I don’t think I can explain this very well.
But on either end of the lid that covers the Ark of the Covenant described in the Old Testament, in Exodus (25:17-22), there is a golden cherub spreading out its wings, and beneath those wings and above the lid there is an empty space. A gap.
And the Jews called this lid “The Mercy Seat,” because it was there, in the space beneath the wings, in the gap above the ark itself, that the Lord God of Israel promised to appear and deliver all this commands.
“There I will come and meet you,” the Lord says in Exodus.
The Mercy Seat.
It was more like a window, really. A framed opening.
And this is how God comes into our lives, too, in the gaps, in the spaces: those moments of silence, those moments when we look up from our work, those moments when we stop and think, those moments when something interrupts us, snaps us out of whatever trance we’re in,those moments often of tragedy and sorrow and grief.
“If God is here at all,” Abbott Jeremy writes in A Monk’s Alphabet, “then it would have to be in the quality of something like ‘between the lines’ of things and persons, of something like the desire that others awaken in us but never satisfy, of something like a hidden radiance that we are longing to see, whose presence we sometimes suspect, but never see.”
Our lives seem empty sometimes. There seems to be an emptiness in our hearts–in another passage in A Monk’s Alphabet Jeremy talks about sometimes feeling as if there’s a “black hole” inside him–but this is a place of mercy, this an opening into mercy, into love, because it’s here, when we are emptied out, when we are the most unsure, the most in need, that Jesus comes and Jesus speaks and Jesus heals us.
Jesus is the source of all mercy, he is mercy itself, and he comes to us and he touches us, and we touch him, exactly in these gaps, in this emptiness.