704. Words and Wisdom from Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss

Cedar Tree.jpg

I mentioned reading Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer in my newsletter earlier this month and told readers to watch for something more from it the next week here on my blog. Well, life happened. After 4 weeks of nothing at all on this blog, here finally is more from the book.

My Bright Abyss is one of those rare books that can be as little or as much as you want it to be. You can read it through and take it as the journey to and of faith for Wiman, former Poetry editor and now on faculty at Yale University. Or you can savor it in smaller bites. Reading it slowly and stopping–or reading it straight through then going back–to consider the deeper meaning or import of certain sections on your life.

Here are a few of the many sections worthy of further thought. First this:

"Faith is not some half-remembered country into which you come like a long-exiled king, dispensing the old wisdom, casting out the radical, insurrectionist, aspects of yourself by which you'd been betrayed. No. Life is not an error, even when it is. That is to say, whatever faith you emerge with at the end of your life is going to be not simply affected by that life but intimately dependent upon it, for faith in God is, in the deepest sense, faith in life–which means that even the staunchest life of faith is a life of great change."


"Be careful. Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world."

And this...

"It is a strange thing how sometimes merely to talk honestly of God, even if it is only to articulate our feelings of separation and confusion, can bring peace to our spirits. You thought you were unhappy because this or that was put off in your relationship, this or that was wrong in your job, but the reality is that your sadness stemmed from your aversion to, your stalwart avoidance of, God. The other problems may very well be true, and you will have to address them, but what you feel when releasing yourself to speak of the deepest needs of your spirit is the fact that no other needs could be spoken of outside of that context. You cannot work on the structure of your life if the ground of your being is unsure."


[Photo: taken of a cedar tree earlier this summer.]