Archives, Biography, Orlando, Pondering

Sunset Spirituality

Our new home in Florida faces west, with a bog between our patio and the tops of these trees. I looked up from reading one evening and the sky was on fire. I grabbed my phone and snapped away.

I was not prepared for the explosive beauty I captured so effortlessly in that moment. I am continually drawn back to this sunset because it gives me a way to picture life right now. Dark. Fiery. Beautiful.

Sunset at our home in Orlando, Florida

I am in the middle of Rowan Williams’ The Wound of Knowledge, a thoughtful exploration of Christian Spirituality through a succession of Christian saints from the New Testament through St John of the Cross.

Gregory of Nyssa’s contribution to our understanding of Christian spirituality comes alive in his exegesis of the Christian life as a second Exodus. At one point he likens the Christian life as being taken up with Moses on the mountain when he asks to see God’s glory. “What lies ahead is God’s back, the figure of the Lord leadings us further and further out of self and into his own country and his own life.”

And then Williams relates this powerful connection to Mark 10:32. “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” Sometimes Mark’s terseness illumines our actual human experience with stark lines. This is one of those times.

Jesus has just met the rich young ruler, and has taught about camels through the eye of a needle and the last being first. He is about to tell them for the third time that he is going to Jerusalem to be mocked, suffer and die. If I put myself in the hearers’ place, this would, indeed, be a fearful moment of following Jesus.

My sunset speaks of the same kind of space.T o follow Jesus throughout a lifetime is to encounter moments when we clearly go with him into the darkness to die. Into the fiery presence of an untamed light. Into a beauty that beckons, but can only be ours on the other side of disorienting darkness and painful purification.

Picking up the cross and following Jesus is not a mere moment in safely secured somewhere in the past, but a lifetime of deeper deaths and higher risings. Further and further out of self. Further and further into Christ’s own country and own life. Here the journey is the reward: to be comfortable in his country. To be shaped by his life. It is so, Lord. May it be so.

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