A few days ago, I came upon yet another evidence in my own life that what Martin Marty has referred to as the “wintry sort of spirituality” is very real. This evidence was in the form of a letter written to a friend about 17-18 years ago. The letter starkly showed the sense of distance and deep dissatisfaction that arises—and lingers for various lengths of time—in me.
Below is the last in a series of excerpts I’ve shared from Marty’s book on the “wintry” absence and distance of the soul.
Today the choice seems to be either dereliction—waiting for No One—or summery spirituality, which does not allow for honest searching of the lonely heart. All these Psalms mix the two, as if for the wintry trip one needs extra stores of warmth and energy. (152)
[In re Ps. 49] Why a harp? No doubt there is a connection between the search for wisdom through inspiration and the act of singing. . . . The poetic context shows that where philosophy gives out, inspiration begins. What cannot be explained can be addressed, at least in song. (155)
The farmer shows his intentions by deciding to winterfallow a field. . . .
The believer moved by a wintry sort of spirituality may choose the fallow heart with good purpose. It may be that she is not ready for the grain or fruit, not able to cope with bounty. The summery sort of piety that advertises itself in the contemporary world is full of instant promise. (161)
Summery sorts of piety should not be seen as inauthentic or second-rate. They simply are not to be privileged. They have no monopoly on the ways of the heart or, from the psalmists’ points of view, the ways of God toward the heart. (162)
from ch. 8, A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of the Heart
(c) 1983-1997 Martin E. Marty
If any reader has no idea what the experience of spiritual winter is all about, I hope s/he will read at least the last of the above, former posts.