The 'nothing' that is 'all'

I’ve been quiet for a few weeks, not being inspired to write, almost content to sit and read and observe events and ideas without quite knowing what to do with them. I was putting things out but not getting much response. Yesterday, the energy changed. Various communications told me that things had been gestating during the apparent inactivity.

A friend of mine emailed me describing how impossible it has become to explain to people how they now believe ‘nothing’ but that this is at the same time ‘all’. My friend said they feel uncomfortable because it is unexplainable and diminished by the attempt to put it into words. Therefore, they think, they just won’t try to explain any more.

I’m not quite in the same position. I like trying to explain what it is I believe and don’t believe. The process of having to find the words that communicate to another person what I am thinking helps reassure me that I’m not off the wall.

But I absolutely share my friend’s experience of the ‘nothing’ that is ‘everything’, but is almost impossible to explain or put into words. But I’m reckless and I’m writing a blog and words are unavoidable, and I do want to try and communicate something of my experience.

So words come to mind – divine, holy, sacred energy, infinite love, immersed in goodness, of the essence, melting, flowing, infusing, soul-sizzling, integral, enfolding, and always, ultimately, inexpressible. Many, many others have searched for words to convey their own experience of this nothing that is all.

While thinking these thoughts I’ve monitored in the course of each day posts and conversations on Facebook and websites. Primarily I’m following friends’ posts and reactions to things going on in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion: things like the Primates’ gathering, and the fantasy communiques issued at the end; the remarkably mature response to the outcome shown by the Episcopal Church in the USA; the St Columba declaration and the equally remarkable response from David Chillingworth, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church; and this week’s meeting of The General Synod, where some of the objectives of the Renewal and Reform agenda seem to be based in wish-fulfilment.

There are many people in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion whose experience is rooted in the ‘nothing’ that is ‘everything’ but our experience has little impact on the outcome of these meetings and processes even if, as the Archbishop of Canterbury described in his Synod address, there are moments (and he was talking about the Primates’ gathering) when energy is released, the beauty of the Communion is experienced and there is a sharing and an outpouring of mutual support. Archbishop Justin told Synod that “we are of infinite value, and are held by the grace of God for infinite good”.

Not only are we of infinite value and held by grace for infinite good. G_d who holds us in infinite grace and goodness is infinite love, goodness, grace, and infinitely other and infinitely intimate and present in the core of our being and the fabric of creation.

This is the ‘nothing’ and the ‘all’ that infuses my being and inspires my faith and energises my life. It is infinite and intimate and incomprehensible. The language and dogma, doctrine and teaching of the Church is always inadequate to the mystery of life and faith and the experience of the holy. Very often, it’s even worse than that – it’s totally misleading.

There are many people whose hearts and souls and bodies experience this mysterious, ineffable, extraordinary, indescribable, intense, subtle presence, both members of a faith community and increasingly, people outside any organised faith community.

There are many others who experience this ‘nothing’ that is ‘everything’ without having the interpretive framework to identify or name it as something of G_d or spirit or the holy. And yet others who intuit ‘presence’ and long to trust the fleeting experience or overcome the institutional, unimaginative baggage of the church when it comes to talking about G_d and Jesus, incarnation and resurrection, and the ways in which life can be transformed.

I live through my days, haunted by ideas that run through my mind and feelings that alert me to frustration and desire. Too many of the Christian leaders and teachers and preachers I encounter seem to be lost in a world in which the profound mystery of infinite, unconditional love is entombed in repetitions of the message which are superficial and deadly in their uninspired theological formulations.

This is for those of you who have a quiet, profound faith in the ‘nothing’ that this is at the same time ‘all’ and feel out of place in church because it is unexplainable and diminished by the attempt to put it into words.