I was reading the mystic, Julian of Norwich this week and I happened across her words:
The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.
Yes, of course we would and could live gladly when we are in our right mind and heart and have an experiential knowledge of His love. If we knew that the Creator of the universe loved us, why would anything in this world really even bother us?
I could spout out theology until I am blue in the face but that does not give us the experience of this deep love that Julian of Norwich is describing!
In his love he clothes us, enfolds us and embraces us;
that tender love completely surrounds us, never to leave us…
So what do we do with the part of ourselves that feels like Elliott’s song:
“God don’t make no junk but it’s plain to see, he still made me…” ~Elliott Smith
Surely our actions and choices in our lives cannot be based solely on how we feel in a moment. There hast to be a way “out” of this pattern!
I just gotta get out of this prison cell
Someday I’m gonna be free, Lord!
Find me somebody to love…
~ Freddie Mercury / Queen
We pray to God for relief…”Please God, this pain is too much — what can I do to be free of it? What can I do to genuinely be free of it, not run to something that will just mask my shame and make me feel good in the moment — I want a real solution that will last.”
You need a love that’s gonna last
As a side note, if you wonder why all of these artists, philosophers, musicians and poets of old have access to these kinds of deep truths and understandings of the complexities of our inner psyche — here’s one writer (a priest) that I found a few weeks ago who described exactly why!
In creating a work of art, the psyche or soul of the artist ascends from the earthly realm into the heavenly; there, free of all images, the soul is fed in contemplation by the essences of the highest realm, knowing the permanent noumena of things; then, satiated with this knowing, it descends again to the earthly realm. And precisely at the boundary between the two worlds, the soul’s spiritual knowledge assumes the shape of symbolic imagery: and it is these images that make permanent the work of art. Art is thus materialized dream, separated from the ordinary consciousness of waking life.
~ Pavel Florensky 1882-1937
The problem, however, that we run into (Florensky writes much on this) is that we can get “lost” in a certain place within our spiritual imagination and we think we are growing closer to God and doing all sorts of “spiritual things” to please God, when really– we are in a place that is akin to the dreaded sleep in Tolkien’s Mirkwood Forest, or listening to the Siren’s songs of old, or C.S. Lewis’s Dark Island — where our “dreams” are being played out — but truly, we have put ourselves in a kind of sleep.
It is too much to describe in one blog post, but I know myself well enough to know that I will not stop in my pursuit of giving people this warning and as much understanding of it as I can…The spiritual Fathers from long ago (400A.D.) call it “prelest” (Here is the wiki, but that often is edited. Here is an Orthodox site that describes it as well.)
It is actually a really painful subject for me to talk about — but I remember reading a certain Madeleine L’Engle book (Two Part Invention) where she said something about how her most painful books often turn out the “best”…not necessarily commercially, but because they cut to the quick…
My part here, in this blog, besides to assemble all of these thoughts that have helped me on this path we are contemplating together in this “weekly session” — is to say, that sometimes we have deep trauma or rejection from early experiences in life. We have the capacity to seal them off and bury them with tons of “numbing glue” and not even realize it. As much as we try to just take a big stamp and stamp it over our face “God Loves you” “Jesus Loves you” etc. It doesn’t work that way. True healing does not work that way.
God did not create a static ocean that just stands still, in one place…the streams feed it, the rivers feed it, it is in motion. Like the word “e-motion” it is in motion. When our past is extricated away from us and our feelings are frozen solid and there are deep painful places we dare not go — we can’t just think a “Jesus Stamp” will make it all go away. Jesus did not put a “Jesus Stamp” up upon the cross. He lived a reality where he experienced the abuse –as an innocent man–, scorning its shame — he could have escaped at any moment, he didn’t. He didn’t face it to be a doormat or a pleaser either. It is a mystery — like the quote I put on Facebook last week:
We see…it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question but to make us progressively aware of a mystery.
We must do the best work that we can, always, to stay watchful and meaningful, and vigilant, to pursue truth in our innermost parts and to invite God to truly Love us, to clarify these great mysteries — and help us to heal these old, old glued over wounds. We must begin to be honest…to not force ourself, but do not accept our old excuses either, because they are lies.
“If we don’t pray according to the needs of the heart, we repress our deepest longings. Our prayers may not be rational, and we may be quite aware of that, but if we repress our needs, then those unsaid prayers will fester.”
~ Madeleine L’Engle
and then Julian of Norwich writes:
…the goodness of God is the highest object of prayer and it reaches down to our lowest need.
and she writes this:
Grace transforms our failings full of dread into abundant, endless comfort…our failings full of shame into a noble, glorious rising…our dying full of sorrow into holy, blissful life. …. Just as our contrariness here on earth brings us pain, shame and sorrow, so grace brings us surpassing comfort, glory, and bliss in heaven…And that shall be a property of blessed love, that we shall know in God, which we might never have known without first experiencing woe…
It is so important that we do not use “spirituality” as a way to escape from the problems that we have. We were given a human body and psyche — Soul, Spirit, Mind, Heart — I won’t differentiate all of those now, because I have run out of the time I allotted for this “session” — but when we turn to an “all mystic” approach and insist on “staying up in some kind of spiritual high” — we are not respecting the fact that we are living within a body. We can get lost in our own imaginings…
When people do not know what to do with the pain of their past, we find ways to try to “get over it”… Sometimes the best way over — is through.
“The growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Here’s a 1 minute video…
a Blessing Poem of John O’Donohue’s before he passed from this world: