Love needs not to know…
Have you felt a longing for something deeper but don't know what to do about it? Have you read about contemplation but feel like you don't really know how to get started? You're not alone. Even though contemplation is one of the simplest forms of prayer, it is so different from everything we've been taught in school, and in the media, and even in church that it can feel daunting and far out of reach. It feels like something so mysterious that we often feel we wouldn't know where to start. Contemplation is often described as the highest level of prayer, the pinnacle of the religious life and so it feels out of reach. When we put it on such a high pedestal it becomes hard to reach. But the truth is contemplation is actually the most accessible form of prayer there is.
That doesn't mean it won't take some time to settle into it. That doesn't mean it will always be easy and pleasant. But it does mean that all you have to do is decide to start and you'll find yourself on the contemplative path. All that is required is a desire and an intention. If you are reading this it means you already have a desire and I'm willing to bet your intention is just around the corner. I'm willing to bet you have been finding the usual ways of culture and society are no longer appealing to you. I'm willing to bet the things you once enjoyed no longer satisfy the longing in your heart. That you feel less and less connected to the people around you, as if you feel called to something they don't even know exists.
If any of these describe you then God has already called you to the contemplative path and that indescribable longing you feel is your guide on that path. Trust it. Follow it. Let it lead you into the silence. Let it lead you into a deeper way of being human. Let it transform you into the image of God. Because it will if you let it. If you decide to follow that small still voice within it will never lead you astray, even if you have no idea where it's taking you.
Just know that longing is calling you into the unknown. It is calling you out of the bright and easy pasture and into a darkness and a mystery. But it is infinitely better! Follow that small still voice into the shadows and the unseen places and there you will receive true light that opens your eyes and makes you new.
I'd like to leave you with a short little poem by Gerhard Tersteegen, an 18th century German poet. It's called the Blessed Journey and I pray you take his words to heart.
Let Him lead thee blindfold onwards,
Love needs not to know;
Children whom the Father leadeth
Ask not where they go.
Though the path be all unknown,
Over moors and mountains lone.
Give no ear to reason's questions:
Let the blind man hold
That the sun is but a fable
Men believed of old.
At the breast the babe will grow;
Whence the milk he need not know.
Justin Coutts is a contemplative teacher living on the beautiful and mysterious Manitoulin Island. While his practice is primarily Celtic Christian today his religious life has been very diverse. He spent many years as an apprentice to an Ojibwe elder helping people on vision quests deep in the Canadian wilderness. He was also raised in a traditional rural Quaker community which is still an important part of his contemplative practice. Today, Justin is the author of In Search of a New Eden and is working to find the intersection of these traditions and lineages. Through Celtic Christianity he hopes to bring people closer to the natural world and closer to their own souls - that we all may return to Eden like the Prodigal Son and live once more in harmony with the wind and waves, the trees and moss, the rocks and stars.
Contemplative Light offers an on-demand course on The Christian Mystics, covering the lives, works, and teachings of 20 historic figures that shaped the Contemplative tradition.