God At A Brewery

I had a strange feeling come over me the other day when I was sitting outside a brewery in Merrimack, New Hampshire.  

It happened as I watched the other people gathered there---a few families sitting at picnic tables, two couples huddled together at their own...  all smiling, laughing, soaking in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, and a breeze that made it's way through all of us like an invisible shower of feathers.  

I was overcome with a powerful and strange mixture of joy and sadness that was so overwhelming I  had to put my hand to my mouth to keep myself from sobbing out loud.  Instead I choked on the sound, and my eyes blurred.  

There was a thickness in the air in that moment, a heaviness that enveloped me and everything I could see.  It was beautiful and true, and achingly elusive and ephemeral.  

While I knew the moment and the feeling would fade, in that moment I longed for it to last forever.  I laughed out loud, mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of color that I could see through my tear-filled eyes.  

(Stupid for crying) I told myself.  
But it wasn't stupid, and I knew it.  
It was real.  
As real as God. 
Who was there in that moment, laughing, shining, dancing, glowing, caressing, drinking, loving, leaving... and returning.  

"Why now?" I asked (God).  "Why here?"
And the reply came back to me in my own head.  
"Why not now?  Why not here?" 

I could try to explain the moment away, I suppose.  

I could say that I was just being emotional over all that has been lost, and the things that never will be again.  

I could say that on that particular afternoon I was able to push back all of the loss and feel normal again---whatever normal felt like, which is hard to remember sometimes.  

Or maybe it was just the glow of the late afternoon sunshine, which for me is just the most beautiful light there is.  Or the cool late New England summer breeze.  Or the bittersweet taste of a really good beer.  

There isn't an explanation that doesn't bring me back to the beautiful heaviness of God, though.  There isn't a rationalization that isn't left speechless by the presence of the Divine passing by, showing just some of the glory that made Moses' face shine like the sun.  

I read a prayer a few weeks ago from Hildevert of Lavardin, a bishop and poet from the 11th century.  I've been looking at it off and on ever since.  Here it is:  

God is over all things 
Under all things, 
Outside all, 
Within, but not enclosed, 
Without, but not excluded, 
Above, but not raised up, 
Below, but not depressed, 
Wholly above, presiding, 
Wholly without, embracing, 
Wholly within, filling. 

If you are thinking, "That is strangely beautiful... and also confusing... and also contradictory... and also comforting in some odd way."  You would be right on all counts.  

It's the kind of prayer/poem that only makes sense when you understand that sometimes there are thin places in the world, and sometimes you get to stand in them and feel the weight of all of those glorious contradictions fall upon you.  

Even as I sit here now, I long for that thin place with a deep, sad and lonely longing.  But I also know somewhere within me that the thin places are always there... everywhere... the difference between one from another is how ready we are to see them, to experience them in their fullness.  

It's this kind of awareness that made the mystic Thomas Merton write this after he experienced it for himself: 
This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

The gate of heaven is everywhere, Beloved.  Everywhere.  God grant us the pure vision of readiness and longing to see it opened wide and the glory (Oh the glory!) rising, falling, arriving, dwelling...  never leaving... always there.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  



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