*Brian Wilcox. 'Stillness'. Flickr
Written on the twelfth day of silent retreat at Raven's Rest hermitage, in the Great Smoky Mountains, outside Hot Springs, North Carolina.
A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Pastor Frank, surprisingly to himself, returned from Hopewell to visit with the sage, who was surprised, also. Pastor Frank said he felt something in the presence of the sage, when they visited a few days prior, and he felt drawn to return. So, he decided he would bring a question for the sage, one that he had struggled with for some time. The sage invited him to share.
I've struggled with the wrath of God. I feel this wonderful love that to me is God's love. I was attracted to Jesus as a little boy, for I saw him as full of love. I don't know how to reconcile that love with wrath, it seems contradictory.
No reconciliation is needed, there's no contradiction between love and wrath, when both express the same Grace.
Why is no reconciliation needed, since they're opposites?
They're not opposites.
How is that?
You've made one two.
Love is both what you call love and wrath.
Doesn't make sense to me?
Our experience of love and wrath is arising from the love that refuses not to love us, keeps offering itself to us. We could say, the Light that keeps loving us, keeps pursuing us. One writer, I forget his name, spoke of your God being the Hound of Heaven. When love interacts with our resistance, commotion arises within. We feel that in the body. There is a definite sense of fierceness, sharpness, that, at times, arises. This can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, it leaves for a time, and returns, and keeps returning. Then, when we stop resisting, relaxation occurs, the positive side, so to speak, love arises. We feel joy, comfort, we feel relief. This is like when someone stops resisting someone's affection, and simply relaxes into his or her arms. The struggle is over, the tension resolves in the release, the surrender into. When we lean into love, love takes us the rest of the way into itself, like arms pulling us closer into an embrace. This same process applies on a collective level. I've been in a number of wrathful religious groups, groups where the tension was high and it would be acted out on members of the group, especially leadership. And, also, I've been in a number of loving religious groups. I could feel the harmony, the peace. It was like love was in the air, and everyone was breathing it in and out.
So, what we call love and wrath are both love?
Yes. This is why we need to differentiate between what we call love as feeling and the divine love, or Love with a capital "L"; divine love is prior to how we experience love and wrath. Love is what we experience when we surrender to divine love, wrath is what we feel when we are saying "No" to divine love. This is true from wherever or whomever that divine love is moving out to connect with us in a mutual embrace, we could say.
Then, in my theology, God isn't wrathful, but the tension I would feel when resisting His love would be the feeling of inner commotion, distress, and by simply surrendering, the struggle would end?
Yes, wrath is the energy of the contradiction going on within yourself, not within your God or from your God against you. Your God cannot but love, for your God is love. Divine love is the source both of the feeling of wrath and the feeling of love.
Still, I'm a little confused about that love and wrath being different from what you refer to as divine love.
The love and wrath are simply feelings, one pleasant, one unpleasant. They are what we could call the dance of energy. Energy in itself is neutral, it's never intent on hurting you. The Love prior is the source of both, but is only a unity, not a duality of feeling, or emotion. Love and wrath in duality come and go, but the love prior remains true to itself, it cannot do otherwise, for divine love cannot be unlove or unloving. That would be like saying the Sun becomes darkness; that is impossible, for the Sun is made of fire, of light. This is why wrath is not unloving or the absence of the prior love. The timeless love is a fullness, fullness that is itself.
Is there a secret to inviting the wrath to leave, rather than staying in that tension?
Simply a "Yes." Recall in your tradition, Jesus says in the Garden, just before his arrest, and after struggling to say an unqualified "Yes," ~ he says, "Not my will, your will be done." Then, he walks out ready to face his destiny. He walks out fearlessly, with no desire to defend himself, run and hide, or strike out against those who come to arrest him. He is at peace, he is free. We could say, there he is peace.
I recall. So, that's the way out of the wrath?
Again, your tradition shows you. Listen to it. The moment you stop struggling against the gift of pure love, including what it might be leading you to do, there is peace.
Could you leave me with one insight regarding this that I could hold in mind as a reminder.
The whole way is surrender.
Again and again and again; at least, until we live in surrender all the time.
Does anyone reach that point?
Not likely. But some reach the point of surrender of non-surrender, that is beyond even surrender.
Could we meet again and share on that?
Yes. But wait a few weeks, give yourself time to work with what we have talked about today. Practice being quiet and aware of the body, for your body is a mirror for where you are in relation to the harmony or disharmony with your God.
(C) Brian K. Wilcox
Brian K. Wilcox. An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered from online booksellers, including the publisher 1st Books.