For Christmas, a dear friend gave me a journal. It has become my prayer journal, but not your typical prayer journal, where prayer requests are written. No, I write prayers in it, a new one for every week. The prayers come from a variety of sources and are written by a variety of authors ranging from St. Augustine to Tozer to my brother, Stewart.
Last week I chose a prayer from the Syrian Clementine Liturgy called A Prayer for Peace. I was concerned about the strife in the Middle East and was touched that this prayer, probably from the 5th century, also concerned itself with that.
Plus, it had the word “ineffable.”
I love words. Always have. Always will.
Ineffable — what a great word.
Ineffable is one of those words that I sort of knew what it meant, but not really. I looked it up in the dictionary and learned that ineffable means not effable. Thank you, Mr. Webster.
What, then, is effable? Effable is “able to be described with words.”
Ineffable, therefore, is that which cannot be described with words, and usually refers to something too wonderful for words. Like God.
O God, you are the ineffable Ocean of love,
the unfathomable Abyss of peace …
Who knew that my news-feed would be abyss-full following the news of Robin Williams’ death?
Depression was described over and over in news stories as an abyss, an apt description if ever there was one. I know, because I, too, have stood on its precipice, feeling the earth crumbling under my feet, knowing that even a breath too deep could push me into that abyss.
The abyss is dark and black and unfathomable. It may even be ineffable. Those who have experienced it may very well say that it is ineffable in the darkest sense of that word.
But, you see, God wanted to remind me that if there is a dark and scary abyss, so there is also an abyss that is Him, an abyss of peace.
While the black hole abyss is ineffable in its darkness, so is He, Jehovah, I AM THAT I AM, also ineffable, and He is an Ocean of love.
In the time that it has taken me to ponder this thing (days and days), the news stories have moved on to other tragedies, equally abysmal, equally unfathomable — Amish girls kidnapped and innocence stolen, a black youth shot, bloodthirsty jihadists slaughtering Christians.
Yet God is unchanged — an abyss of peace, and an ineffable ocean of love.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139: 6