The photos in this piece are the work of Photographer/Writer Gary Fultz
“There are many things we don’t have language for,” our instructor Tolu said last Saturday in the One to One Care class I attend. It made me stop. She continued. “Often we don’t have words to express or explain what we’re feeling. This can cause a sense of hopelessness. We need to create space for others to talk, not only about trauma but everyday life, without the concern of having to make sense.”
For someone who is always trying to get her words right, I exhaled. In other words, we need to create space to allow people to just be. Doesn’t God do that for us?
“Just being asked how someone is doing can make a life and death difference,” she added. “In Nigeria,” where she is from, “we have to greet each other. It’s different in this country which is more individualistic.
“The part of us that is designed to be in community, is the deep part of ourselves wanting to be known. We can get stuck trying to explain everything, whether good or bad. What we don’t understand cognitively still shifts something in our brain that we aren’t even aware of in both the good and bad situations we experience. We need to offer this, too, to God.”
I hadn’t considered how all things exist within the omniscient, all-knowing, eternal God apart from language.
Just “being” is where we begin. It’s here in these thoughts, about thoughts apart from language, I sit.
Walking in the late afternoon, a woman stood alone at the edge of the water, just beyond the tree Todd and I claimed as our own this past summer. I took in her presence long enough to notice the aloneness—the pajama pants that matched the color of the sand, her stature. She didn’t turn to acknowledge me, nor I her. I remembered Tolu’s words as I walked along the shore. “Just being asked how a person is doing can make a life and death difference in their life.”
Glancing back over my shoulder, I thought of Virginia Wolfe with rocks in her pockets and wondered then if this woman was lonely or at peace in her solitude, and if I should have acknowledged her.
The woman’s form was now a shadowy outline against the background of the beige rocks bordering the beach, as if an artist’s hand had blended her into nature’s scene. “We come into community to be known,” Tolu had said as she continued the lesson and I thought how, at times, I feel most unknown in community.
I come to God to be known and to know Him, this I know. But who, in community, really knows me? I have thought I’ve known people and they have turned out to be anything but what I thought I knew. This, however, I also know, there is no greater investment of our time or energy than coming to truly know someone and being truly known.
That doesn’t make it easy.
How often have I said, there simply are no words? When I tell someone there aren’t words to describe what I’m feeling, I exist in a space where I am experiencing something beyond myself. Whether I’m being drawn up or pulled down, it’s there, I experience God. My longing is to know more, to release more, to reveal more and yet there are often no words.
As I experience bitter or sweet taste, the roar of a leaf blower or the trickle of a stream on the banks of the ravine, watch tragedy on the news or flakes of snow falling in the light outside the window, I can sense it all without words. I can sense your anger or tears, disappointment or joy, before I am able to define it or you are able to explain it. And that’s a good thing. To just be. Together and connected in a world that so often comes between us.
Peering out over the lake, I realize God is more apparent in the neglected, unknown wilderness places of my soul where there are no words. It’s there that I become most aware, He is with me. And it’s here in this place, I begin to understand: I do seek Him, my whole being does long for him, when the land is parched and dry I do thirst, like David in the wilderness of Judah in Psalm 63.
God’s glory creates words as much as removes them. And yet my lips can glorify Him in the silence, my spirit can rejoice in the stillness. Being remade in Christ’s likeness is our hope, and He will always be different in comparison to what my mind had already understood of Him.
Advent is a Mystery. It is love, both terrible and beautiful. How can love be terrible? It forces us to experience the worst of ourselves and the best of God. But in offering ourselves, glory meets us, fills us, reveals more of God to us and in us.
My desire for more of Him will not end. His wonders won’t cease and in the grandness of life, when I stop to notice what is beholden and unfolding around me, it is always more incredible, more holy, than what I had already experienced of God’s infinite majesty and beauty.
Maybe wordless, this Advent, I will travel to find more of His beauty, to experience more of His love as I seek His face, and find it in yours.
From my friend Gary when I asked if I could feature his photos again: “Each picture is put out there with a prayer to be of use for the Lord’s Glory no matter the motive of the user. I am glad calm and beauty are experienced in this way…to be aware of God’s presence is an amazing thing…Yes!”
Thank you, Gary Fultz.