One of my life-albums is “The Lover and the Beloved”, by John Michael Talbot. In this album, JMT takes devotional writings from some of the great spiritual writers of church history, adapts them to song, and then sings them, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.
So…a little bit different than what the Music-Industrial Complex, in both its secular and Christian arms, offers up to us.
My favorite song is adopted from the writings of Saint John of The Cross (the Mystical Doctor, according to Rome). The song is called, Where Have You Hidden? It is the plaintive cry of someone longing to find God’s joy and presence…but finding only longing and hurt. Or rather, the hurt of longing.
Here, give it a slow listen:
Note, if you cannot get the song to play, try this link
Where have you hidden, beloved?
Why have you wounded my soul?
I went out to the wilderness
Calling for you
But you were gone
Oh shepherds keeping your watch in the hills
If by chance you meet with my love
Tell him I suffer in my lonely grief
And soon I will die
I have searched for my love in the mountains
I have searched among the meadows and the fields
He has poured out a thousand graces in them
So my heart might be healed
Yet my heart is not healed
What poignant questions to ask of God: Where have you hidden? Why have you wounded my soul?
St. John was a Saint and a mystic and one of the greatest writers of devotional literature in history. It gives me comfort to know that even a man like that felt more longing than fulfillment, more the hiddeness of God than His felt presence.
This song resonates with me because it reflects my own experience of God: longing for Him, but not finding Him. Finding pleasure in the things He has created (a thousand graces), but not healing. My hear is not healed. And I don’t want to pretend it is.
I feel wounded by God’s absence. Sometimes the pain is akin to Job’s sharp anguish against the injustice and unfairness of it all. Where is God in all this? Why won’t He fix it, or fix me, or at least…at least answer me? More often, though, my woundedness is the dull ache of missing the One whom I believe in, but have never met. I see hints of His beauty in the autumn maple; I feel an echo of His love in the arms of my wife. I even taste a bit of his goodness in the hot cider I nurse while writing this.
But not Him.
Yes, He has truly filled this life with a thousand graces, and I long to more and more receive all the good things of this life as a grace, a gift of God and a faint-faith echo of God.
But the more I do…the more I want Him.
My theology tells me that God, too, is wounded. Not only in His love for me also being unfulfilled now, but in the price He paid to show that love, and bring me to that love. I know; Yes, He is wounded, too. And my theology also assures me that, as C.S. Lewis said, “We will never be able to see God face-to-face until we have faces”. I get it. I understand. I can no more be with God right now than I can stand on the sun.
But doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.