The Something That Is Nothing and the Nothing That Is Something


At the center of a wound, where we long to fill it with distraction, sensation, love, possession, whatever we have lost or lack and wish to find or recover, there is something. Yet because we are lonely or vulnerable or restless or pained, our attention is on the something that isn’t there. We spend lives looking to have things rather than not have them, to have rather than to lose: to feel complete, OK, unwanting, warm and secure. Some of us find it, fleetingly, at the end of a few glasses, or we stop thinking about it after we watch enough television, or as long as I can be held or know there is someone to hold me. We want something rather than nothing. Continue reading “The Something That Is Nothing and the Nothing That Is Something”

Let Us Be in the Darkness: On Advent

Everything is dark, and in the darkness there is cold. If anyone is near you, you can’t see them. At the edge of the dark there is not a wall or a visible horizon; there is no door you can discern that might open and let you out or even pour light in, and if there were, you do not know where you might face to watch it, what direction you might go in to approach it and not go further from it, deeper into the thick, obscuring darkness. This is a very real experience in seasons of life, sometimes very long and apparently endless seasons. And it’s OK to experience it, to be in that darkness, to feel the breath of despair, to not know. Gød knows that it’s OK. At least, the Church believes this, or, at least, we indicate that we do by building into our peculiar way of marking time, by building into our own particular calendar, a season dedicated to acknowledging the presence of darkness in our lives and the perennial difficulty of hope. It is Advent. Continue reading “Let Us Be in the Darkness: On Advent”

It’s Faith, Hope and Charity, Stupid

Eighteen months ago I quit my job at a major evangelical seminary, moved across the country and began living in my grandmother’s vacant house in Cleveland to look for work in ministry; I didn’t find work in ministry. A year ago I began seeing a spiritual director to try to recenter myself (or finally center myself) and discern an orientation toward vocation in my new city. More than half a year ago, just as I was about to conclude that my move had been a loss, the last sense of blessing I had that seemed to confirm my move was, by all appearances, negated; I lost friends, my church, my orientation to anything, and I was left a with redeeming, naked sense of Gød’s presence and love and challenge. And from that field, razed of attachments, the real work of discernment could begin. Continue reading “It’s Faith, Hope and Charity, Stupid”

Chronicles of Spiritual Direction: Iron Love

Two months ago I began to meet for the first time with a spiritual director. It’s an experience that has at once been very comfortable and very foreign to me. The conversations aren’t unlike those I’ve maintained for many years in serial with different friendships, yet the language and the questions that I have fed back to me are challenging and fruitful in making the familiar strange to me — where Gød is in a particular experience, whether there is an invitation in a certain image. After a decade of pursuing Gød (and almost 28 years of Gød pursuing me), they invite me to find what is new in the small and in the old, when so much feels recycled and my attentions are set so habitually on the novel and explicit. Continue reading “Chronicles of Spiritual Direction: Iron Love”

Discerning and Becoming: Better Living through Examen

Who do you want to become? It had been a while since I asked myself that question. Through the prevailing uncertainty since I first began to consider seriously quitting my career and moving to Cleveland, the more immediate questions have been along the lines of what I want to become: Do I really want to be a pastor? If I’m not going to be able to support myself as a pastor immediately, what do I want to be? Also, where do I want to be? What church and which neighborhood? Not to mention, when do I want to be there? ‘Who’ gets lost in the flurry of existential and quotidian concerns. I take for granted who I am, which amounts to my not taking it as a serious consideration. It’s tempting to feel that with the many practical questions I have about my life in the coming months I don’t have time to wonder about the kind of person I want to be. But this is to miss how integral these answers are to my character. It is to forget that who I am being formed into may be all that matters. Continue reading “Discerning and Becoming: Better Living through Examen”