Monday, October 08, 2012

Preparing for God's Infilling

God is a mystery. He is, at one and the same time, the one of which I am most sure and the one which I comprehend least. This is the way it should be, and yet there is an element of tantalizing frustration in this. That frustration is the longing the human soul feels that keeps it seeking, searching, despite the cost.

Today I was thinking about how in years past, I've had different kinds of "issues" in my relationship with God. Two decades ago, I wrestled with the fear that if I totally committed my life to the Lord, I would end up in some situation that seemed odious to me. The way I thought of it was "scrubbing toilets in some tiny town somewhere." In other words, I feared finding no fulfillment in life.

I don't struggle with that fear anymore, even though I live in a small town and occasionally scrub my toilet. The Lord has proven to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that He fills my life with joy so unspeakable at times that I can hardly breathe.

Just a few years ago I still struggled with the fear (this one has hung around a lot longer than the toilet fear) that God was bent on ripping away from me people that I love and relationships that are important to me. The thing to underline here is that I believed God was like that, that He somehow was not keen on human beings experiencing healthy attachments. It was another, more personal version of the "following God makes one miserable" saw.

The very odd thing is that right now, I must say I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is not like that; He is all about His love being demonstrated in this world one person to the other. I simply cannot any longer buy into this fear. But in the very same moment, I am living through one of the most painful separations from a friend that I have ever known, and I know it is coming to me from the hand of God this way.


It seems to me that God continues to extend invitations to us. If you think that there was but one invitation to you to "get saved" and that's it, you need to think again. God continues to call us after Him. Every day He beckons us to be with Him, to go with Him, to follow where He leads. One of the ways He does this is by extending to us the cross. It is true, there are many who suffer things that they rage against; they are not choosing it or submitting to it or wanting it. There is much suffering no one in their right mind should ever want, because it has nothing to do with God's will at all. But there are crosses that God offers. There are many little ways that God offers to give us the opportunity to say to Him, "Yes, Lord, anything you want." But that "yes, Lord" a genuine one, is an expression of love. Sometimes God tests our love so we can see how genuine it is, or isn't. We can only truly give a response of love to a God of whom we are not afraid, in a servile way. Only when our fear of God is an awe-filled dread of disbelieving His love because of how convincingly He has already shown it, and because of how pigheadedly wicked a lack of trust would actually feel -- that's when love's "yes" has some depth to it.

As the dialogue of love deepens, there is also this deepening call to detachment. Perhaps in a way neither my intuitions were completely off, though they were misinformed because Love was not in the center of my understanding. I've heard priests and religious describe celibacy in the sense not of what you give up, but what you open yourself to receive. We have to think of detachment this way. There has to be that huge, looming, overwhelming, beckoning presence of Love so that we know God does not call us just to be austere and empty and silent, but rather to be prepared for the great influx of His love for which this detachment prepares. There is a movement of faith here. We detach, we move away from, we empty, we experience pruning, all for the sake of greater life, something with which we cannot fill ourselves, something which we must receive from the God who fills.

I wish the gospels told us about Mary's life in the months before the Annunciation. How was she prepared for the single greatest infilling of God ever known to human history? Was her betrothal to Joseph, as traditions hint, a major death to her life's dream of remaining unmarried for the Lord? Did she experience a dark night when nothing made sense, but submit to the Lord's directives anyway?

Come Holy Spirit. Show me once again how the power of your presence and love causes me to be completely undone. Help me not to refuse the cross by which the Lord desires to draw me close. And let me not seek to be loved, but to love all with the love that comes from You.

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