Critters in the Night

Any inmate who has ever resided at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp knows about the laundry room roaches who run for cover when the lights come on. They were perfectly comfortable in the dark, living their little roach lives. The same principle applies when we decide to get serious about a closer relationship with God. He turns on the light inside us. It's been there all along, we just couldn't find the switch. When that happens, what looked fine in the dark, or even dim light, now appears to be crawling with little critters. Even our good works don't look so good.

Thomas Keating, the Cistercian monk , writes in his book Invitation to Love, "The spiritual journey is characterized by the ever increasing knowledge of our mixed motivations, the dark sides of our personalities, and the emotional traumas of early childhood. Nothing is more helpful to reduce pride than the actual experience of self knowledge. If we are discouraged by it, we have misunderstood its meaning."

Keating, expanding on the writings of the 16th century Spanish mystic John of the Cross, calls this experience of misunderstanding the "Night of Sense". He goes on to identify three signs that we are actually growing when our sense is otherwise.

1. We experience a generalized aridity in both our prayer and daily life. This is because we lack a receptive device to properly interpret the increase in divine light that God is radiating into our inner world. We can't rely on simple emotion any more, as it becomes obvious the relationship we seek and need requires/demands more.

2. We experience a fear that we are going backward. We have been over-dependent on emotion or reasoning, reluctant to let grace wash through us. We mistakenly feel as if we've offended God instead of opening our hearts to a more intimate relationship.

3. We experience a reluctance or unwillingness to practice meditation that deeply ponders the teachings and example of Jesus. Without this, our mind wanders and we find only snippets of love, praise, petition, or any other response to God's grace.

I've experienced all three of these signs in the last few months. Maybe you can relate. If so, I think we should listen to Keating. He's telling us not to fret and to keep embracing what's revealed through meditation by the light of God's grace, even the little critters.