Many times, when I've struggled to communicate something to my husband, for example, I have said, "If I knew how to say this, I wouldn't have to say it." Wrestling things out into words is necessary for me to own things, and to know things. But it is also necessary, I think, for me to commit to things. To recognize the way in which I am called to walk.
Therefore, Secular Carmelites, for the sake of the joy of souls, you are the beauty of God in the heart of the world.
This is how Dr. Kamat ended the written version of her talk, which I just read this afternoon for the first time. This beauty of God in the heart of the world, as she teaches it, is the inner peace that chat omes from the confidence and courage that comes from affirmation, that comes from a life of prayer that transforms the soul and purifies it and unites it to God.
This thing about affirmation struck me hard. It was like a shovel digging down into my heart that made a bit of a klinking sound when it hit a rock of uncertainty. It is really safe to affirm a human being? Is it right to affirm a human being? Is it good to affirm a human being? Is it love to affirm a human being?
The question that need to be settled first is: what is a human being? Is a human being sin? Is a human being evil? The underlying klink I found wanted to object: Yes! Human beings are sin and they are evil! Therefore it is wrong to affirm people.... The only problem with this is that it flies in the face of the Scriptures, especially the second creation account on which Dr. Kamat based her talk. There is such a thing as original solitude, in which man was created to be in relationship with God. Human beings can commit sin, can live outside of covenant with God and can do evil and thereby become evil, but in their own being this is not what they are. This is exactly why sin is alienation from God, self, and others, and this is exactly what penance aims at: reconciliation and healing. This is basic Catholic theology.
Human beings are created through the Word of God, permeated by the Holy Spirit, by God the Almighty. This is our origin; union with this God is our intended destiny. This is who we are; this is how anything makes sense.
Is it good to affirm the life of a person? Absolutely. Is it love to affirm the life of a person? Absolutely. Is it safe to affirm the life a person? Hahahahahahah! Hahahahahaha! There is nothing safe about God; are you kidding? Up-end your entire life, bring total chaos to any establishment of darkness that has taken root, or that is connected to anything so rooted, pull everything completely out of your control, yes. When we live in God, we are not "safe," we are ALIVE.
I have a scene etched in my mind. I was in Japan, visiting this family whose job it was to help me learn Japanese, I think -- or maybe I was taching them English -- in any event, I went to their house once a week for dinner for a time. I was standing in their kitchen when this thought exploded inside my mind: To evangelize someone is to tell them who they are. To communicate to them the truth of who they are. I'm not sure why then and there, but it came like a flash of understanding that has only unfolded since that day. And here is a piece that goes "click" -- to affirm the life of a person is to impart to them the knowledge that they have an origin and a destiny.
The devil is a liar and comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. And we are born under his dominion. Unless we are both given grace and formed in it, we will not by nature know that we have an origin that is glorious or a destiny that is glorious, nor a vocation to belong to the people who minister this reality to each other and into those still under his dominion. That is exactly what he wants to kill off, steal, and destroy. He tells us lies about who we are until we either believe them or are so confused that we don't believe there is truth, meaning, reality, or goodness.
Several years ago I underwent a transformation that I can now understand as being rooted in affirmation. It was so powerful because it not only brought me healing in showing me who I was, but also showed me the vocation to which God was calling me. It was powerful both in its glory, and eventually in its pain as well -- because of that very process of purgation and purification and up-ending and uprooting of darkness. I regret only the pain I caused others in the process, but I do not regret one drop of the pain it produced in me. Dr. Kamat's talk also made sense of out of this for me, showing me the rock solid confidence and inner peace that affirmation gives, even as she spoke about our vocation as becoming the ones who create this very same thing in the world through our prayer.
In my lived experience in the last weeks that I've been meditating on this, I have found both increased joy and confidence in my interactions with people and greater pain. Understanding things from their deepest meaning gives energy like nothing else. I have often second-guessed myself about why I would interact with people to a point of paralysis and painful self-doubt. I would wonder what I should say, if I should say something, why I want to say something and so forth until I had no peace and no confidence. I would keep silent and appear cold, and then wonder why people felt I had done them ill when I had done nothing. I did not appreciate that one can sin mightily by omission when it comes to affirmation. I have also felt the pain of meeting a heart walled off in self-protection, miserable behind its efforts to not need affirmation. I see my younger self here. Then I find myself setting-to to find ways to love. This is creativity, and I think true creativity cannot come without this kind of pain.
And I haven't even gotten to the part of the talk which treated Jesus as our Shabbat, about how we are created for eternal Shabbat and living in the presence of God in time. About how the commandments really treat God's covenant promise to be constantly present to us, his requirement that we keep his fidelity to us constantly in mind and to respect those who minister it to us, and how our life falls into ruin when we turn from God, turn from rest.
In the few weeks before my travels, I was so stressed from constant activity, even from great and spiritual things. I could not un-crank, and physically I was feeling it. I find myself now asking, "What do people do?" in the sense of what are we really made for -- and seeing how it is love. We can and should be fully consumed in loving, but we can also be doing great things from a place that isn't consumed with loving, and then we will grow weary. Then, we need rest. But none of this need necessarily be about "cutting back" in what we do. We are made to be fruitful, and that can involve tremendous life output. We see that in the example of some saints. Rather, we need to "cut into" what we do with that creativity of love, and walking in affirmation, which makes us a conduit of life. "The soul that walks in love neither wearies others nor grows tired," said St. John of the Cross. When we use our own energies, we wear out. When we use God's, we are built up. The key is coming back every day to receive God's forgiveness and love -- and then to offer that very gift of love back to the Father that He gives.
It seems God has opened up a new chapter in my heart and life, and I am awed. He is good. I am very, very glad.