A few days ago I joined in the Apostles' Fast, which for several reasons feels a perfect fit in my life at the moment. Essentially I am here to capture this moment in time to understand it as it unfolds.
I've learned a few things and gained experience of a few things lately that seem rather significant. One of these is that just because God does something in a hidden way does not at all mean that it is somehow imperceptible. The Carmelite way of life is a hidden way of life, but it would be wrong to think that this means that all of God's activity in a soul is somehow about Him walking the soul off to a quiet corner where the self has no knowledge of what is happening, as if God could have a private conference with "part" of ourselves that the rest of the person is not privy to. Does God fly under the radar of our understanding: of course. Can we ever say for sure what God is accomplishing in us in any of his actions: not without his gift of revealing that. But God does not divide us up and make us secret from ourselves. We are incomprehensible to ourselves from the start, and God restores us to integrity. We are hidden in Christ, which draws us to be everywhere in the world with the embrace of love, but also to be out of sync with paths whose wisdom is of earth.
To summarize that in plain English: when God puts me back together again, I'm gonna know it, and hell is going to feel it, because it will change how I live.
God has restored much in my life in the last several months. And I mean things I had [and was required to] completely, totally given up on and despaired of fixing myself. It hasn't come out of the blue; God has led the way in prayer for years and years, sometimes dragging me, and often with me ungratefully oblivious to the fact that I was following, and often with all the lights off and me creeping in fear. It is all part of the package. I see the wisdom in the admonition that our part in prayer is really to just keep showing up, regardless of what it feels like and certainly without needing to produce any emotional display for ourselves or anyone else. We show up at the foot of the cross like Mary and John.
The restoration isn't really even about what God has given. It is about a new relationship for me with God Himself.
In this process, one thing I have noticed within myself with some surprise is that the place where apparently I used to carry a significant measure of jealousy is now empty. I wrote about it before, this unslakable urge to hoard and to be attached to my loved ones. Aquinas says that jealousy, which shares a root with "zeal," in whatever way it's taken, arises out of the intensity of love. This is very interesting to me, because God has indeed been walking me on the path of my own natural love being expanded, then purified. And since my own natural love started out something like a peach pit instead of a heart, it makes total sense.
But that phrase from Aquinas about the intensity of love brings me to the point that got me out of bed to write this morning. God has also alerted me to the fact that it is time once again to watch carefully and to be ready to move in a new way. This is another reason why I am entering this fast. As I read recently, fasting offers to God ones willingness to be consumed by Him.
And so in this moment, I find God pointing back to my intensity of love. It can at times feel alarming, dangerous, and far, far more powerful than my ability to wield it.
I woke up thinking about this experience of being included, and the frustration that can arise from feeling excluded. Both of these things need to be inspected. I can see how my general desire to be included in things can generally lead me to say yes to lots of involvements and commitments. I'm naturally an easy-going person, and it takes me awhile to feel stressed, and right now I'm in a place where it's like I have lots of tomatoes in my garden, but I know many of them are growing too close together. I will either need to thin them, or expand my territory and replant them. But they will either die or not bear fruit if they keep growing so close together.
But there comes along a desire with its resulting frustration of a completely different sort. There is the violent upsurge of the intensity of love that seems to yell, "I belong here!" This, I experience too, and I can't help but have everything in me set on high, clanging alert. My natural tendency is to crush the upsurge, but I've learned that is wrong. So, reject that.
The point of discernment that I am in really is accepting and embracing the zeal, and finding the way to fittingly wield the powerful, dangerous, alarming intensity of my love, aiming aright, which means that it does not seek to gain for myself, but for the glory of God and the good of other people. It's what all the purified love is for. After all, God doesn't make museum pieces.
I guess this must be how God does it.