Living with Contradiction

Every day, Benedict asks his monks to recite Psalm 95 with those loaded words: If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts. As Esther De Waal writes in Living with Contradiction (p. 134-6):
That is an ... urgent reminder for me today, and every day. I need to listen, and to hear not what I want to find but in whatever way it is that God is trying to reach me. ... This asks me to be vulnerable to his word minute by minute. If I am to live this way it prevents me from imposing any neat or safe pattern on my life. It forces me to live provisionally. It forces me to see that I must be prepared to live with the brokenness around me. ... I have to recognize that the tensions I find within myself may not be resolved after all, and that perhaps I have to learn to live with the contradictions and try to see that at their heart lies the mystery of God, a God who is both certain and unpredictable, utterly safe and yet also surprisingly explosive.
This is both disturbing and reassuring. Again I see the irony in having arrived at this point. For I find that instead of looking for either/or I can now hold on to both/and. This allows me to live with the muddle, the untidiness, the incomprehension. I no longer expect there to be some neat pattern in things, a wonderfully fulfilling coming together. Instead I am able to say that after all I don't know, and to find in saying that that I am saying something which is positive and liberating. For if I can see this then I can also see that in the end there is only mercy, the most perfect expression of God's love. I hold on to the promise of the Rule "Never to despair of God's mercy."


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