Updated: Jun 14, 2021
I am a lover of contemplation. Its that sweet centring from the self to the divine. It is that indulgence in the transcendent beyond the fluff and grind of existence, that gets me back into being. Take any scripture, poem, naturescape, wise saying, art work, thought or whatever blows your hair back, sit with it, give it some attention, and soon your soul and spirit starts to get a lift from motherly breezes. Lovely stuff.
But, is this ideal version the only contemplation?
Is contemplation all akin to that Hollywood 1950s age of innocence where July Andrews prances among the pasture meadows in full bloom singing some nonsense of hills being alive to the sound of music? Is it this idealised 'happy' place of innocence and bliss? Or, is that just some spiritualised escapism, flights to a mental Disneyland of no filth, grime, pain, struggle, disappointment, failure and disfunction?
What does contemplation look like when it hits earth?
The Psalms, Job and some other writings show us what I'll call screamalation. Being wonderfully full of contempt, resting at the breast, safe and comforted as in 'contempt'plation, is now juxtaposed with screaming, burning, raw, painful need. A need for God to be.... well God.
So what if God plays unfair? When He seems to lead you down the garden path? When His promises are dust? When God Himself takes a whip to your butt? When wrestling with the almighty is a grubbing of note.
I am of the school that at times scream at God, swear at Him and poke my finger as far up to him as possible. I can be fantastically belligerent. Why? Because it's real and I feel it, and He knows all that, and being out in the light with it all is so much more useful that faking and pretending. And, did I say that I imagine that He is fully equip to not need therapy afterwards and is tough enough to handle a cretin like me. Also venting out all that bile filled emotion cures soul inflammation, that leads to spiritual rot. Nothing like having a good, solid go at God.
Then it struck me that this too is part of contemplation. We live in a sea of unfairness. Politicians stealing tax that could help the poor. State owned utilities switch off services because it is stupid to the core. South Africans murdering each other for sport. Rape as a normalised event of life. Filthy lying, stealing, murderous and heartless bastards prospering and getting away with it?
While the good cannot solicit a cent for any excellent works. What about the times we feel the stirring to 'make a difference' or do something good. We pray about it and feel the warm fuzzy enticement to proceed. Or we fix on a scripture for affirmation. Or, so loving friend conjures up a word, a dream or a notion. It is what God would do if He were me? It is the 'right thing' to do. It is humanity at its best. What if we ooze out our very lives into such a mission? What if we happily and willingly pour ourselves out.
And then! Suddenly all this intentions of gold repeats right back on you like a bad Durban curry. The best of your giving turns to dust and muck in your very giving, but suddenly leprous hand. The promises you banked on from God to be the invisible enabling hand simply does not show. The partnership you though you forged in prayer and planning between God and yourself, turns out that God did not feel the same about and there you find yourself, right down the garden path all by yourself as naked and exposed as can be.
Contemplation is the consideration and attention to find that God is there. Screamalation is the cold shower wake up from a fantasy that God was there when in fact He was not. At least not in the way expected and bargained upon. This is earthy, dirty and harsh. It is uncomfortable, discombobulating, faith wrecking and painful. Gone is Julie Andrews and those mountains look pretty threatening all of a sudden.
People close to you at such times, well meaning, but so full of trite and obvious greeting card platitudes, suddenly require all versions of self control not to lash out and not to tell them to go forth. The self bends in on its own perceived victimhood, outrage and injustice and we sulk like a teenager deprived of an Xbox. The sheer petulance of grief makes dark thoughts of suicide and depression, alcohol and waggon-loading a lush temptress of self-harming seduction.
Let it out.
Tell God that at that point He is a massive disappointment.
Moan and grumble.
Assert your rights and the problem of unfair negligence from the heavens.
Tell the angels that they are a bunch of lazy and useless sods.
Moan at the Holy Spirit that a fat lot of good His leading and guidance turned out to be when you find yourself in the sewers.
Tell God He let you down and faked out on all His promises.
Shout out that its all so arbitrary and random.
Rage like some modern day John Donne, rage!
And once you are empty, done, depleted, purged, and feeling just raw. Then, only then, start to lift your head and start again to contemplate. Let the healing begin afresh.