Lately I have been reading a lot of Thomas Merton. Merton describes the experience of God’s presence paradoxically as the experience of God’s absence. I have to admit that while something about this description rings true for me, as if it gives words to my own subconscious experience of God, I can’t fully explain, understand, or even articulate this spiritual truth (yet). However, in my thinking deeply on Merton’s reflections, an image came to me that I would like to share that (perhaps) helpfully articulates this seeming paradox of experiencing God’s presence in and by experiencing God’s absence.
Imagine an empty bowl. The bowl is empty; there is nothing in this bowl – no water, no flour, no cereal. Though the bowl is empty, it is also full; the empty bowl is full of emptiness (or to use a word Thomas Merton uses – nothingness). Perhaps God’s absence is in this kind of presence – or God’s presence is in this kind of absence.