The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer…
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.
Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable
Merton’s account of the rain in the woods around his cabin reminds me of something Thomas R Kelly wrote in A Testament of Devotion:
In this humanistic age we suppose man is the initiator and God is the responder. But the Living Christ within us is the initiator and we are the responders. God the Lover, the accuser, the revealer of light and darkness presses within us. “Behold, I stand at the door and know.” And all our apparent initiative is already a response, a testimonial to His secret presence and working within us.
More and more I am sure that I am unable to make true decisions by my own will or reason over the path my inner (or outer, come to that) life is to take. It is not my own rational ideas, still less the external disciplines and authority of men, that will bring me into the light and truth of love and grace, but only the work of the Spirit, insistent and penetrating as Merton’s rain. If I am called to action, or to inaction, that is for the inward Light to press me towards, and not for me to work out with my busy, chirping mind. In Chapter 48 of the Tao Te Ching Lao Tse wrote:
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
In Meeting for Worship the truest ministry seems to come when the minister cannot help herself, but rises to speak almost against her will, not knowing what she will say. I do not know what I should do in the fullness of time – I can’t tell if I shall be called to action or to inaction, to stillness or to protest. But somehow that’s OK.
(Title with apologies to Eurythmics)