August is a month for losing your place: in all the books you’ve been meaning to read all summer, in your inbox or your Twitter feed, in the TV series you’ve been binging. (Don’t sleep on Derry Girls!) But God goes looking for us, and in her great love discerns, from moment to moment, if we need to stay hidden or if we need to come out.
Come out about what’s important to you, come out from your hiding place. Find yourself. Find the place from which it is safe to come out, find the place into which it is safe to enter. Donna spoke of the ways in which church can be this place, even and maybe especially for the unbelievers and the maybe-believers: without an explicit or even implicit mission to persuade or convert, we nevertheless stand for what church can be and what the love of God is when we create a place for people in which to take sanctuary and from which to emerge. The cleft in the Rock of Ages is both a hiding place and a point of egress.
This image of the cleft represents yet another paradox, inviting engagement from faith. In my friend Bill’s new book, God Is a Question, Not an Answer, faith is a capacity, a way of knowing different from but not necessarily in conflict with either science or intuition: “Perhaps,” he posits, people with faith “are able to detect something in the spectrum of reality that we would otherwise miss with an ordinary view.” Maybe. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been living under a rock, spiraling into anxiety for hours or days, sleeping on truth that could make me laugh or breathe deeply, utterly blind to the news or, worse, to the suffering of those to whom I should be attentive. This is half of the paradox: a rock can conceal and silence. And a rock can protect and shelter. Both are true.
And: coming out is dangerous, and coming out is liberating. To be who you really are in the world has never been safe, for so many people, but it is also the work of a lifetime that brings with it a freedom that cannot be replaced. The way forward is through that faith, believing that with God that there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed.
And: God will shelter us until we are ready to leave the safety of shelter, and then create a new kind of shelter, one that moves along with us in the world. We will go forth, as we do in August: to the mountains and the woods and the sea, to the borderlands and the other side of the world, into the depths of our library hold lists and our Netflix queues. Or we will hide until cooler weather comes and it’s safe to come out again. We will look with faith, and God will find us, and we will come back to the place in which we hide and from which we come to light.