The Hidden Place
Stop thinking and just go. The day is still beautiful.
Reluctantly, I left. I drove away with a cacophony of voices in my head. They would not be blown off merely by the country air slipping past my old truck. No setting, no contrived mood could solve my problems, yet I drove anyway. It was better than sitting still.
I found the narrow gravel road that summer trees were trying to hide. I followed its winding way to the end and parked my truck. Here was a green field lined with leafy trees. The sky above was pale blue as the sun began to blush orange. In the middle of the field was a perfect circle of bright blue. It was a pool of clean, calm water, waiting just for me.
I entered the pool deck and set down my things one by one, pausing at my music player. What song could distract my mind this time? What music would promise me a moment of peace? I made a mediocre choice and then sat at the water’s edge. If serenity were here, it would not descend suddenly. I would have to pursue it.
After a few minutes of swirling my feet in the water halfheartedly, something stirred but not by me. It came from my music player. It was the unselected sound of ocean waves. These waves were powerful; they took me over by surprise. I melted into a cool sea—my personal ocean—watching light patterns on its glassy surface rippled by my own movements. At first, I heard only the rhythm of waves. Then beyond that, I heard trees rustling amid a lazy breeze. There were birdsongs and dragonfly dances mixed with seagulls and lapping water. And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t thinking of anything at all. My mind was quiet. I felt both buoyant and anchored. I had stumbled upon contented peace. . . and the feeling of good company.
The Hidden Face
In C.S. Lewis’s novel, Till We Have Faces, Queen Orual is at the end of her life, standing before the gods with a long list of complaints, a whole book accusing them of the wrongs they have done her. Once she has passionately blurted them out before a veiled god-judge, he answers her with “utter silence,” as she puts it, “long enough for me to have read my book out yet again. At last the judge spoke. ‘Are you answered?’ he said. ‘Yes,’ said I.”
When I first read that ending, I was dissatisfied with the way the author resolved this problem. It felt like a cop-out, like pseudo-religious profundity that didn’t have meaning at all. How could Orual’s argument be quenched by nothing? How could the judge’s silence be a satisfying answer?
I, too, have had complaints. I, too, have received God’s silence, yet it never felt fulfilling. I perceived it to mean “You are not ready to know yet” or “Have patience and watch for the answer” or “Stop thinking of yourself and focus on this something else which is closer to the truth you seek anyway.” To me, silence was discipline, not reward; the answer seemed deferred but not wholly withheld. Could it be possible to be satisfied in never knowing at all?
Today, after emerging from that holy bath, I say “yes.” And the reason has nothing to do with believing God or trusting God and especially not believing and trusting myself. There was no psychology in the rhythm of the waves, no message spelled by the dragonflies’ dance, no hymn in the songs of the birds—nothing to teach, interpret, analyze, or persuade. God simply surrounded my senses: he inhabited the sights and sounds and touch of nature in a fresh way by simultaneously presenting to me the ocean and the countryside. It was an omnipresent perfume to my soul. The result was a peace that outweighed my pains. I doubted this was ever possible, yet here was a space and a time in which all things—even I—were truly lovely and pure and at peace.
This is ultimately what we all want. Billionaires would give up their money for this. Celebrities would give up their fame. Models would give up their beauty. People everywhere would be willing to suffer to get this and keep it. This is nothing less than God himself in quiet communion. This is more valuable than answers.