Sometimes what it looks like is a gray stone wall. You know there’s light because some of the gray is grayer (shadows), but you don’t see anything you’d actually call light. It’s just a wall of ugly rock, sheer and taller than tall — tall without end — and even if you had your spiked climbing shoes, what could be the point? Behold the cliffs of Mordor.
And so you are still for a while, and that’s fine. Stillness, even scary stillness in a fetal position, can be part of how the soul accomplishes some of its quiet work.
Eventually, you can no longer be still, and so you shout and rage and cry. This is also good. We would not have these vocal tools if they, too, did not have their place in the fascia that connects our worldly and spiritual experiences.
Or maybe you gave it your best in-the-name-of-the-father shot once or twice and concluded no one was listening. But now here you are, Mordor before you and a desert of despair behind you. With nothing left but your hands and feet and broken heart, you pray in ragged words. You shout out “Help!” Or: “GOD! Help me, would you?”
And in your desperation, you think you’re asking for a helicopter to deliver you back to the world you knew before you woke up at the base of the infinite rock. You think you’re asking even for a godforsaken rope ladder, the kind you’re supposed to have in your bedroom to escape from fires. You think maybe you’re even asking for part of the rock to suddenly topple down and crush your head, because that would be better than the lightless rock face and the desert.
So here is what I believe. When we ask for help at the base of the cliff, sometimes we get the helicopter. And sometimes we get just enough energy to lift a leg and find a foothold. We get footholds and crevices to grip. I think we become inspired to move a little and maybe we’re struck with the sudden wisdom to stop looking for the helicopter, and to just keep groping for purchase and moving up. We get the temporary relief of a distracting and beautiful memory, something to make us stop grimacing for a moment while we climb.
But whenever I have asked or shouted or raged for help, or pleaded in a little-girl voice, or awkwardly muttered for it, help has arrived. Sometimes it has been in a very direct, “Your meal is served, ma’am” way, and sometimes in a form of grace that I wouldn’t have dreamed up on my own. So I’ve decided it’s best not to be too specific when I ask.
I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know. But when I woke up, feeling (as perhaps you did) that today I needed to do something about other people’s pain, I knew this: I can ask for God’s grace to be delivered to them as they climb the cliff face. Grace, in all its disguises, will arrive.