Finding Solace

RFinding Solaceaindrops, pelting against my home-office window like news releases of disaster and war that battered my soul and challenged my faith in God and man, obscured the bucolic view into the forest and my hopes for a better world.

Will it snow soon, coat the darkness in white?

It was the first week of Advent, and I struggled to stay focused on hope, joy, and celebration as well as the “goodness” of humankind in a world where self-interest too often presides over community. The news was bleak, discouraging and fraught with despair, my half-full cup draining into emptiness.

In desperation, I turned to a source where, in the past, this reluctant disciple has often found rekindled faith. My uneasiness was allayed by Frederick Buechner’s words, an excerpt from a meditation he gave, and published in his book, The Clown in the Belfry. And so, hopefully with Buechner’s permission, I offer you his words of solace, so much more eloquent and appropriate for the moment than mine:

“It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. The child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. ‘In the great humility.’ There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. But with righteousness and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And to us came. For us came. Is it true—not just the way fairy tales are true but as the truest of all truths? Almighty God, are you true?

When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say Yes to that question? You say Yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say Yes with your fingers crossed. You say it with your heart in your mouth. Maybe that way we can say Yes. He visited us. The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain, the lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often.”

The view into the forest from my window remains unchanged. The book has been returned to the shelf where it never gathers dust, and I reoccupy the seat at my desk—fingers crossed and heart in my mouth—Advent has arrived.

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18 Comments

  1. Ted Marcy

    “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” Jn 1:5

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Ted,
      Thank you. Fingers crossed, heart in mouth I sit at my desk, window to the west where a faltering but persistent light has appeared in the forest.
      Roger

      Reply
  2. Colette

    Good for you, seeking and finding your always reliable source of solace in the words and wisdom of Frederick Buechner.
    Thank you for sharing his meditation with us as we enter this glorious season of Advent, helping to restore hope, faith, and joy, which we so desperately need in these daunting dark days and times. May you feel comforted with peace in your heart as you hear the raindrops, see the snowflakes, smell the hay in the manger, and peer into the forest outside your window. Wishing you Christmas blessings.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Colette,
      Thank you, and I wish you too “Christmas blessings.”
      Roger

      Reply
  3. JoAnne Kurman

    “….because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often.”

    In those dark hours, I find it is I who reach out to Him. Funny, isn’t it, that dark hours are golden opportunities for miracles? My need for him is less when times are good nor am I praying for miracles. So I guess I’m saying the upside of down times is, that’s when we get to see Him in action like no other times. And like I’ve heard mentioned in AA meetings, don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Jo Anne,
      How true your words “…don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.” Regardless of our faith, religious beliefs or lack thereof–may we never give up too soon.
      Thank you,
      Roger

      Reply
  4. Thomas Nola

    This Dec.2 marked opening day of the deer muzzleloader season. I arrived the previous day to set up camp. Every year for many that have passed always marks a great excitement and expectation for my hunting success. This natural world that surrounds me is devoid of most “human contamination”except for the night of 12/2 sitting around the campfire. My hunting friend started a conversation about the decadent world situation. His remarks were “scarring” the evening with his expecting a comment. I gave him what is my belief that the world will never be at peace because of humankind’s psychology.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Tom the Intrepid One,
      Thank you for sharing your fireside moment. “Humankind’s psychology,” as you write, will always reflect our brokenness, but need not be terminal, and that’s where faith and hope make the journey possible–and there’s no pie-in-the-sky aspect to that whatsoever!
      Thanks for reading the piece,
      Roger

      Reply
  5. Herta

    You’ve convinced me. I will now read Buechner! That’s a beautiful passage. Thank you, Roger, for bringing it to us!

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Herta,
      You’re welcome, and thank you for reading and commenting–joining the discussion. Dive into Buechner, he’s a wonderful and trustworthy storyteller, and a faithful scribe of our shared journey.
      Roger

      Reply
  6. Ned Towle

    Thankyou for bringing me more fully into the Advent season!
    I love the experience suggested by “the closest of all close encounters”, and the image of the baby “naked, totally helpless”…somehow these bring me to space where God is.
    The idea that “it is in the dark that he seems to visit most often” suggests to me that it is in moments when life has knocked away our false pride, false control, and false idols, that we experience despair and are open to the truth of God.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Ned,
      I agree with what this suggests to you. Our [false] need for certainty can lead to false pride, control and idols which distract us from however God, regardless of beliefs, seeks to connect with us. Sometimes I think I choose to live in the “dark” even when the light is so obvious. A colleague and I had an early (dawn) morning breakfast meeting during which we discussed world and domestic issues as well as conflicts on the campus of Middlebury College–no answers. We wondered where God was in humankind’s struggle and strife. A man walked up to our table, introduced himself as the truck driver sitting in the corner, and offered a brief statement which I’ll paraphrase-‘doesn’t seem as if God’s got his act together, but he does,’ and then he gave us each a scribbled reference for a radio show that had been his “companion” on long-haul routes. “Just sayin’,” he said, “and didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” We left shortly thereafter wondering if we’d been privy to “the light” seeping into our darkness. Yes was the joint answer.
      Thanks for reading and commenting,
      Roger

      Reply
      1. Ted Marcy

        What a great encounter! Thanks for sharing and for understanding the significance of it.

        Reply
        1. yourrel4 (Post author)

          Yes, but can it be stored in a Ball jar, lid screwed tightly in place, and opened when needed?
          Roger

          Reply
      2. Ned

        Thank you for raising the question, “We wondered where God was in humankind’s struggle and strife.” No answers here, but my perspective is that God is the ground of our being – the essence of being – and, yes, I ascribe characteristics of caring and love to this essence – and yet I don’t see God as acting independently of God’s creation – independently of nature and human beings – it is up to us to take our direction from God in our dealing with the struggle and strife of life.

        Well, ok, so I say God works through us and nature. But where does he want to take us? If we all listened to God to the best of our abilities where would we end up? I assume that there would be more understanding and kindness in the world, greater respect for the sacred, and an ethic of mutual respect and support among humans.

        And thanks for your feedback, which draws me deeper into your thoughts and insights.

        Reply
        1. yourrel4 (Post author)

          Ned,
          Your questions and assumption at the end of your comment ask for answers and actions, but we get in the way of effecting ‘best practice’ and common sense solutions, and in so doing fail in our efforts to make the world a healthier place. But, we keep trying. Living fully into the essence of who we are and who we’re meant to be takes courage and can be risky because the temptation to make God or The Divine (whatever that may be) into our own image is tantalizing and blinding in equal measure.
          Thanks for commenting,
          Roger

          Reply
  7. Bette

    My favorite…We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in….

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Yes Bette, we are, and thank you for reading and commenting. You’re so correct, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in…”
      I’m in that line, and in wonderful company!
      Roger

      Reply

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