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Lingering Yearnings

My commute to work has changed a lot with the fall. The stretches of narrow roads winding through the green hills and forests have become a little emptier, a little colder, and much more colorful. I drive in the direction of the sun in the mornings and evenings, and its rays give stunning effect to the environment around me. Morning sunlight shines through the trees, colors the roads, and warms my face as I drive in to work. Many mornings have been misty, shrouding the land with coziness and mystery. Evening sunsets brighten the sky and gently embrace my evening drive. The leaves have begun their yearly change in color, and many resplendent trees bring a smile to my face, gently reminding me of the majesty of God’s creation.

Just as the world around me is changing, I am reminded of the changes within us that occur in the process of discernment. When I began spiritual direction last year, I was hopeful and excited to begin a process that I had put off for too long. I looked forward to my meetings and to getting more perspective on my spiritual journey and having someone else help me to see where God was gently nudging me along on my journey. As with many things, what I got out of my spiritual direction far exceeded what I had hoped. Perhaps its greatest gift was the feeling of radical love and acceptance from God throughout the whole process.

As time wore on, and my spiritual direction took a bit of a backseat to the demands of the pandemic and the transitions I needed to facilitate and participate in, I entered into a period of spiritual dryness. This period of desolation was accompanied with great consolation in other areas of my life. I did not expect to have this happen; usually desolation and consolation came individually, and lingered in all the areas of my life, until the other returned to take its place. The ebb and flow, the back and forth of these two defined my spirituality for as long as I can remember. In a significant way, then, this is the first time that the two have ever happened at once. I have been reflecting on this new reality on my way into work for a couple of weeks now. One morning, I was struck by a memory from my days in high school.

In my junior year theology “Faith” class, our teacher taught us a new word: numinous. He said that the “numinous” was anything that provoked a deeply spiritual or religious response in us, especially if it was mysterious or awe-inspiring. His image of choice was a misty mountain, which made him think of the awesome power and mystery of God. He explained that the Numinous, and our interaction and reflection on it, was a great avenue to cultivate relationship with God. The Numinous, then, became a topic of great research and personal exploration in my life for years. I found it in my mission trips to Uganda and to Alaska, in exploring nature, in the small moments of sharing knowledge and faith with others, especially when they come to a point of understanding and the light behind their eyes shines and they break out into a smile. I found it, little by little, in isolated experiences and occasions. The numinous in my life seemed like the sunshine through the misty mornings on my drives – small bits of grace that struggle to shine through the murkiness of my life.

Traveling through the foggy morning, I came to a sudden thought – what if the numinous in my life wasn’t the sunlight, barely making it through the mist. What if it’s the fog itself – the thing that was enveloping me and defining my morning experience, rather than the highlights that seemed radically different. Maybe all the lingering yearnings, the constant desire for more, for fulfillment and the promise of destiny could be satiated not by the rare experiences, but by the small, everyday opportunities and moments that surround me.

I hope that, as the comforting fall season settles into my life, I will take more time to appreciate the moments of grace in the ordinary. In these times where normalcy seems like a far-fetched hazy dream, perhaps God is calling to us to welcome his grace in the misty mornings and our ordinary surroundings.

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