What We Cannot See: A Lenten Reflection


Most of the light in the universe is invisible to the human eye. We see an estimated .0035% of the electromagnetic spectrum, and that estimate is based on what we can measure with current information and technology. The eye takes in a tiny fraction of what is real and present. Or, stated differently, the scope of what we cannot see is vast.

In the days before Jesus’ earthly ministry began, John the Baptist preached a message of repentance. Though the concept of repentance has gotten tangled up with penance, John’s message was not about a return to morality or a need for sinless perfection. (The work of redemption begins and ends with God.) What John preached was the need for a shift in perspective, for a radical change of mind.

The scope of what we cannot see is vast.

Helena Sorensen

God’s covenant people believed that they understood what God needed and wanted. They believed they understood what they needed and wanted. John asked them to prepare themselves for a shockwave. In the work of Christ, everything would be changed; all history would spin on a new axis. John asked for an acknowledgement of their limited vision. He asked them to open their hearts and minds. Eye had not seen. Ear had not heard. But the Spirit was making ready to reveal it through the Son.

The information presented to us in this narrow column of visible light is heartbreaking. Is it possible to take a hard look at the world without quailing? But we don’t stop there. We make predictions based on our limited sight and react accordingly, in fear. Creation groans with the longing of billions of souls who cannot see beyond the frame of their own suffering.

As we enter the season of Lent, I am asking for an open heart and an open mind. I am seeking the renewal of hope that comes with a strengthened imagination. I am looking hard for what is happening just beyond the reach of my eyes.

Begin the song exactly where you are,
For where you are contains where you have been
And holds the vision of your final sphere.

And do not fear the memory of sin;
There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,
Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils
And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,
Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the fears
That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide
And open to the light that finds, and fares

Through the dark pathways where you run and hide,
Through all the alleys of your riddled heart,
As pierced and open as his wounded side.

Open the map to him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark,
his light will go before you. Let him chart

And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk

And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call him to all you cannot call to mind.

He comes to harrow Hell and now to your
Well-guarded fortress let his love descend.
The icy ego at your frozen core

Can hear his call at last. Will you respond?

—”Through the Gate,” Malcolm Guite

Helena has a new book coming out this spring called The Door on Half-Bald Hill. Click here to preorder it in the Rabbit Room Store.

This poem was taken from Malcolm Guite’s Lenten book of poems, The Word in the Wilderness. Click here to view it in the Rabbit Room Store.

1 Comment

  1. Jody Collins

    Helena, your post sent me to my copy of Word in the Wilderness to soak in the words of this poem. The lines and thoughts about maps have been echoing these days, as well as the word ‘open’ in a way that says ‘surrender.’ I want to hold my map close, with its worn out folds and creases as if I could chart my way through challenges and failures. God is constantly reminding me how gracious His care is. Never mind my own sin (which is ever before me) but the challenges through uncharted territory of a virus outbreak in my Seattleland backyard have been pushing me to lean on God’s care and love, growing my trust moment by moment.
    Thinking of you all in the Nashville area….your words are a gracious gift in these tentative times.

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