Like I said, it's not unique, or flashy, or fast. But it can go forwards. And it can reverse. If you have ever driven a car, or been in one, you know that really isn't a groundbreaking mechanical feat. Every car, be it gas or electric or a hybrid in-between, can do that. Most of us drivers only focus our attention on those two gears, neglecting or overlooking or ignoring the gear between those two - Neutral.
Neutral is a good place, I image, because it is the most present gear in my humble opinion. It is literally in the moment. It's like park, but you still have the freedom to move both forward and backwards; sometimes without having to do anything depending on the grade of the pavement underneath. Neutral isn't being stuck, it's being present, completely mindful of everything around us. It's in this space where we meet God, and are awaken with the awe that comes with such a gathering.
This is not to say that going forward or backward is a bad thing. We need to know where we're going and where we've been. This is especially true when we set out on a spiritual journey. Henri Nouwen wrote this about it as a message of hope for Advent.
By looking back we can see the future and by looking forward we remember the past. But it's in the present state that we are able to do this, to fully realize what was and what will be. This is hard to do when we are worried about what happened or zipping off to whatever comes next.
Neutral is that Anamesa space where we can contemplate, meditate, pray, or simply be still and allow ourselves to be in awe of what God is doing right now. As Bruce Epperly noted, "Awe is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding, insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe."
And Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel (1907-1972) said it like this, “Awe is a sense for the transcendence.… It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine.... Just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy. The moment is the marvel.”
If history tells us anything is that we know God is up to something because God has always been doing something. That's what reverse shows us. And we know because God is always up to something, then we can drive into the future knowing something greater is unfolding.
If we are too busy speeding ahead, or trying to avoid our past in reverse, we lose our space in the middle where we meet God and discover who we are and where we are going. We need to take a moment each day to idle in neutral for a while just to be in the. presence of God - full of wonder and awe.
Again, Rabbi Herschel, "Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you. The loss of awe is the avoidance of insight. A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom, for the discovery of the world as an allusion to God."
Bruce G. Epperly, Mystics in Action: Twelve Saints for Today (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2020); Abraham Joshua Heschel, I Asked for Wonder, ed. Samuel H. Dresner (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1983, 2022)
Abraham J. Heschel, Who Is Man? (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1965).
Henri J.M. Nouwen. You are the Beloved (New York: Convergent, 2017).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”