One reads. One lives. One writes one’s life as well as one may. And periodically something happens. One is transported. Lifted. Transformed. Translated. Inspired. And one is no longer oneself. One feels. Oh. Infused, maybe. One senses that one’s quotidian self has been set aside. Has been left behind. As a chrysalis is left behind. As the chaff is left behind by the germinating wheat. As the egg-shell is discarded by the new hatched Great Northern Loon.
But no. These are misleading. More like the wind. It rises. It falls. There is periodic stillness. Periodic storm. Not so much like the spring, but something like the spring. Not regular, so much. Not predictable so much. Not time sensitive so much. Sometimes, The Pure Opening comes when one asks. Sometimes not. Sometimes when one is looking, looking. And the leaves do stir. The new-made leaves do dance. Sometimes not.
John Woolman writes about being purified. About purification. About the Holy Spirit changing him. Changing us. In some fundamental way. Oh, there is something both true and not true in this, don’t you think? To the extent he means a permanence, he seems less accurate. To the extent he means a momentary change that one remembers and builds one’s life on, he seems more accurate.
The Holy Spirit comes and goes. As difficult to predict as the wind. As impermanent out here on the prairie as the wind. Oh, in places here, wind may be found that is dependable enough to plant a wind farm in, many millions of dollars worth of windmills. But we are dealing with probabilities, aren’t we. And probabilities have a habit of shifting around. Chaotic processes have a habit of surprising people, even those with advanced degrees in probability theory.
You find a person comes along every once in a while like John Woolman. A lovely man, from all accounts. A Holy Spirit inspired man, if ever there was one. But he is, after all, still a man. Still only a man. And he must work at it, mustn’t he? At opening himself to the work of the Holy Spirit. Opening himself purely. Momently. Every moment a new opening. To its work.
And he must allow it to work its will. Otherwise, what’s the point? A momentary thrill. A momentary rush of joy and gratitude and humility and vitality. And then what? And then where does one set oneself down? In what geography? What topography? What spiritual place? Will it be the Beautiful Land? Will it be the City of God? Or will it be Cleveland? Detroit?
One seeks Heaven, does one not? One seeks a Heaven here and now. One meekly tries to do one’s part in the Making. In God’s Making. But so much intrudes. So much distracts. And there is so much dirt and banality and sorrow and betrayal and death and cruelty and despair and anger and spitefulness and pride and arrogance and rottenness. There is so much that is at odds with one’s model. One’s desire. One’s God.
So much in one’s actual life.
And so. The Pure Opening is periodic. It is like so many words that come streaming from beneath God’s throne—crystalline, refractory, pellucid, sun-lit, moon-lit, lovely words. Words that are like Living Water. Ephemeral water. Water that when it comes refreshes, buoying us up, quenching our thirst, but then it also goes. Disappears from one’s own particular plot in the topography.
Our great blessing, however, is Scripture. This is indeed the Beautiful Land. Here the Living Water is created in abundance. When one is thirsty. When one’s life has slowed to a trickle of words. Has become a dry sandy place where the Living Water once ran strongly. One may travel to this first and last resort for the poor in spirit. This vast watershed where at the center is an inland sea. A sweet-water sea. And around the periphery are enormous rivers dropping in from high places and sun-dazzle down. And one may douse one’s head again. One may dive and submerge one’s entire being again. One may cannon-ball into God again and float as long as one likes, drink one’s fill of this Living Water as one bathes. As one washes oneself clean. Inside and out. Once again.