Saturday, December 12, 2009

Waiting in the peace of God....

Are the great visions of the ultimate peace among all people and the ultimate harmony of all creation just utopian fairy tales? No, they are not! They correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point to the truth waiting to be revealed beyond all lies and deceptions. These visions nurture our souls and strengthen our hearts. They offer us hope when we are close to despair, courage when we are tempted to give up on life, and trust when suspicion seems the more logical attitude. (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)
[The] upsetting of our inner life is essential to spiritual growth, because without it we remain comfortably at rest in more or less illusory ideas of what spiritual perfection really is... There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and interior conflict. (Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness)
Years ago, when I was a young monk, I knew a nun who was also young and quite new in her order. She was going through a time of confusion and perplexity, as young monks and nuns do, and went to talk to their chaplain, an elderly and very kind man, and laid out her dilemma: "People come here and talk about how peaceful it is, how serene the sisters are and what a place of holiness this is" she said: "I know the reality of our life, and it doesn't look or feel like that to me. The life isn't like that. We aren't like that. I never know what to say." And he replied: "Ah yes, but you see, the peace isn't for you. The peace really is here, and all the rest of it is too. But it's meant for them, not for you." (Br. Bede Thomas Mudge OHC)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus, John 14:27)

From the point of view of the world, the "struggle and interior conflict" of the spiritual life often looks like serenity and peace; and the peace that Jesus leaves with us often looks like poverty and persecution (Matthew 10:17-23). We live in paradox and contradiction. As Christians that is our calling, but in Advent it is acutely visible. These contradictions are not for us to solve: we are called merely to wait: "But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always." (Hosea 12:6)


Sue said...

Wow, Mike, what a wonderful collection of quotes.

Yes, it so often is trouble and perplexity. But how nice for us to be able to sit openly in that space. Others in the Body have to contend with crazy expectations from outside of them that they should never be suffering anything like this if their experience is real.

And yet more and more, from my very limited vantage point, more freedom seems to be coming to more believers to be real. I guess I am thinking from an online vantage point of believers in the US.

Nouwen is right,the upsetting of our inner life IS essential to spiritual growth. What an unbelievably painful sort of a transformation this is, Mike. Leaves me breathless so often. And yet its so worth it.

Lindy said...

I've been back to read this several times.