In one’s relationship with God there comes a time when one must grow-up….or at the very least begin to embark on that awkward stage of learning to not be so reliant, so dependent upon The Lord, so insistent that He fill every single little tiny uncomfortable need, thinking only of our own self and how we feel and how GOOD He makes us feel. Not ever looking beyond our own selves, we become obsessed with Him and how He is keen to save over and over and over again….I call this the “damsel in distress” phase and while it is all well and fun, there is work to be done and demons to be slain.
A BIG Part of “growing-up” (spiritually speaking) is to move from being The Virginal Maiden, The Damsel in Distress…”Please, Lord save me!”….to becoming The Consummated Mother Warrior, taken by The Beloved and born of The Spirit….giving birth to the True Self within, clear eyed and pure of heart, a daughter of Royal Blood and Holy Fire….stating with severity “My Lord, how can I be of service? For it is my wish to fight alongside you.”
We must strive with all that is in us to comply with The Spirit so that we might come to this point as quickly as possible…to be of as much help as possible in the days to come.
I always liked this part of Madame Guyon’s Spirtual Torrents depicting that internal struggle exactly….to suffer for Our Beloved, but to view the suffering as sweet and as a joy…and that is only the beginning 🙂
It appears to me that even the most spiritually advanced have a habit of concealing their faults, both from themselves and others, always finding excuses and extenuations; not designedly but from a certain love of their own excellence, and a habitual dissimulation under which they hide themselves. The faults which cause them the deepest solicitude are those which are most apparent to others. They have a hidden love of self, stronger than ever, an esteem for their own position, a secret desire to attract attention, an affected modesty, a facility in judging others, and a preference for private devotion rather than domestic duties, which renders them the cause of many of the sins of those around them. This is of great importance.
The soul, feeling itself drawn so strongly and sweetly, desires to be always alone and in prayer, which gives rise to two evils — the first, that in its seasons of greatest liberty, it spends too much time in solitude; the second, that when its vigour of love is exhausted, as it often is in this way, it has not the same strength in times of dryness; it finds it difficult to remain so long in prayer; it readily shortens the time; its thoughts wander to exterior objects; then it is discouraged and cast down, thinking that all is lost, and does everything in its power to restore itself to the presence and favour of God.
But if such persons were strong enough to live an even life, and not to seek to do more in seasons of abundance than in times of barrenness, they would satisfy every one. As it is, they are troublesome to those around them, to whom they cannot condescend, making it a favour to lay themselves out for the satisfaction of others: they preserve an austere silence when it is unnecessary, and at others times talk incessantly of the things of God.
A wife has scruples about pleasing her husband, entertaining him, walking with him, or seeking to amuse him, but has none about speaking uselessly for two hours with religious devotees. This is horrible abuse.We ought to be diligent in the discharge of all duties, whatever their nature may be; and even if they do cause us inconvenience, we shall yet find great profit in doing this, not perhaps in the way we imagine,but in hastening the crucifixion of self. It even seems as though our Lord shows that such sacrifice is pleasing to Him by the grace which He sheds upon it. I knew a lady who, when playing at cards with her husband in order to please him, experienced such deep and intimate communion with God as she never felt in prayer, and it was the same with everything she did at her husband’s desire; but if she neglected these things for others which she thought better, she was conscious that she was not walking in the will of God.
This did not prevent her often committing faults, because the attractions of meditation and the happiness of devotion, which are preferred to these apparent losses of time, insensibly draw the soul away, and lead it to change its course, and this by most people is looked upon as sanctity. However, those who are to be taught the way of faith are not suffered long to remain in these errors, because, as God designs to lead them on to better things, He makes them conscious of their deficiency. It often happens, too, that persons by means of this death to self, and acting contrary to their natural inclinations, feel themselves more strongly drawn to their inward rest; for it is natural to man to desire most strongly what it is most difficult for him to obtain, and to desire most intensely those things which he most earnestly resolves to avoid. This difficulty of being able to enjoy only a partial rest increases the rest, and causes them even in activity to feel themselves acted upon so powerfully that they seem to have two souls within them, the inner one being infinitely stronger than the outer. But if they leave their duties in order to give the time to devotion, they will find it an empty form, and all its joy will be lost. By devotion I do not mean compulsory prayer, which is gone through as a duty that must not be avoided; neither do I understand by activity the labours of their own choice, but those which come within the range of positive duty. If they have spare time at their disposal, by all means let them spend it in prayer; nor must they lay upon themselves unnecessary burdens, and call them obligations.
When the taste for meditation is very great, the soul does not usually fall into these last-named errors, but rather into the former one, that of courting retirement. I knew a person who spent more time in prayer when it was painful to her than when she felt it a delight, struggling with the disinclination; but this is injurious to the health, because of the violence which it does to the senses and the understanding, which being unable to concentrate themselves upon any one object, and being deprived of the sweet communion which formerly held them in subjection to God, endure such torment, that the subject of it would rather suffer the greatest trial than the violence which is necessary to enable it to fix its thoughts on God. The person to whom I alluded sometimes passed two or three hours successively in this painful devotion, and she has assured me that the strangest austerities would have been delightful to her in comparison with the time thus spent. But as a violence so strong as this in subjects so weak is calculated to ruin both body and mind, I think it is better not in any way to regulate the time spent in prayer by our varying emotions.
This painful dryness of which I have spoken belongs only to the first degree of faith, and is often the effect of exhaustion; and yet those who have passed through it imagine themselves dead, and write and speak of it as the most sorrowful part of the spiritual life. It is true they have not known the contrary experience, and often they have not the courage to pass through this, for in this sorrow the soul is deserted by God, who withdraws from it His sensible helps, but it is nevertheless caused by the senses, because, being accustomed to see and to feel, and never having experienced a similar privation, they are in despair, which however is not of long duration, for the forces of the soul are not then in a state to bear for long such a pressure; it will either go back to seek for spiritual food, or else it will give all up. This is why the Lord does not fail to return: sometimes He does not even suffer the prayer to cease before He reappears; and if He does not return during the hour of prayer, He comes in a more manifest way during the day.
It seems as though He repented of the suffering He has caused to the soul of His beloved, or that He would pay back with usury what she has suffered for His love. If this consolation last for many days, it becomes painful. She calls Him sweet and cruel: she asks Him if He has only wounded her that she may die. But this kind Lover laughs at her pain, and applies to the wound a balm so sweet, that she could ask to be continually receiving fresh wounds, that she might always find a new delight in a healing which not only restores her former health, but imparts one yet more abundant.
Hitherto it has only been a play of love, to which the soul would easily become accustomed if her Beloved did not change his conduct. O poor hearts who complain of the flights of love! You do not know that this is only a farce, an attempt, a specimen of what is to follow. The hours of absence mark the days, the weeks, the months, and the years. You must learn to be generous at your own expense, to suffer your Beloved to come and go at His pleasure. I seem to see these young brides. They are at the height of grief when their Beloved leaves them: they mourn His absence as if it were death, and endeavour, as far as they can, to prevent His departure. This love appears deep and strong, but it is not so by any means. It is the pleasure they derive from the sight of their Beloved which they mourn after. It is their own satisfaction they seek, for if it were the pleasure of their Beloved, they would rejoice in the pleasure which He found apart from them, as much as in that which He found with them. So it is self-interested love, though it does not appear such to them; on the contrary, they believe that they only love Him for what He is. It is true, poor souls, you do love Him for what He is, but you love Him because of the pleasure you find in what He is.
You reply that you are willing to suffer for your Beloved. True, provided He will be the witness and the companion of your suffering. You say you desire no recompense. I agree; but you do desire that He should know of your suffering, and approve of it. You want Him to take pleasure in it. Is there anything more plausible than the desire that He for whom we suffer would know it, and approve of it, and take delight in it? Oh, how much you are out of your reckoning! Your jealous Lover will not permit you to enjoy the pleasure which you take in seeing His satisfaction with your sorrow. You must suffer without His appearing to see it, or to approve of it, or to know it. That would be too great a gratification. What pain would we not suffer on such conditions! What ! to know that our Beloved sees our woes, and takes an infinite pleasure in them! This is too great a pleasure for a generous heart! Yet I am sure the greatest generosity of those in this degree never goes beyond this.
But to suffer without our Beloved being aware of it, when He seems to despise what we do to please Him, and to turn away from it; to have only scorn for what formerly seemed to charm Him; to see Him repay with a terrible coldness and distance what we do for His sake alone, and with terrible flights all our pursuit of Him; to lose without complaint all that He had formerly given as pledges of His love, and which we think we have repaid by our love, our fidelity, and our suffering; not only uncomplainingly to suffer ourselves to be thus despoiled, but to see others enriched with our spoils, and nevertheless not to cease to do what would please our absent Love; not to cease following after Him; and if by unfaithfulness or surprise we stop for a moment, to redouble our speed, without fearing or contemplating the precipices, although we fall a thousand times, till we are so weary that we lose our strength, and die from continual fatigue; when, perhaps if our Beloved turns and looks upon us, His glance restores life by the exquisite pleasure it gives; until at last He becomes so cruel that He lets us die for want of help: all this, I say, belongs not to this state, but to that which follows. I must remark here, that the degree of which I have been speaking is of very long duration, at least unless God intends the soul to make great advances; and many, as I have said, never pass it.