The dog and I were walking this morning along one of the bush tracks, creek on one side and scrub, trees lining our way. I was daydreaming, wondering at the smoke laying low and the places it came from. I was taken aback by the beauty of some of the trees that seemed to glow against the grey, hazy sky. In a moment the lead yanked hard and pulled me in another direction. Nico had smelled something and was captivated, sniffing, circling and fully engaged and me dragging along in his wake. A few moments and his curiosity, his obsessive desire seemed to be satisfied, assuaged and he was willing to return to the gentle stroll.
There were other moments when he was drawn into another place, a curiosity, a need, a smell, a sound, another dog or the scurrying of a lizard and he was obsessed. It was as if something deep within him triggered him to life and he was off. Everything was focussed on the distraction or inner desire that drove him – and by implication, me on the other end of the lead. I wondered quietly to myself what it was that captivated him. I wondered what caught his full attention, what it was within him that caused everything to be focussed on this one thing and then how it could be switched off and turned somewhere else. I wondered…
I wondered how much like me, us, humanity this simple 3-year old dog is. Except, he is much more connected with his passion, his being. There doesn’t seem to be any other complicating psychology to him – he sees something, feels something, wants something and goes for it, revealing to all the world what it is. I am rarely left in doubt that he wants, needs, yearns for something – including his morning walk or a game in the afternoon. The old Labrador only wants a pat and lots of food and he never leaves us in doubt. Yet, within myself I am often confused or even mistaken over what I want or need or am feeling. I have a sense of something deeper, a deep yearning and hope but it flashes through my being, my consciousness and I don’t sit long enough with it or am distracted by the many mixed messages and miss the point. I hear the wisdom of the world around – power, money/wealth, prestige/position, aspiration, education, success and so on. There are so many possibilities, so many distractions, so many ways and yet, I wonder…
As I venture down various paths, try new ideas or experiences, follow other wisdom or even accept the common beliefs, I am often left with the sense that there is something I’ve missed, something important that has slipped through my distorted vision. Other times I have the sense in my gut that there is something richer, deeper and more significant at the heart of everything and it is really this for which I yearn. There are the sacred and holy moments where the glimpse is a richer experience of that which lies at the heart of everything. I feel it, ‘know it’ in my being and reach out to grasp and hold onto it only for it to slip beyond me. I want to define and control and own the experience that is so real – put a name upon it and speak of it in a knowing way – but cannot grasp it with words nor rational thought processes. It is there but it isn’t. I look up and the sunbeams through a tree overwhelm me with beauty. The red-bellied black snakes writhing in a contest for dominance just off the bush track fills me with wonder. The Squawk of the cockatoo or Bellbird song is rich in the morning air. The reflections off the creek or the smell of eucalypts. The taste and texture of food in my mouth and the stories of a world in crisis stirring on the radio, filled with courage and pain, hope and despair. All these things call out to me and that inner yearning, the longing at the heart of my being cries out in silent hope. Will I be still enough to hear? What will I do in response? Will I move into passionate action like Nico on his walk, or the distracted apathy I sometimes feel?
Next Monday concludes the Christmas Season, the 12 days of festival celebrating the incarnation, the birth of the Christ-child into human and material existence, the revelation of infinite, eternal God in the finite, material and world of flesh and blood, time and space. The day is Epiphany, which speaks of revelation and mainfestation, of seeing light in the darkness and being exposed to this Divine Light in all things. It is an invitation to have open eyes, ears, hearts and minds to that which lies beyond all things and calls out to us in vulnerable invitation – from a baby born and laid in manger and chaff; from a dog sniffing through local bush; from a tree glowing in the early morning light or a bird darting down to protect its young or cockatoos squawking high in the tree-tops. The call comes from beyond us and in us, deep down in the depths of being, where the deep yearning of the human heart quietly bubbles up and through conscious being as glimpses of light, hope and wonder draw us on and down and deep – if we are willing to attend to this call.
The story told on Epiphany comes to us from Matthew’s story, the well-known story of Wise Ones (were they men? Probably but maybe not) who were called Magi (magicians, astrologers) from the exotic East. We are filled with fascination and wonder at these strange visitors and their even stranger gifts. They come, following a star to the place where the child (probably 1-2 years old) lived with his parents. They were alerted to this event through their own ‘sciences’ of astrology. They read the stars in the heavens and interpreted these events. As the story is told, they understood a special ‘King of the Jews’ would be born, and they followed these heavenly directions. It led to Jerusalem, the obvious place for a king to be born. There a king, a horrid, vicious, jealous king who portrays innocent interest. It was his Jewish advisors who searched their Scriptures and were able to ascribe a town of birth to a Promised new king and off the wise ones went.
These pagan, gentile astrologers were grasped by their passionate yearning; touched by an inner conviction to go! To go and worship, to behold the sacred and holy in this One – a light to the gentiles, the whole world, and drawing people into its embrace through their own wise pursuits, honestly seeking and yearning and ultimately willing to give themselves into the worship and offering of the Divine, the Sacred that holds everything in love and wonder, mystery and hope.
What happens when I listen to that which arises from deep within? When I stop and listen undistractedly to the inner voice of love that calls ever so gently into my life and being, what do I hear? When everything else is set aside, or when the bushfire rages through, destroys all, what is left? When I face my ultimate fear or pain. or desperate need or desire, where do I turn? What do I look for? Who/what do I listen to?
Am I willing to come in vulnerable hope, powerless and lacking control, naked, as it were, before the Christ-child, the eternal Christ who bids me come and embrace the dying-rising life where letting go opens the possibility of finding the very Light my heart has glimpsed in the darkness and has yearned for. Will I come and worship, giving my all?