Divine discontent

Monday 14 April 2008

I was outraged a number of years ago to read a book by an eminent Freudian analyt whose theory was that all artists are neurotic, psychotic, sadomasochists, peeping Toms; that not one is normal.

At this moment I do not know why it bothered me so. He means one thing by his labels; I would call it something quite different; but there is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in this world. Along with Plato's divine madness there is also divine discontent, a longing to find the melody in the discords of chaos, the rhyme in the cacophony, the surprised smile in time of stress or strain.

It is not that what is is not enough, for it is; it is that what is had been disarranged and is crying out to be put in place. Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night, to eat anything without indigestion, to feel no moral qualms, to turn off the television news and make a bologna sandwich after seeing the devastation and death caused by famine and drought and earthquake and flood. But the artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through and must find means of expression.

Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

There is no denying that I am an artist :) (But my divine discontent comes via methods other than the news; I refuse to watch or read the news except by accident). This, Kentster, is a bit more of what we were talking about earlier on your blog, this unusual life where we can rest in God while being in turmoil at the same time. It is a paradox of the highest order, but also a common occurrence in my own life and the lives of all believers I know. Divine discontentment while in the arms of the Father, El Shaddai - the Many Breasted One. Sometimes, however, I get sorely tired of my divine discontentment, this yearning and searching. I am tired from the past years, Papa. I am tired of finding myself once again back in a place where I keep hopping out of your arms and going off striving in my own strength. I am tired of looking at the worst things about myself, the areas of myself which are most broken and wanting to control. Take it, please. I'm tired of striving. (I'll take it back again, after a while, but you know the score. Some day I'll give it to you and not take it back again :) I would, however, like a greater measure of your presence in the coming days, if at all possible. I understand totally the way you remove yourself a few paces for certain seasons. It makes us come harder after you. But I miss you, Papa. I miss being in a season where your presence is so close. Hurry back now, ya hear? (I know you're here, but I need to feel it also).

I'm going to read in bed, a comforting thing. A non-striving thing. I am so bloody tired of finding myself striving. May this particular tiresom wrestling match with myself be reaching some kind of end some time soon (even if it means KO'ing myself to end the fight :). Amen.


  1. Sue, I think this is some important wrestling you have going on. To me entering God's rest doesn't remove that part of us that feels things deeply. I'm an artist also, I know what that decontentment is like. I actually think entering his rest will develope in us an even deeper feeling about things but at the same time I think this is where the peace that passes all understanding wants to enter our experience or we are left in a place of exhaustion and frustration.

    For myself a lot of it came down to this, when speaking of the things I used to battle with all the time in an effort to change what I thought needed changed: Okay, what can I really do about it? I think it begins with us learning to accept things for what they are. I don't think that means that we do nothing but it does require from myself the acceptance that I am not in control.

    Maybe this is why so many artist types go crazy? They never are able to move beyond living with expectations and thinking they can control and change what they think needs changed and move into a place of living with an expectancy having accepted the reality that something bigger is going on that maybe we can't see or fully understand. We become people that learn to really trust in something Wholly Ohter.

  2. (((((Sue)))))

    Kent's right in his final point, of course, so far as that goes; but what stuck me so forcibly was your l'Engle passage. What she describes is so close to what people like Br Ramon and Fr Sophrony describe as the true heart of prayer, the utterly defenceless impulse of grief and longing that leads us to prayer when we don't know what on earth to pray for (Romans 8.26), and that turns contemplative prayer from a self-regarding exercise in "spiritual experience" to the most profound intercession.

    You are a true pray-er, Sue, IMHO. Just go on crying out for God's chesed, his mercy, grace and power for yourself and for all the grief and terror of creation!

    All love & blessings


  3. Kent - yes, I agree. Living in the peace that passes all understanding - I think, like I said to you on your blog,that sometimes from the outside that can seem to be not the case, when we're grappling and mourning and groaning. And yet the peace is still there underneath. Actually, in some ways, I think that some of the things I am dealing with now I am only dealing with now because of that underlying peace. Before, there wasn't so much of a safe area to live out from, so I didn't feel like I could start tackling these things.

    I guess it's in the more unredeemed areas of myself though that the striving comes in. In those areas I tend to lose my peace because I realise I've gone off and left it ... even though that peace for me is where I live, these days. It's so very frustrating. But I think there needs to be an element of acceptance here, too. Papa is doing stuff. I can't see what it is. But he is. He has proved that to me in the past. It's just so very difficult to see what he is doing right now :)

    Mike - it takes one to know one :)

  4. Kent - is what I am saying here today and yesterday contradicting itself? I'm sure it all is somewhere. So much of what I say these days is contradictory in that delicious paradoxical way that seems much more reflective of reality than a one box fits everything approach. Still, I feel like I can't quite describe what is going on to my own satisfaction. Weird :)

  5. no Sue I don't think it is contradictory. Even if it is at times I think it is just a part of that space of disorientation/reorientation, it probably can't be avoided completely. I think as we keep walking and turning when we see we need to turn and go a different direction will most certainly give us the sense of contradiction.

    This is where I think the religious system most often gets in the way. You will here stuff like: "God is not a God of confusion so what you are experiencing can't be him." Here's my favorite response to those folks when I hear them say it...."I agree, God's not confused at all but the process of transition is terribly confusing to those walking through it." So thank you very much but no thank you.

    The cool thing for you is that I sense there is no way Sue will be kept from walking this out. No running back to those illusory "safe places" ever again. They are not safe.

  6. "I agree, God's not confused at all but the process of transition is terribly confusing to those walking through it."

    Thanks for this Kent.

    Your transparency is beautiful. Not that it helps you, but it helps the rest of us, I think.

    No more words, but sitting with you sister.

  7. Hmm... Yeah. Papa, can I just take a rest for a while?

    The unlikely peace in the middle of what should be (and sometimes is :) nerve wracking chaos. Transition. Change. Growth. Pain. Healing.

    I think if we knew too much of the path ahead, we would be terrified to follow it.

    It is a difficult thing to explain to someone else that you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing - are headed in the direction you have been turned to - when your life looks like a total train wreck in progress. . . and yet, each step, and you find yourself stronger and the train wreck hasn't quite happened yet and hope grows a little brighter. And you're at peace and yet terrified. Contradictory? Sure, but that is, I think, why the peace passes all understanding. ;-)

  8. Kent, it's interesting you said to me the words "go in a different direction" because that's the third time in 24 hours I have come across an expression like that, and each time there is a kind of jolt. You know the ones :) I don't know what it means. It's the gentle Papa version of "repent". There's something for me to change my mind about or to open my eyes and look around. Change is on the wind. Which is good, cause I want me some of that :)

    I too love your summation and reply to the "God is not the author of confusion" camp. Very succinct :) And oh, how good it feels to be able to rest in WHATEVER is going on, even the non-shiny stuff. Thanks for the reminder once again :)

    Jennifer - It does help me to know that my transparency is helping someone. It helps me being transparent, it's good to know it has some kinda effct out the other end instead of just pointless whingeing (which is what it feels like sometimes).

    Hey there Katherine :) Yes, I agree. Not being able to see too much of the path ahead is a good thing. But a frustrating thing too :) Thanks for your comments here. It really helps sometimes to just hear other people saying, "Yeah, I'm finding it hard too". Sometimes I don't realise how much I need the encouragement until I've received it :)

  9. Yeah. Encouragement. I get that. ;-)


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