Never known as anything
but an absence, I dare not name him
as God. Yet the adjustments
are made. There is an unseen
power, whose sphere is the cell
and the electron. We never catch
him at work, but can only say,
coming suddenly upon an amendment,
that here he has been. To demolish
a mountain you move it stone by stone
like the Japanese. To make a new coat
of an old, you add to it gradually
thread by thread, so such change
as occurs is more difficult to detect.

Patiently with invisible structures
he builds, and as patiently
we must pray, surrendering the ordering
of the ingredients to a wisdom that
is beyond our own. We must change the mood
to the passive. Let the deaf men
be helped; in the silence that has come
upon them, let some influence
work so that those closed porches
be opened once more. Let the bomb
swerve. Let the raised knife of the murderer
be somehow deflected. There are no
laws there other than the limits of
our understanding. Remembering rock
penetrated by glass-blade, corrected
by water, we must ask rather
for the transformation of the will
to evil, for more loving
mutations, for the better ventilating
of the atmosphere of the closed mind.

An absence of God does not mean that God is not there; it merely means we cannot see him; we live by faith. “Adjustments” can be read as a poem of spiritual growth and challenge. Little by little we grow; we come closer; we acknowledge him as much in what we do not do, the adjustments we make. But if we make the adjustments, are they the corrects ones?

We are familiar by now with the importance of the “passive mood”. Neither through our prayers and invications, nor in our thoughts and writings can we make God appear to us. It is our understanding that is at fault. We are brought back again to Jesus’ words about the faith of little children.

Mthr. Carys points out that the very rhythm of the poem reflects its direction. The first part has a “busyness” about it, as it deals with us. It adjusts to a “gentler soundscape” as we move into accepting and surrendering to God’s will, which we cannot hope to make conform to our understandings; our understandings need to make an adjustment. The following lines challenge us in their ambiguity. Can he really be suggesting that the silence has something to say to deaf man, or that we should not pray for the bomb to swerve or the knife to be deflected? And yet, if we stop a moment and accept the challenge, we see what he might mean by making adjustments. I know some deaf people who do, indeed, embrace their deafness and object to the way our society regards them as “disabled”. That bomb may swerve from those we do not want it to hit, but may hit others who are equally deserving of our prayers, though we do not know and so cannot name them:

It is not for us, Thomas seems to say, to determine God’s adjustments to the flight of the bomb or knife, when it is the condition of the human heart which has already permitted that flight to begin.


It is with a start that the lines “ask rather for the transformation of the will to evil” hit us – that certainly ventilates my closed mind, but it remains closed to that idea, though I see its challenge. There is here an echo of Thomas’s own pacifism, which does indeed at one level involve a surrender to the evil in this world.

As we “see” in the light of the Incarnation, we see most clearly that however much we blame others, or intangible things for what is wrong in the world, it is the human heart and will, turned to evil, which need transforming – and that adjustment comes in the surrender to God’s will – and it comes little by little.

There is an #adventbookclub using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/ and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!