I couldn’t sit still long enough to pray. My heart was awash in storms. My mind clattering and cluttered.
“Stop!” I wanted to cry out to myself, but I knew it would only multiply the anguish. So I struggled alone. Valiantly. Almost too valiantly.
And God? Nowhere to be found, unless I counted my attempts to succeed in praying the right way. There was really only the struggle. Alone.
The other night I spoke with a sister on the phone as she was describing to me an experience at prayer which she had received. “I realize that I need to let go,” she said as she told me what Jesus had shown her. “Not to fill the empty spaces with thoughts. That God is at work accomplishing something secret in my soul that I’m not to see at this time. But I believe.” Ten years ago when I had met her, this sister was in anguish. Today she was reaping years of spiritual attentiveness and hope.
There you have it. Three general ways of dealing with life and with our relationship with God:
- Lost at sea and tossed by storms
- Trying to fit the pattern of a good pray-er
- Receiving the mystery and gift of God’s presence, almost as a surprise.
Whatever you are struggling with, God IS greater. The struggle is important to understand. Maybe we need a change in an aspect of our life, or support from a friend, or relief from overwhelming worries. Maybe, as I needed last night, we just need a shoulder to cry on in order to get the clarity and the peace to receive what God is doing.
Perhaps as we explore our statements that God is “not here” and “nowhere to be found” and “doesn’t care about me,” as well as the feelings of loneliness, anger, or fear that sustain these beliefs, we might be surprised, as a friend was the other day, to hear God speak directly to us. “But I’m here for you.” “My dear one, I love you.” These words from Jesus don’t make sense with our reasoning. We almost can’t believe that they could be true. They shouldn’t be there while we’re making our trip down negative lane. Where do these words of a Lover come from?
It is our personal Mount Tabor experience. On Mount Tabor Jesus revealed himself to the three poor apostles whose minds were puny and whose concept of following Jesus was elementary compared with the glory of God revealed before them that day. Jesus changed the playing field, by revealing himself as Sovereign Lord and Unending Love.
Finally, one day, there will be no question for us that God is the One who is Truth, our Truth, the only Truth. Not because we’ve convinced ourselves, understood the concept or the teaching. But because we’ve let go of our small selves to swim in the immensity of God’s mystery. As Jacopone da Todi (1230 to 1306) describes it in Self-Annihilation and Charity Lead the Soul:
I once thought that reason
Had led me to You,
And that through feeling
I sensed Your presence….
Light beyond metaphor,
Why did You deign to come into this darkness?
Your light does not illumine those who think they see You
And believe they sound Your depths.
…He who witnesses Your splendor
Can never describe it.
The soul, made new again,
Marveling to find itself
In that immensity, drowns.
How this comes about it does not know.
by Sr. Kathryn Hermes, FSP