(As we mark the d anniversary of Daniel’s death, this is the final extract of 3 from ‘Dancing to my Death’, where Daniel’s searing honesty shines forth as he seeks to understand God’s presence in the midst his struggles with cancer and a new stoma.)
I can no longer believe in any kind of external God who will shrink my tumour just because I bombard him with prayers, pilgrimages, sacrifices and repeated religious routines. But I believe more and more in the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the love-energy of whatever I’m called to endure, to suffer, to accept and to be transformed by. As you read these pages of personal meditations you will notice this recurring insight as I try to cope as best I can with my current situation. The key to so much of our dis-ease, our wisest religions insist, is that we want life to be other than the way it is. ‘Wisdom begins’, wrote Jean Vanier, ‘when we stop wanting to fight the reality of the present as if it should not exist, and start to accept it as it is’. As I’m swiftly learning to my cost, the secret of Christianity, too, is to learn how to live as one with the daily unfolding of what happens. No more; no less. Rather than asking for miracles from above, my prayer now must be about how to gladly accept what is happening in the here and now. This insight, in Buddhist teaching too, is one of the Noble Truths about how to lessen our suffering.
As these reflections flow in and out of my consciousness, I can’t help wondering how these thoughts affect my current darkness and fear. The nearest I can get to some kind of peace is to continue surrendering whole-heartedly to that all-embracing Reality, that river of love, that God beyond God, that whole divine milieu that holds and caresses everything that lives, everything that grows, everything that keeps happening at every second of evolution: personal and universal.
Richard Rohr reminds us that this kind of total trust is achieved through a moment by moment choice and surrender. This reminder always gives me hope. Total trust takes time. Too often we think that the grace of sacramental vision, of the new way of seeing, of the desired intimacy with God, comes suddenly and then stays with us. In a sense that is true; all we have to do is to become aware of this sublime gift. But awareness takes time. God’s incarnate grace is, in a sense, bound by the laws, times and tempo of an evolving and developing Creation.
St Paul mentions the light of God’s eyes that we try to reflect each day until, after much practice, we begin to become the light itself. Ours is an Incarnation-inspired spirituality. It has its own timing. We awaken slowly from the sleep of our limited conditioning to know the transforming potential that is latent within us all. A huge problem is that this rude awakening usually comes with an All-Mighty and tragic shock. If this is true, does it make you desire to take your life really seriously before being forced to do so when the bad times come? (pp76,77)
Afterward – Daniel ends ‘Dancing to my Death’ on New Year’s Eve 2018, with this quote from Kahlil Gibran:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one. . .
Only when you drink from the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance. (p223)