PORTION ONEWinter/Spring 2012 (Vol. 40, Nos. 1 & 2) Harvard Divinity Bulletin ________________________________
By Love We Are Led to God
Faith is found in the mutable and messy process of our lives.
by Christian Wiman
AT NEARLY SIXTY years old, M. finds that her faith has fallen away. She tells me that it was love that first led her to God. Thirty-five years earlier, love for the man who would be her husband for most of her life seemed to crack open the world and her heart at the same time, seemed to fuse those latent, living energies into a single flame, the name of which, she knew, was God. There were careers and children. There were homes laid claim to and relinquished. There was something perhaps too usual for a love that had torn her so wholly open, but time takes the edge off of any experience, life means mostly waiting for life, or remembering it—right? She tells me all this, right up to the depressingly undramatic divorce, at a table outside in far west Texas, the country of my own heart. She asks me: How can a love that seemed so fated fail so utterly? How can a love that prompted me toward God become the very thing that kills my faith? Once, it seemed love lit the world from within and made it take on a sacred radiance, but somehow that fire burned through everything and now I walk lost in this land of ash. If God by means of love became belief in my heart, became the faith by which I lived and loved in return, then what should I believe now that my love is dead? Or no, not dead; that would be easier. Actual death cuts life off at the quick of your soul, but there is yet the quick to tell you what life was, assure you that life was. You grieve the reality of your loss, not the loss of your reality. That former grief is awful, and may seem unendurable, but at least it is more productive, for it is grief that has lost but not renounced life, grief that still feels to the root the living reality of love because it feels so utterly that absence. All I feel is that the life I felt, the love that once scalded me toward God, was a lie. . to be continued …