It’s almost 7am and it’s still dark outside.
This longest night marks the end of a stretch of doubt for me.
My friend and soulquest partner Doug coined for me a phrase I’ve been using to describe my mental state lately. He was talking about what happens when we head off the path in search of soul. He said that you are sure to find yourself falling into the “well of doubt”.
It’s been happening fairly regularly for me this fall. While on the surface of daily interactions I remain my usual buoyant, optimistic, well-met self – my inner life has been a roller coaster. At least a few times each week I fall into what I now call “the well of doubt”.
It’s a dark place. I can’t see much of anything and so am left to my memories. And the memories that arrive in this place are the dark ones – my failures, my weaknesses, the betrayals and hard feelings – are alive and well down there.
It’s a small place. Cramped and damp. I can feel it coming on like a case of the 24hr flu. The only way to treat it is – like the flu – wait for it to run through my system.
Now this place is not new to me. For years I’ve found myself in those dark places – especially at this time of year. The weight of the world’s troubles and my own failure to put a dent in them would get me down for weeks at a time. But something’s changed.
I’m getting better at diagnosing the conditions that bring about this fall from grace into the well of doubt. The grace that is usually the wind beneath my wings. The optimism that gives me the courage to keep at this difficult course I’ve chosen – fades away like the wind and leaves me in stillness.
What seems to bring it on is my efforts to peer into the future. Now I could simply let go of such efforts and say “whatever will be will be”. That helps for sure. However, we happen to be at the end of a year of exploration and experimentation. The church has funded us to explore the concept of a New Ministry here in Peterborough.
We’re almost finished writing up the results of the year’s study. We’ve almost finalized our summaries and conclusions. We’ve even hired a consultant to help us evaluate the data against our stated objectives of a year ago.
Somehow I’m thinking that reporting that “whatever will be – will be” isn’t going to cut it with our financial backers. On one level they might understand that the road we’re walking is a “spirit-led” process. They might appreciate that what’s required are the boots of faith, a good walking stick of intuition, a heart that’s open to invitation, ears that listen, listen, and listen more, and eyes that can spot the signs when there’s no map to be read.
How to be “the church” without a church? How to be “the church” when there’s no congregation to support the effort? How to be “the church” when there’s no choir or pulpit or pews? How to be “the church” when there’s no paycheque, or benefits, or pension plan in place?
And so, while we’ve got all kinds of prayers and words of encouragement behind us. While funds have arrived just in time to keep us going. While all indications are that there’s a thirst out there for the gifts of the spirit and the ancient wisdom that guides. While we know that folks will gather with generous hearts desiring purpose and passion in their lives – we too are thirsty and hungry for answers to the questions posed?
How will this new thing be “the church” when it doesn’t look or sound or sing like “the church”? Who will be the people gathered and how will they define the good news that gathers them? And the toughest one of all is “How will this New Ministry be sustained?”
And so, as I peer into the future day after day, trying to see around corners we haven’t even encountered yet – I inevitably trip over the things I’m missing right at my toes – and fall.
From down in that “well of doubt” these words come my way. And they speak to me.
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.
Wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing.
There is yet faith.
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the calling.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought.
So the darkness shall be the light,
and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more of the signs I’m sensing in these dark nights.