“Sometimes, at the dinner table, a man might get up
and go outside and walk and walk,
simply because there’s somewhere in the East a church.
And his own children consider him dead.
Yet another, who dies in his own house,
stays put, living on in his table and glass,
so that this time it’s the children who walk
to the church their father forgot.”
Rilke, The Book of Pilgrimage
There is a question that nags in the night. It doesn’t matter if all day I rode the struggle bus or if it was a day full of mirth. When all is dark and the babies have been tucked in and the cat let out and the gentle hum of the dishwasher is the only background noise, I light the candle on my bedroom altar and watch how the flickering light illuminates the face of the Infant of Prague.
And I sigh.
In fact, I sigh a lot. And often. Even when I am not particularly sad. Something deep inside, leaks out.
And I crawl into my twin bed, alone.
Somehow it seems that the wider my heart becomes and the freer and larger my interior life, the smaller my bed. I try not to imagine the future, because the prospect of being alone carries way too many “what ifs.” I can’t help it though.
The nagging question comes, “Is Jesus really enough?”
I mean, intellectually, I can say yes. I can read the psalmist who says, “Who have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is none I desire beside you.” I can tell you from experience it’s a lot easier to say that when you have someone by your side and you don’t actually have to believe it.
My interior life is becoming its own cell. And my single bed a cloister, where I meet Jesus. There I look him in the face and I doubt that he is enough. I cry. And he cries. We cry together, I think, because he has more faith in me than I have in him.
“Build yourself a spiritual cell, which you can always take with you, and that is the cell of self-knowledge; you will find there also the knowledge of God’s goodness to you.” St. Catherine of Siena
I knew when I started hiking, that God was healing some broken pieces in me. But, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I didn’t know the question, let alone the answer. The perpetual question. And the answer, which is always “No, I don’t believe Jesus is enough.” Yet, that is always followed with, “I am willing to believe that. I am willing to be made willing to believe that.”
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)
And so I walk because somewhere in the East there is a church.
I take my children with me, because their father has forgotten the pilgrimage. But maybe someday we will meet him on the way.
For sure we meet ourselves on the way. I find broken pieces of myself, like bread crumbs that lead me home or like clues, gathering them up and putting them together as seems right to me, only often to discover, they are the right pieces, but maybe in the wrong places.
We walk and meet strangers also on pilgrimage who seem to know the way better than I do. Maybe they are Jesus in disguise.
And in my small bed, alone at night, with the tears seeping out the corners, I find my little cell and the question. And the face of Jesus. And we cry together because of all my doubts.
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