by Laurie Gudim
Listening for God often means setting aside the usual way of looking at things. The perspective of everyday life does not take us deep enough. We tend to focus on achievements, measure performance and think in terms of worldly success – or peace, or happiness – instead of pursuing what God may be telling us.
Our ordinary outlook will take even the practice of prayer and measure how well or how poorly we are doing it. Did we use the right words? Were we virtuous in our intent? Did we clear our minds of thought and our hearts of negative feeling? Meanwhile at the still, dark center of our being, God waits. Below breath and below heartbeats lies a constant yoke for our souls that is woven of comfort and peace. God yearns to uncoil into all our moments, bringing a truth that is not bright or lively – or even very well articulated. It’s just there, wholesome, dark and holy, beneath all the other stuff.
It makes me think there is some benefit for 21st Century Christians in a topsy-turvy way of musing upon today’s reading from Matthew.. Think about God, not as the Master in the story of the man trying to celebrate his son’s wedding, but as the guest without the wedding robe. He is not dressed properly. When asked why not, he is silent. He is a dark, still anomaly in the middle of the celebration and joyousness.
Imagine the wedding feast as the collective understanding. Everybody has put on the robe that was handed them at the door. They’re thinking in the way they are supposed to think and behaving in the accepted manner. They’re eating and drinking and having a swell time. These are people who were gathered up from the highways and edges of community. Their lives are far from easy. But they don’t share what’s really going on. They just put on the robe of celebration and make nice.
The Master quietly enforces this. He stands for that part of us that judges what is acceptable. Are you grieving? Are you angry? Do you object to the way certain people are being treated? Stifle all that stuff! Put on the wedding robe and pretend that everything is just fine! Do not raise questions or objections! Celebrate!
The strange guest at the party does not speak. To understand what in his refusal to celebrate he is trying to say, we must get really quiet ourselves. We must listen for quite awhile. Our usual consciousness has no time for this. We insist that things get clear quickly or we leave them behind. Into the outer darkness, into the realm of things we do not want to acknowledge, they go. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth because in this way God is abandoned.
God is the dark horse, the other shoe falling, the truth that will always out. God is the silence at the center of activity, the knowingness that invites and redeems. Find and listen, therefore, to the guest within who refuses to put on the robe of expectations. Listen to sorrow and need, allow solidarity with suffering. Listen to that which you don’t understand. It will heal you. It will heal all of us.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.