"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 March 2011


I've probably posted this quotation before, from Richard John Neuhaus's meditation Death on a Friday Afternoon:

"The only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity."

I'm re-reading the book, as I try to do each Lent (though I don't always manage to complete it, in part because it is so rich), and this quote has captured me every time. I tend, as an academic, to see complexity everywhere; my world, by definition, is complex.

Of course, this bleeds over into the rest of life as well, including the spiritual. When I first was found by the Saviour, life seemed suddenly remarkably simple; love washed over me, I knew Truth, everything seemed clear as a summer noon. It was a time I needed, a time that somehow gave me the grounding, the reality that I required after years of terror in the face of my lostness and the brokenness of the world I was lost inside.

But time passes and life happens, and nothing remains as simple as it first seems. And now I feel awash in complexities -- not doubts of any foundational thing, but questions and mysteries, wonderments and ambiguities, uncertainties and, every day it seems, a new paradox to contemplate.

And yet, at the same time, I keep returning to this:

My father, when he had trouble remembering the years in which he had raised me, remembered without fail two things -- the prayer he always recited at meals, and the song he taught me when I was a child: "Jesus loves me, this I know / for the Bible tells me so." For a time when those dark months began, he felt fear, he forgot that he could trust the God he had walked with. And then, on the far side of fear, on the far side of doubt -- the simplicity of childhood, the simplicity of faith.

The complexity of my thinking is a good thing, it is even necessary; but I hope its greatest gift is the simplicity on its other side. I would be content if the last thing I remember would be that song of simple faith my father taught me, the song of faith in the Son of the Father we share, which we sang to our children again and again, which they sing to theirs.


barn swallow said...

Mmmm. Thanks for this cheering thought! I'm so glad that a "simple" thing like God's love for us can outlast all the floods and eddies in our lives.

Beth Impson said...

Thanks for visiting, Elena!