The Swimming That Is Drowning – William Ralph Inge

“Worry is the interest paid on Trouble before it comes due.”

GOD is nameless, for no man can either say or understand aught about Him. If I say, God is good, it is not true; nay more; I am good, God is not good. I may even say, I am better than God; for whatever is good, may become better, and whatever may become better, may become best. Now God is not good, for He cannot become better. And if He cannot become better, He cannot become best, for these three things, good, better, and best, are far from God, since He is above all. If I also say, God is wise, it is not true; I am wiser than He. If I also say, God is a Being, it is not true; He is transcendent Being and superessential Nothingness. Concerning this St Augustine says: the best thing that man can say about God is to be able to be silent about Him, from the wisdom of his inner judgement. Therefore be silent and prate not about God, for whenever thou dost prate about God, thou liest, and committest sin. If thou wilt be without sin, prate not about God. Thou canst understand nought about God, for He is above all understanding. A master saith: If I had a God whom I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God. (318) God is not only a Father of all good things, as being their First Cause and Creator, but He is also their Mother, since He remains with the creatures which have from Him their being and existence, and maintains them continually in their being. If God did not abide with and in the creatures, they must necessarily have fallen back, so soon as they were created, into the nothingness out of which they were created. (610) (Light, Life, and Love)

When I am visiting with folks about their prayer life, I find that often I am visiting with them about finding a way to “let go of the side of the pool.” Reminiscent of that first experience that many of us remember of learning to swim, when we perhaps thought we were drowning. At times, in my walk with God, that has been the case. Reading and thinking about “the case,” having opinions about “the case,” even offering advice about “the case” of the soul in search of, swimming toward, God, and yet still knowing that some of the time I too am drowning while learning to swim. Reading and reflecting about prayer and communion with the living God is something different than praying itself. In some sense we are all learning to swim, as we are learning to pray. It is one thing to think about swimming while standing on the side of the pool – it is another thing to pray while we are in the midst of the water and believe that we might actually drown.

But alas, miracle of miracles, as we fumble in the water we find that we are not sinking; and not only are we not sinking, we are beginning to move.

I find consolation in the work of William Ralph Inge because he was the possessor of an incredibile mind, and he did not use that gift as a means of relativising the surrender that must be made to God, to prayer, and to the unknowable frontiers that are consonant with a Deity who has made us and is expecting our return. I find that my own prayers are most real when I am invited to the “trust fall” of powerlessness; only to find that as I am falling, drowning, that is when the Good Shepherd comes very gently to encourage me to learn how to swim.

Stretching the metaphor – I find that Inge most often uses his intellect to find the higher diving board into this pool, this ocean, that is the Deity, we enter when we are actually in a state of prayer. Rather than use his gifts to maintain a “death grip” upon the side of the pool, Inge intuitively seems to know that all water – prayer – leads to the ocean, and that is where his mind and heart are set for the voyage. For some of us, the deeper that we move into that ocean of God’s presence, there can be fewer and fewer substitutes. It is no longer a matter of managing a desire, a curiosity, an avocation of religion, worship, and “spirituality.” The eternal and overwhelming beauty and holiness of the divine will not be managed; if we are to know God, we are Abraham looking into a night sky, we are Elijah finding the thunder of the cosmos in a “still small voice,” we are John finding that the “wind bloweth where it listeth and ye know not from whence it cometh.” Essentially, those who find that the bush is sometimes burning, are left with no place to turn or to reach, except to “let go the side of the pool,” and then swim as though we are drowning into the depths of an overwhelming beauty and love.

If you have read this far . . . thank you . . . Blessings and Godspeed.

1 thought on “The Swimming That Is Drowning – William Ralph Inge”

  1. BrotherMan, thank you once again. Through your influence I first let go of the side of the pool. I am still not the best swimmer, but I am aware that I won’t drown.
    Blessings, Bill


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