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On Half-Seen Shimmering Things

Mark and I kayaked down the Willamette River last week--slowly--hugging the shoreline since we could see only a little ways in front of our boats as we paddled into the quiet enchantment of a thick October morning fog.

The River enticed us in, even as common sense told us to be wary. Common sense warns us to be cautious, and being responsible folk, Mark and I usually are. But on this day, the spellbinding fog won the moment and we slid our kayaks into the water, Oliver quiet and vigilant at my feet.

Fog compels a focus on what lies close at hand, at life stirring beneath the surface in the shallows and shadows of the river's edge. We listened intently for other boats, hearing the soft putt-putt of a fishing boat slowly making its way down river, and maybe the quiet lifting and lowering of some other kayaker's oar in the distance. We watched the slow silent rising of a heron because, in the fog, we had paddled too close to her perch on a snag protruding from the river.

I bemoan, sometimes, that I see so little of what exists, although much of it can be at least glimpsed. Seeing half-hidden things requires a different type of gaze, a patient one, maybe slightly out of focus due to the need to get Really Close, which almost always requires a somewhat awkward and humble sort of posture.

Perhaps that's what draws me to spiritual direction work. I am asked often enough what exactly is spiritual direction? I describe that here well enough (scroll down to the spiritual direction description and read the middle paragraph). Just now I want to say that sitting with directees is sometimes like paddling slowly down a fog-laden river. Our invitation is to look closely for God at the edges, in the shallows and depths, in the half-seen places. What they sometimes discover is that life becomes enchanted again, maybe like when they were children, before work and pressure and performance and anxiety replaced an enchanted world with a pragmatic one.

When we see a half-seen thing--have an unexpected encounter with God--we are cautious and wary about speaking of it in any context that might give rise to the lifting of eyebrows, a scoff or a rebuttal. I've been the recipient of having my own mysterious encounters held, as well as the honor of bearing witness to others'.

What if the half-seen is most real? What if being drawn deeper in and further up into the arms and heart of God allows us to live out of that enchanting place? Maybe it is one path toward seeing and loving the world the way God does, learning to weep with a creation that weeps, to rejoice with a creation that rejoices, to love with a Love that seeks to bring the Love and Light of God into the ordinary moments and encounters that make up our days.


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