The Cloud of Unknowing drew me because it holds answers to the questions I have been asking God: How can I know You more? What is next for me, especially as a middle-aged woman?

In desiring to fulfill the first and greatest commandment to

love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind

Matthew 22:37-38 (NRSV)

I went to Portland Seminary (George Fox University) with a keen interest in studying the Bible, learning its original languages, understanding the ancient cultures, people, and history represented within its pages, and through this learning and understanding, to come to know God more. I have spent the bulk of my life keening after God with my mind, and God has responded in giving me teaching positions, and writing opportunities.

Thinking is my leading edge, not feeling. But, through a series of crises, I began to realize an emphasis on loving God with one’s mind can devolve into valuing doctrine over deity, principles over people, and law over love. I realized that to err on the side of love was to better understand God’s revelation of the Lord’s glory in God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. I found I had been longing simply to love God with all my heart, and love God’s people. God responded in giving me spiritual ecstasy in worship, and joy in a counseling ministry.

When I started classes in the fall of 2018, it seemed God was going to deepen both sides, heart and mind, of this one coin of loving the Lord, through spiritual formation, languages, and Bible study. Then, the following spring, when I read

Rational creatures such as men and angels possess two principle faculties, a knowing power and a loving power. No one can fully comprehend the uncreative God with his knowledge; but each one, in a different way, can grasp Him fully through love.

Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 263

I realized I still wanted to grasp God with my power of knowing. But now, God was asking me a question. Was I prepared to love the Lord with an unexpected third side of that coin, all my soul?

He whom neither men nor angels can grasp by knowledge can be embraced by love. For the intellect of both men and angels is too small to comprehend God as He is in Himself.

Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 263

My mind is too small, too finite, to fully experience God. Paul’s words came to me in new understanding, For now we see in a mirror, dimly...” I have had my nose pressed up against that mirror, peering with all my intellect, and yearning with all my heart. But, I simply cannot know the totality of God with the understanding of my mind alone. The truth is, I also cannot fully understand God with simply a feeling of love in my heart for the Lord,

Of course, it is laudable to reflect upon God’s kindness and to love and praise Him for it; yet it is far better to let your mind rest in the awareness of Him.

Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 267

Awareness is neither mind nor heart.

It is soul.

My soul was created to hold eternity. I experience the fullness of God with the fullness of my being. God puts God’s whole Spirit within me, not just a piece or a part, but all of God in every believer, individually, and corporately. To be human is to have this capacity and capability. While remaining uniquely me, I am also filled and engulfed in God.

Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his love, can embrace God, Whose being fills and transcends the entire creation. And this marvelous work of love goes on forever, for He whom we love is eternal.

Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 264

It is not something to know or feel. It is something to be.

My image of God is changing to encompass all earth and sky, all the cosmos, whether organic or mineral, as permeated with God’s Presence, Power, Glory, and Love. God loves all that God has created, and continues to say it is very good. Communing with God is to experience this love. When I finish reading Cloud of Unknowing, I hope to read Chardin’s works, and write about the spiritual “string theory” of creation, God’s love.

(String theory is a potential “theory of everything”, uniting all matter and forces in a single theoretical framework, which describes the fundamental level of the universe in terms of vibrating strings rather than particles.)

So, above me, or perhaps before me, is the Cloud of Unknowing, a darkness now, yet still so suffused with God’s glory, I can sense God’s sunlight through closed lids. However, I need another Cloud to enable opening myself to experience communion with God. I  must also have the Cloud of Forgetting. [1] And so beneath me is all that is of earth, all the cares and worries, responsibilities, all the knowing of things, even my sense of myself, who I am and what I am about; all that must be forgotten, even if just for a time.

Let your mind rest in the awareness of Him in His naked existence and love and praise Him for what He is in Himself.

Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 266

I am trying to practice this Cloud of Unknowing, and this Cloud of Forgetting. God has always been there for me to discover, if only I would but

Lift up [my heart] to God with a gentle stirring of love.

Carmen Acevedo Butcher, translator, Cloud of Unknowing, 11

God has never stopped speaking, it is only that I have not stopped to listen.

Listen with my soul to God’s soul, my spirit to God’s Spirit. It requires an amazing amount of energy to not know things, and to leave all behind. It seems as soon as I am alone with my thoughts, they all clamor for attention rather than welcome a chance to rest. It is as though they are all two-year-olds, who see momma on the phone. She has stopped moving, stopped doing things, she is now still, and listening. They mistake her listening is for them.

Nevertheless, God is meeting me in this space, between the Clouds, the Lord is giving me a sense of God’s presence, an experience of God around me and within me, me with God, as well as within God.

It is a place of coming and being home.

[1] Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing, 266

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