
I can’t seem to understand it…

And I would give all this and heaven too,
I would give it all if only for a moment,
That I could just understand the meaning of the word you see,
‘Cause I’ve been scrawling it forever,
But it never makes sense to me at all.

No words!
Poor language – it doesn’t deserve such treatment!
And all my stumbling phrases never amounted to anything worth this feeling,
All this heaven… never could describe such a feeling as I’m feeling,
Words were never so useful,
So I was screaming out a language that I never knew existed before

Florence and the Machine, ‘All this and heaven too’ from the Ceremonials album.  Listen here

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About Sally Ann

True-story teller - words and pictures
This entry was posted in Personal, Prophetic language, Quotable quotes, Suffering. Bookmark the permalink.

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