It is the beginning of June and it dawns on me that Kaylanne and I are beginning the sixth month of 2014… the sixth month of the journey that we departed on at the beginning of this year to explore self, marriage, community, and the Kingdom of God… the sixth month of our twelve-month commitment at the Catholic Worker House in Denver.
To be honest, I feel like I’ve aged about ten years in the last six months. Real life will do that to you, I guess. Abusive father’s high on crack outside your front door; police holding you at gun point beside a “fugitive;” constantly overcoming fear and stepping into conflict small and large… that will age you… real life will age you.
But aging is part of the reason that I welcomed this call. I felt like I had a maturation process to undergo on my way to becoming a better pastor—and not just a spiritual maturation process. I felt like I just needed to grow up and age a bit. In six months in Denver, life has aged me.
My idealistic visions have been challenged, more realistically, they’ve been broken down. On one particularly hard day recently when I was sharing the difficulty of my work with a family member, she asked, “What did you expect, Cole?” Quickly, I replied, “I expected the peaceable kingdom. I expected to see the lion lying down with the lamb.”
I had a beautiful utopian dream of what life at the Worker would look like. Six months in to this calling, I can say that there is very little utopian or dreamy about our work here in Denver. But there is, I think, something beautiful—the beauty of a seed sinking down into the deep dark soil and dying before slowly being brought back to life.
Many of my idealistic visions have been broken down, but I trust that more seasoned visions are not far behind.
In silence lately, I’ve been reflecting on an image that Richard Rohr pointed me towards in his book “Immortal Diamond.” Rohr encourages readers to behold the image of Mary Magdalene praying vigil outside of Jesus’ tomb on Saturday. Rohr describes this space that Mary occupies as the ultimate in between space. Saturday. The space in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Through several prompts, Rohr invites the reader deeper into this sacred image. As I read through the prompts in silence, I can’t seem to make it past this simple statement, “Waiting without answers.” On Saturday, in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Mary Magdelene waits beside the tomb without answers.
Six months in to my work at the Worker House, I find myself being called to wait with Mary without answers.
Six months in, our old life in Waco seems distant, yet so does the future that is not yet written. I feel like a trapeze artist who has let go of one rope and is suspended in mid-air before the rope that awaits him.
Caught in between. Waiting without answers.
I suppose I could say that I feel a bit like Moses… a few years into Israel’s desert wandering, memories from life in Egypt fading, but the future still too distant to see clearly. When Moses was caught halfway in between Israel’s old life and its future life, God called him up into a dense cloud to meet with him.
In a recent sermon at the Festival of Homiletics, Barbara Brown Taylor reflected upon this space where Moses met God. She writes, “It’s not a popular truth, but there it is: God dwells in deep darkness. The darkness that is not dark to God can be terrifying for those who like our deities well lit. When we cannot see—when we are not sure where we are going and all our old landmarks have vanished inside the cloud—then plenty of us can believe we are lost when the exact opposite may be true. Based on the witness of those who have gone before, the dark cloud is where God takes people apart so they can be made new. It is the cloud of unknowing where nothing you thought you knew about God can prepare you to meet the God who is. It is the dark womb where life begins again, at least for those who are willing to lift the veil. Is this good news or bad news? I think that’s up to you.”
Six months in, here I stand. Wrapped in the embrace of a dense cloud. Suspended in air between two trapezes. Standing vigil on Saturday outside the tomb.
My old landmarks have vanished, and I don’t know where I’m going. It’s tempting to try to force what will come next. It’s tempting to try to make a plan. The good and faithful work is to stay in between.
To stand vigil with Mary outside of the tomb on Saturday.
To wait without answers.
Fortunately, as I stand here waiting, I don’t wait alone. In the midst of this dense cloud, the presence of God becomes palpable. And maybe in these days the presence of God is the only answer I need.
Maybe the presence of God is the only answer that any of us need.