Sunrise on Sunset: God speaks when words fail

SunsetIn my little neighborhood of the little big city of Grand Rapids is a little street named Sunset. It really should be called Sunrise, because that’s what the sun does when you walk over to Sunset early in the morning, as I just did.
Here’s the world from Sunset, which overlooks downtown nestled in the Grand River valley: steeples and steaming smokestacks; water towers and the Waters Building; cars cruising by on the roaring river of Int. 196 and people huddled in a warren of humble homes on tree-shrouded streets.
In my leafy neighborhood overlooking it all, clear sunlight bathes the still-bare branches where birds sing somewhat deliriously. The waking world whispers rejoice, the time is coming, spring is about to be born again.
This is how God’s creation speaks to me on these last days of March, walking gently toward April glory. I couldn’t find such inspiration in a book. It’s too much of the senses more than of the head. It speaks in a soft language my whole heart and body understand.
Same with a Bach cantata or a Keith Jarrett piano meditation, to which I am currently listening. The mode of music, like the book of nature, admits the divine in more artful ways than words. Though I am a writer, I better comprehend the sense of God through non-literal means.
In my work I often read theological battles based on words. Believers cite Scripture to back up their version of God. Nonbelievers cite science and reason. Both leave me spiritually cold. I don’t ignore textual arguments about God’s being or non-being, but neither do I rely on them.
The very idea of proving God, or disproving for that matter, does not appeal to me. I’m too much a romantic mystic to be persuaded by words one way or another. If it all came down to words, I’d be terribly disappointed.
We hear a lot of words at this time of year, some of them recounting events that seem implausible to the modern mind. The Red Sea parting in the Jewish Seder; Jesus returning from the dead in the Christian Easter. If such accounts were written now they’d be shelved alongside Tolkien and Rowling.
People don’t enter into these stories on their words alone. They are carried along by ritual, music, prayer, tradition, experience. The stories speak to them on deeper levels than cognitive. They are soul-stirring stories, wrapped in mystery and miracle. Believers are not so much rationally convinced as spiritually convicted, on whatever level these accounts ring true for them.
So when I walk over to Sunset on such a splendid morning as this, I am not looking for proof of God’s glory. I don’t need to. I see it in the sunrise, feel it in the chilly air lightly stinging my nose, hear it in every bird’s delirious song.
God is not up there; God is down here, all around me. I struggle to express the joy I feel in his presence. Mere words, by which I earn my keep, are not nearly up to the task.

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4 Responses to Sunrise on Sunset: God speaks when words fail

  1. rodney otto says:

    Thanks…what encouagemet to a world splintered and divided by words and convictions…common breath seems to unite us on deeper levels. I catch the sunlight on the other side of the river on Holland street as I greet each morn with light streaming through my office/attic small window and am refreshed with the light of the Lord.

    • soulmailing says:

      Good to hear from you, Rod! Nice that we’re both nourished by the same sunshine on opposite sides of the river. The journey is a long one, but glorious. Happy Easter, friend.

  2. First off I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.

    I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thanks!

    • soulmailing says:

      Carlton, thank you for your kind comments about my blog. As for clearing my mind to write, it’s not always the case. Sometimes my head is stuffed with thoughts or emotion, and writing them down is itself a means of finding greater clarity or peace about it. In general, though, I write early in the morning when the world is relatively quiet, and before the events of the day begin cramming my mind with applied activity. If I’m writing about a specific experience I try to write about it immediately afterward while the particulars of it are still fresh in my memory. I don’t really think about an audience but just treat it as a sort of public journal.
      If you still find yourself lost and unable to begin writing, just think of the page as a lake, dive in and start swimming. That will get the words moving for sure. As you continue to write you will probably begin to find your rhythm and the voice you want for that particular piece.
      Best of luck with your writing, and thanks again!

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