I just spent the past 10 days with a whole lot of really great people - people who have invested their lives in vocational ministry as church planters, campus ministers, and lovers of God and people. But I also had a half dozen conversations with these seasoned folks who felt like God had "disappeared" from them. In an effort to try to get God to come closer each person described how he/she prayed more, memorized more scripture and even fasted. None of these are bad things, but I was saddened that these dear people were trying to lure God out of hiding with their righteous deeds.
As I listened to this over and over again, I was able to share with them a larger vision of spiritual maturity - our goal is not to merely be organized, efficient and dutiful disciples; Our goal is to be lovers - letting ourselves be loved by Him and letting that well up and out toward others. (Think first and second greatest commands - all about love). Many of the great saints that have preceded us (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux) actually speak of this awkward latter season of faith. It is a time where there is a deep inward draw toward intimacy with God, but also sometimes a seeming absence of Him. Thomas Dubay, a modern day Jesuit, has said that some of greatest spiritual growth is often discerned as backsliding. And indeed, these people felt like they were backsliding and had to come up with a horrendous self-effort to get back into God's graces.
Does that strike anyone else as odd? (This working really hard to get into God's graces which are unearned and generous gifts?)
Our longing for more is the best thing about us - perhaps the most sure thing about us. It is God drawing us into greater heights, depths, widths and breadths of His love that surpasses our understanding. This is the most wondrously precarious journey of faith we can be on.
Take courage friends - God is with us always, a neighbor to your fears and longings and unafraid.