Real holiness doesn’t feel like holiness; it just feels like you’re dying. It feels like you’re losing it. And you are! You are losing the false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and you! You know God is doing it in you and with you, when you can even smile, and trust that what you lost is something you did not finally need anyway.
Many of us were taught to say the no without the deep joy of yes. We were trained just to put up with it and take it on the chin. Saying no to the self does not necessarily please God or please anybody. There is too much resentment and self-pity. When God, by love and freedom, can create a joyous yes inside of you—so much so that you can absorb the usual no’s—then it is God’s full work. The first might be resentful dieting, the second is spiritual fasting.
Richard Rohr, adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 334, day 34
I am so grateful for Rohr's words here. I find it all too easy to imagine holiness as a state of having all one’s spiritual ducks in a row, and so I am continually aware of how very far I am from such a state. So much of the time I have felt exactly as Fr. Richard describes – I feel socially inept, spiritually incompetent, as though I am in way over my head in something I don’t even understand.
And yet somewhere, somehow, that “yes” gets said. I don’t know that I am saying it – probably I don’t have what it takes to say it, come to that – and yet it is said.
Regular readers of The Mercy Blog will know that the last couple of years have been difficult at times, and I have not always known where to turn. Underneath it all, though, at some level far deeper than the anxiety and confusion and pain, joy has never stopped, like an underground stream steadily flowing, splashing over unseen rocks, its unceasing song its own light. I know it isn’t me, it could never be me; I’m not like that. Far down below the threshold of understanding God has placed his Spirit in us, and we who love his Son pray in him always, even when he have no idea how to pray: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes* with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
How odd that the phrase “prayer and fasting” should lead us by these ways. Yet as Meister Eckhart once said, “God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself, in so far as you are a created being, and let God be God in you.”