Monday, September 03, 2007

Who wants to be strong?

Three of the people reading this blog will find it recycled.
There was a recent book published about Mother Theresa entitled Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light that included some of her personal correspondence with friends and confessors that reveals a side of this servant of humanity that hostile non-Christians will wave around like a smoking gun.
Nominal positive thinking Zig Ziglar Christians will find it uncomfortable reading and likely move on to something else.
Mother Theresa was obviously Catholic.
I am obviously Protestant.
My belief that she made it to Heaven is not to say that doctrine is unimportant.
Doctrine is extremely important.
God is more merciful, however, than doctrine is important.
Mother Theresa, it seems, suffered a lack of good feeling.
I stated this in an intentionally trite manner.
For over forty-five years, from the early 1960's, until the day she died, she went through what St. John of the Cross termed "the dark night of the soul." That is to say, she suffered an absence of the felt presence of God.
(And read the letters before you say, "Sure, she didn't feel God's presence! She was Catholic!")
She suffered bitterly under a "dryness", a "darkness", a "torture."
"This smile," she wrote of her everlasting beaming craggy visage, "is a cloak that covers everything."
"Such deep longing for God- and. . .repulsed -empty -no faith -no love -no zeal."
Do we understand the desperation of the beggarly position God wishes us to come to?
It is truly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Even for a Christian to fall into God's forge . . .
As C.S. Lewis said of Aslan in his mildly successful children's book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, "Safe?! Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe! But he's good."
Our spiritual life is typically cyclical. We loathe the valleys but recognize that a valley lies between mountains. And so we are comforted.
God, however, wants to really test us. And thus some find themselves following a valley (as following the road God would have us take) as it winds perpetually down between mountains rather than simply passing through the valley to ascend the next peak.
To be comforted at all in this life is to be the faint-hearted recipient of God's tender mercy. At times, we comfort ourselves with remembrance and reiteration of God's promises.
Still other times, fewer and farther between, are times of God's personal reassurance.
But these rapturous experiences are not what God wishes us to live for.
They are brief respites, points by which we erroneously measure our progress, when the real distance is gained when we are slogging along with no landmarks in sight.
I am caused to wonder whether comforting ourselves, that is, pushing the encroaching darkness back with a waving candle is not getting ahead of God.
Perhaps He wishes us to not grow accustomed to the darkness, but not fear it, trusting that He will lay no stone in our paths to stumble over.
I don't mean that we should ignore or take no comfort in the promises of God, I am saying that shouting them out in the darkness with a quavering voice, or worse still, mumbling them frantically to ourselves with our head stuck in the sand gives the lie to what we are saying.
God may let us take comfort or rest in nothing.
He may cause the blessing of family to be done away with. He may deny you friendship, and He may sequester you in an emotionless vacuum. He may cause the end-all, the hope of Heaven itself, to become clouded and nebulous in our minds. Everything is fair game, in His insane quest to gain our true trust.
In a dark room, on a moonless night, your pupils will eventually dilate enough, using what luminosity there is from the stars, or a distant streetlight, to gradually outline the bed, the chairs, the curtains.
But in a room with no windows, and no doors, your eyes will not assist you.
Do you suppose Thomas ever wished he had believed before he saw?
I am gradually learning not to take placebos. It's not easy. We are programmed to seek resolutions to our disillusionment; a weepy emotional conclusion to a dry spell, an epiphany, something to testify about on Wednesday night, "All week long I struggled, but I was having my devotions, and the Lord broke through. . . ."
I have reassured myself a thousand times that emotion is not important.
And each time I do, I feel better.


Anonymous said...

Those last 2 lines are classic! Your blog might be recycled for me; nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely! I'm telling you - you HAVE to do something big with the talent God has given you. Sermon ended.

Dee said...

Good insight to take with us along this road called life.
I believe God has a special blessing in store for those you truly learn to trust...

Dee said...

I meant "those WHO truly learn to trust"...Sorry!