Thursday, 25 February 2016

Trusting the unknown

Teaching on prayer or disciplines which support it, by training mind and body, such as yoga, Tai Chi or deep meditation, are ultimately no more than forms of preparation to approach the threshold of engagement in opening the self totally to God. The prophet Jeremiah issues a stern warning about over-reliance on anything of human origin. 

'The Lord says this: "Woe to the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord".' (Jeremiah 17:5)

Trust is described as 'firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of something or someone'. Ultimately, God alone is worthy of such firm belief.

'Happy is the one who has placed his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.'

says Jeremiah in 17:7, and this is echoed in Psalm 1, which is an extended reflection on the happiness of the person who relies on God alone. In both passages, the image of a deep rooted and resilient riverside tree is used to describe the stability enjoyed by such a virtuous person. Commendation of trust in God is a persistent feature of the Psalms.

'Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him.' (Psalm 62:5-8)

Again the image of stability and constancy is evoked in support of trusting in God. Yet God is unknown, unknowable to finite human minds. Human beings must rely on God revealing himself in some recognisable way, since the infinite is beyond conception. The mind can reach above and beyond knowledge of the created order by exercising the imagination, but this is still finite and limited. 

Opening the heart, the whole being to God means taking the risk of reaching out into the unknown, trusting that God is, and that God reaches out in response to the loving desire expressed in the fallible human act of trust, tinged, as it is, by mixed motives, plagued by ignorance and confusion. We take our strength and hope from the unknown.

'For God alone, my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall never be shaken.' (Psalm 62:1)
The threshold of encounter with God in prayer is where each of us, from wherever our journey begins, pause in awe of the mystery, of which so little can be spoken without diminishment. Like the quantum effect in sub-atomic matter, where the position and momentum of a particle cannot be measured together at any time, for the very act of observation itself displaces the subject.

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