I Did Not Know It
I have found that there are some profoundly human experiences that can be described in just one simple sentence. Recently, in going through some old papers, I came across such a sentence: “Hope is the bird that sings in the soul before the light of dawn.” (Tagore) For days, I walked around with this quote inside of me. I felt enveloped in the ambiance of Hope. I also experienced what it is like to walk the world “before the light of dawn.”
In ancient times, seekers of the inner life were accustomed to asking their spiritual mothers or fathers for a “word” that would sustain them and give direction for life’s way. Today, this is referred to as the “monastic word.” In casual conversations, I sometimes ask God to speak through the other person. This approach is rather enjoyable. It’s like a little secret that goes on while the other is speaking. Sometimes the word comes without my asking.
Summertime, here at the monastery, is the season for visitors dropping by to say hello and to touch again the deeper things, including friendship. Winter snows have a way of deterring such special visits. Recently, on one such visit, a friend shared with us an event that occurred many years ago, a happening that has stayed with her. Hard times had come upon her. She prayed, of course, and when she did, the words of Psalm 138: 3, seemingly coming from nowhere, rose up within her: “When I cried out, O Lord, you answered. You strengthened my spirit.” Some translations speak of God giving the soul courage, or renewing the spirit. Interestingly enough, this shared “word” became a “word” for others.
Our friend went on to say that sometimes God answers us, not by taking the trial away, but by giving us courage and strength to bear it. Although most of us would prefer to sidestep hard times, we do know that trials have their own work to do for us, and often, in looking back, we find that difficult moments held treasured blessings, although we did not know this at the time.
With a stone for a pillow, we read that Jacob had a dream about a ladder resting on the ground and reaching to the heavens. (Gen. 28:10-22) With God standing beside him, Jacob heard the words: “Know that I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go. I will never leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” What a comforting “word”! When Jacob awoke, he exclaimed: “Truly, God was in this place, and I did not know it.”
As I meditated on this, I found my own soul presenting a “word” to God, who so desires to enter our neediness:
Speak to me, O Lord, a “word” that will sustain me this day.
Truly, I believe you are in this place, both in my inner life
and without. Help me to be just where I am, and where you
most desire to find me. I wish to be nowhere else.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.