I owe you a phone call. It’s been a busy week. But Monday on your website you requested book recommendations. I’ll echo the first comment / recommendation you received by tagging below the section from chapter two of Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss that I typed, printed, copied, and distributed at church Tuesday night. The first two sections go together and embody what any body of believers hopes to achieve. The following three little bits are just random quotes and passages from the chapter I thought worthy of sharing. I hope this brief excerpt will further strengthen a dual recommendation. Wiman’s writing wafts a Haines-esque fragrance.
Christ comes alive in the communion between people. When we are alone, even joy is, in a way, sorrow’s flower: lovely, necessary, sustaining, but blooming in loneliness, rooted in grief. I’m not sure you can have communion with other people without these moments in which sorrow has opened in you, and for you; and I’m pretty certain that without shared social devotion one’s solitary experiences of God wither into a form of withholding, spiritual stinginess, the light of Christ growing fainter in the glooms of the self.
What this means is that even if you are socially shy and generally inarticulate about spiritual matters – and I say this as someone who finds casual social interactions often quite difficult and my own feeling about faith intractably mute – you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you. These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christ is always stronger in our brother’s heart than in our own, which is to say, first, that we depend on others for our faith, and second, that the love of Christ is not something you can ever hoard. Human love catalyzes the love of Christ. And this explains why that love seems at once so forceful and so fugitive, and why, “while we speak of this, and yearn toward it,” as Augustine says, “we barely touch it in a quick shudder of the heart.”
Herein lies the great difference between divine weakness and human weakness, the wounds of Christ and the wounds of man. Two human weaknesses only intensify each other. But human weakness plus Christ’s weakness equals a supernatural strength.
Be careful what you wish for, be ready for what you crave.
Human love has an end, which is God, who makes it endless.
by Christian Wiman