Psalm 13 begins: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”
And that seems to be the cry I hear a lot from people these days! – how long?
An on-line colleague reminded me of a book from the 14th Century entitled “The Cloud of Unknowing.” A classic of contemplative prayer life, this book suggests that time can become a tyrant, or it can become the place where we meet God.
In fact, the contemplative lifestyle is about making time (lots and lots of time) to encounter God each day. The author of The Cloud suggest that spiritual disciplines will “keep exact account of time by means of love.”
Most of us keep track of time with watches, calendars and electronic devices. And when we talk about how long we are looking at those increments that tick past with variable speeds, fast when we are enjoying things, and sluggishly when we are bored, isolated, frustrated, etc. And we increasingly hear about how long until we go back to the way things were! — as if we can turn back the hands of time and the learnings of our experiences through these times.
We can never turn back the clock and return to what was! And there is much I am hopeful we will leave behind in our past, never to reclaim.
· Do we really want to reclaim the selfishness of a “me generation gone amuck?”
· Do we really want to treat those we now know as “essential workers” with indifference, disrespect, and low wages?
· Can we ever return to pretend that we in Canada are isolated from the ravages and disasters of others?
· Would we willingly return to ignoring and failing to keep contact with family, friends around the globe, while we focus solely on our own pleasures?
To keep exact account of time by love suggests that we want to move into our days ahead changed by what we have experienced, open to holding fast to values inculcated by love from before, keeping practices that build loving community and relationships, and embrace the possibilities of new ways of living, working, communicating, caring bound up in our love for one another.
Our ancient texts remind us to love the Lord…with all our hearts…and our neighbours as ourselves. To love that way means keeping practices that empower ourselves and others – and which, in turn, become our way of loving God. To love that way means resisting the calling of greed and capitalism and consumerism to fall back into ways that deny the promises of a new community this pandemic has engendered.
And thus, how long, O Lord, becomes a question of how long it will take us to absorb and learn to live into a new reality, a new way of living, more closely aligned with God’s ways.
O Lord, how long will it take us to learn to live as your beloved children?