(Photo: Steve Taylor)

(Contd from Blog entry 91)

A dialogue with the Absolute

What is most important, the external events of one’s life or the history of one’s soul or heart? I can only answer for myself. As I have got older, and I’m pretty old now! I realise more and more the truth of what the Messiah, the Wisdom of God said: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt.16:26 NIV) They’re rhetorical questions of course. Jesus is saying that nothing is more important than the inner state of ones being. Nothing is more important than the history of the inner self. And only the person and God can know that history intimately, for only the person has the memories of all that happened in his or her life. As it says: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him.” (1 Co.2:11 NIV) So in the end your inner state is a dialogue with yourself and the Absolute.

The softening

Of course external events and the internal dialogue are intertwined and continually influence each other. A Christian is a person who has a continual dialogue with God and lives his or her life in his presence. He or she does and thinks everything with reference to him, for he knows every thought of the heart and all the actions of the body. I certainly wasn’t like that for a long stretch of my life. As I said previously, I couldn’t see past the materialist mindset, everything was down to cause and effect. Although I yearned for life to have a meaning beyond brute materialism, I couldn’t see any way out of the closed system of cause and effect.

But I believe God was softening me for what was to come. This was in the 1980s and 90s. In the 80s I had taken an interest in the work of the renowned psychologist C.G. Jung. He believed in the idea of meaningful coincidence or as he called it synchronicity. He believed synchronicity was something acausal, something that couldn’t be explained by normal cause and effect. Then in the 1980s I had two synchronistic experiences that for the first time weakened my belief in materialism.

Staffin, Skye
(Photo: Steve Taylor)

The old man of the road

I had been thinking of writing a poem on the theme of the road or the way. Sometimes I would think of a theme for a while and then the poem would come to me in one sitting. I was travelling from Inverness to Mull and stopped for a meal in Fort William and while I was waiting for my meal I started writing the poem. It’s called ‘Mending the Road’ and it’s as if the road-mender is speaking. Then my meal came and the poem was unfinished. It included the lines: “The road is so devious, / mobile, tortuous, / hidden from view, / the endless vein-webs / in the body of creation, / one moment so whole / and the next in smithereens.”

When I left the restaurant I had no idea how the poem would end or how to end it. I walked down the main street and heard music from a pub and went in. I had never been there before and didn’t know anyone there and no-one knew me. There was music coming from an upper room and I went up the steps to investigate. There was a middle-aged man on the door who spoke with a broad Scots accent. Minutes later in the largely empty upper area he stood behind me at the bar and we chatted for a minute or two. It turned out he worked at the roads and was a lorry driver supplying aggregate for the road-works.

Unbeknown to him, he had finished the poem for me. It was quite an unbelievable coincidence. I believe that was the start of God preparing me for the far more amazing (and disturbing) things that would happen in the future. Because of meeting that man, this is how I finished the poem I had started in the restaurant an hour or so beforehand: “Don’t believe, don’t believe / that it goes nowhere / (said the old man of the road); everything will ripen / and the heart will be satisfied / with a symbol, / with the arteries’ warm blood / and everything will arrive in its place / as in the beginning. / For now, fill the holes / and go forward: / everyone must travel (pass on) / and be mending.”

Note the words “and the heart will be satisfied / with a symbol”. For me now, what I say in this poem is unsatisfactory. We need more than symbols or even the “arteries’ warm blood” to satisfy us. It would be much later that I found that only Jesus Christ could satisfy what is the profound need of the broken human.

(Photo: Steve Taylor)

Another coincidence

The softening continued. One other remarkable coincidence happened to me in the 1980s. My first wife and son were away and I was on my own for the weekend. On Saturday night as I went to bed the words “I am the way the truth and the life” came strongly to my mind. On an impulse I went to church in the morning, something I only occasionally did. The minister’s text was “I am the way the truth and the life.” I opened the Bible at psalm 25; the first psalm the minister announced was psalm 25. One of the verses sung was “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; thy paths, O teach thou me: And do thou lead me to thy truth, therein my teacher be.”

From the vantage point of today, it is obvious to me that the Lord God was speaking to me. But I still went on in my own way. I was autonomous you see, I had freedom. I would do as I wanted. I didn’t want to be restrained. I was post-Enlightenment!

But things took a much more serious turn in the 90s. Things would happen to convince me that the supernatural, i.e. the God dimension, is real. God in his unrelenting love was hunting me down, as in Francis Thompson’s tremendous poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’, “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; / I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways / of my own mind; … – and a voice beat / More instant than the Feet – ‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’”
(to be contnd)