I have been following Christ for almost six years now. While it seems like a sliver in comparison to those who are ten, twenty, thirty years in, to me it feels like forever. To reflect on my life before Christ is to see grainy images of decisions that still leave me in question if those things really happened. I am no longer ashamed of who I was and I am no longer ashamed of who I am becoming. Whether or not we like to admit it, that is one hurdle in and of itself in the early stages of the Great Invitation.
Beginning this transformational journey has been the best decision I have ever made in my life, but also the hardest. A lot of this life surrounds, not the idea, but the action of sacrifice. In my speech, my thoughts, my interactions … all of it. As a person who struggles with the thought of inadequacy, a lot of my life with Christ has involved the Doing as opposed to the Being.
In fact, the other night, I was talking to my friend/mentor about where I am at in my current state of life with Jesus. In the middle of encouraging me, she also said these words:
“Bre, you’re such a doer. Maybe you’ve already read these books, but not all the answers are found in a book.”
Part of me believes that Lizzie had no had she was saying this; that the Spirit talked directly through her to me. I believe this, because Lizzie talked unwavering encouragement with tears resting in her eyes. I don’t think she blinked.
See, my current season of life has brought me to one that sees God as distant and quiet. I have shared this in ambiguous ways on here, but I think I am coming around to just saying it. Through little encouragements, like that of Lizzie’s or Thomas Merton or Shauna Niequist, the layers are slowly and painfully being pulled back to what is really going on.
Thomas Merton has this to say on what is most referred to as “the dark night of the soul“:
“Let us never forget that the ordinary way to contemplation lies through a desert without trees and without beauty and without water. The [human] spirit enters a wilderness and travels blindly in directions that seem to lead away from vision, away from God, away from all fulfillment and joy. It may become almost impossible to believe that this road goes anywhere at all except to a desolation full of dry bones — the ruin of all our hopes and good intentions.” – New Seeds of Contemplation
Um, so, amen. I read that this morning on my ride to work, convinced that those words were waiting for me. The wilderness-like feeling is what has been one of the harder parts on this journey. This is a different kind of sacrifice that I am learning to lean into. It is one that involves more Being than Doing, and it is so confusing to my innate Do to feel closer to God. In the most Fatherly manner, I am being ushered under the umbrella of Be to know God.
The words from Shauna Niequist in her Relevant Magazine article offered a lot of to-do’s, but there were also some that required an act of being. Some of these “tools” involved sitting, meditating and waiting. And as much as I thought I was good at this practice, perhaps I am being drawn into a deeper awareness and sense of a truer, more whole abundance in life. It feels so uncomfortable, fake, useless … but maybe this is what makes it real.
Too often I forget the 40 years in the desert, thinking that was too Old Testament to apply to my life now. But it is clear to me now that those 40 years of wandering and wondering were imperative to the life that was ahead. It was a long, long season of testing beyond comforts, of holding onto a promise that felt distant every single day, but also of great fulfillment in the end. It was a literal and figurative desert for them.
Six years in and I am now in what is a – and not to be the only – season of wandering and wondering, holding onto that promise that He is seeing me through this. Lizzie ended her encouragement by saying that God is still for me and He hopes to find my heart in the position of seeking Him. And as much as I’m yelling, “Hello! I am right here!” I need to just Be.
“On the other hand they sense, by a kind of instinct, that peace lies in the heart of this darkness. Something prompts them to keep still, to trust in God, to be quiet and to listen for His voice. Soon they discovery that all the useless attempts to meditate only upset and disturb them; but at the same time, when they stay quiet in the muteness of naked truth, resting in a simple and open-eyed awareness, attentive to the darkness which baffles them, a subtle and indefinable peace begins to seep into their souls and occupies them with a deep and inexplicable satisfaction.”
– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation