DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

now or never nothing

Written by: on November 12, 2020

Darkness.

I remember running in the darkness. Headlamps and heatwaves in the cold, striding down a mountain a few years ago. We rounded a corner, I recall and, coming quick with the gravity, we were stopped by eyes staring out at us from the dark. They seemed to be those of a fairly large mammal, ominous and there, in the void. No noise to be known, just our heavy, anxious breathing. And, streams of heat rising up and swirling around. The darkness is easier to endure when there’s someone there with you. I wasn’t alone that night running down the hill. I was with her. I ‘think’ she loved me.

(I’m not ready to go down that trail, yet.)

Of brokenness and life, a couple of the things the trails have taught me over the years. Running on trails, I have had the chance to learn about ‘listening to my body’. Enduring on the streets and, thriving life in the midst of any community/organisation, may also inspire a ‘body-listening’. Renner and D’Souza regard this as yet another imaginative phenomenon of Not Knowing, the body as gateway, ‘a useful resource to tap into when our heads and brains fail us in the confusion and anxiety of the unknown.’1

The body responds in different ways on the trails, especially over long distances and extended periods of time. My first long run was twenty-six kilometers, completed without a hydration pack and nutrition of any package-up type, completed thanks to berries and the encouraging voice and gracious presence of someone ‘who knew that I didn’t know’.

On this long run, I began to listen to my body. It was my body that helped me to learn what was possible on the trails, only possible if I listened closely. I had to listen to when it was hungry and, then respond. I had to listen to when my body was thirsty and, then respond. My body also taught me that it wanted more than what it needed, that my response to its needs had to be appropriate, controlled. When my body felt pain in a certain place, it taught me how to adjust so as to keep going safely and, not to quit.

It was my body, showing my mind what was possible, that enabled me to perceive its ability to endure long distances and time periods moving forward at the right pace, fast and slow, dancing on rocks, hopping roots, powering up mountains and letting loose down the other side. There is less darkness or lostness that I feel out there now than when I first began.

My body has felt gross pain. My heart has been broken, utterly shattered. In this period of time, of excruciation, my brain failed me ‘in the confusion and anxiety of the unknown.’The pain was foreign, to the point of my soul feeling uncomfortable, to the point of identifying the real, presence of soul and its delineation from my body. This was a new kind of awareness that I was being drawn into, through pain. Carlo Carretto, in his book In Search of the Beyond, describes the potential impact of such confusion for a poor believer like me that ‘as everything becomes dark ahead of us and His light is obscured behind the storm clouds of trial, we cry out that we no longer believe in Him.’3

I was more than surprised by this experience. For the pain, belief seemed totally unreasonable; it was the unanswered question, ‘why?’, that kept me stuck. Indeed, this was a dark place, radically unfamiliar to me but, not so to Job, to Moses, to Abraham (to the last drop of faithfulness). My grace is quite insufficient.

We are so much more than what can be seen. Consider the way ‘image’ is conveyed in our culture and how people portray themselves, what they do in order to make themselves look good and to stand out from the crowd. Could this be a Zen ‘koan’ for our vain (regardless), self-first surface-culture to consider with more-depth-than-usual, ‘Is beauty is really only skin deep?’

As I consider the vivid reality and revelation of the presence of ‘soul’ through recent experiences in the darkness, may it be that ‘beauty become soul deep’. Carretto continues his exploration of God’s gift and intention of the horrific circumstance, ‘that we may penetrate them, but through the dynamic process of becoming, we come out on the other side of them towards the Infinite, the Eternal, the Unchangeable.’This calls for our trust through the ferocious wasteland of non-resolution and, eventually renewed belief. After all, Job did not receive an answer.

Yet, there is the deception and, even the (mountain) lion waiting in the dark, to be wary of. Intimidation, eyes in the dark, ‘we come out on the other side of them towards the Infinite, the Eternal, the Unchangeable.’5Remember, the encouragement of Paul ‘If God is for us then who can be against us.’ (Romans 8:31, NIV). And, deeper still to our soul’s consolation, “Little children, you can be certain that you belong to God and have conquered them, for the One who is living in you is far greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, TPT).

 

Bibliography

  1. Renner, Diana and Steven D’Souza. 2015. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity.New York, New York: LID Publishing Limited, 200.
  2. Not Knowing, 200.
  3. Carretto, Carlo. 1966. In Search of the Beyond.London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 37.
  4. In Search of the Beyond, 46.
  5. In Search of the Beyond, 46.

About the Author

mm

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

11 responses to “now or never nothing”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    That deep soul pain is one I am familiar with. It has been a few years since I was in that space of darkness, that wondering if God is even real. I remember reading the words of a mystic, which one I cannot remember. But the words have stayed with me- When life feels darkest, that is when God is closest, for God’s light is so present, it blinds us, making all seem dark. And then I would think of Martin Luther who remarked that we only know of God’s presence after God has passed, and we are able to turn our head away from the cleft in the rock to see God’s back. In some strange way, that darkness and place of unknowing is a protection, a grace, and while I can acknowledge that truth, I still have to wonder all the whys that go with it. Having companions along the way to remind me has made the journey bearable.

    How does this way of listening to your body inform your leadership roles?

  2. mm John McLarty says:

    What comforts me most in reading the Scriptures is the assurance that there’s really nothing that I am going through that someone else hasn’t also experienced- and more! Even the heroes and giants of the faith faced pain and sorrow. God’s steadfast love endures. Your post forces me to wonder if the reason I hate running so much is because I’ve never explored what might be on the other side of the pain.

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Nice exploraiton of darkness. We have used other metaphors this semester for the unknown (fog and river come to mind), but not darkness. It seems like a rich place to stay present.

  4. mm Greg Reich says:

    Chris,
    Your blog reminds of Acedia “the dark night of the soul.” A place of depression that Catholic priests believe brought on the sin of slovenliness, a lack of personal care. Acedia I have learned can become a friend. I often cling to the Psalms when times are darkest. Amidst the darkness of Davids soul he often raises up his hallelujah to God and expresses God’s mighty power. Even in darkness the voice of God can be heard and His presence felt.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Yes, Acedia.

      Interesting to bring up slovenliness! I appreciate that 🙂 Somehow, God is present in the midst of the darkness and gives glimpses of hope. Trails and, time close to him in the wilderness, reconciling. To the last drop of faithfulness, what heroic examples we have faithfulness?

      Hopefully, the mention of slovenliness doesn’t have to do with my BlogPosts? So much heart and life is offered into these by each one of us. However, I am reminded that I do need a good hair cut and should catch up on some vacuuming. Thanks Greg 🙂

      Peace with your heart.
      Maranatha.

  5. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Bro.

    Have you read The Body Keeps the Score by Van Der Kolk? So good and exactly what you’re saying here. The body has a way of teaching us, warning us, slowing us, stopping us.

    What is your body telling you these days?

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