Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A visit from John of the Cross

I have mentioned before that I am a member of a yahoo group called 'Spark of the day'.

A couple of times a week, the moderator sends out a quote from John of the Cross. Usually is it without comment. It is a lovely little message in my inbox, usually inviting me to spend a moment or two thinking about what Juan de la Cruz has to say.

Today, he is talking about spiritual dryness:

God values in you the inclination to dryness and suffering for love of
him more than all the consolations, spiritual visions, and meditations
you could possibly have.

John of the Cross
"Sayings of Light and Love"

When I first converted, I was all about the consolations. God had used them to draw me to himself for years before I finally stopped resisting and became a Christian. It was the Holy Spirit who first got my attention, giving me mystical experiences which beckoned me to walk towards him. After my baptism, I experienced consolations intensely for months.

I would have a physical reaction during these experiences. I would feel slightly queasy, like I was going to faint. My head would swim. My extremities felt tingly. It wasn't as scary as it sounds. It was the sweetest high you can imagine.

Over the last year or so, these experiences have dropped off. And while I miss them, surely, I also feel that it might just indicate that my relationship with God is maturing. I am gradually letting go of the idea that mystical experiences=spiritual maturity. In fact, it might be just the opposite for me.

How about you? Have you found your relationship with God changes over the years?

What has your experience been?


Widening Circles said...

Those intense experiences of God are a gift. Not everyone has them. For me, they have been the strongest basis of my faith in God. I know God exists because I have experienced God. And yet my experience has also been that God "comes and goes," in a manner of speaking. I've had long dry periods and then, for no apparent reason, God returns, sometimes even more intensely than before. Just keep yourself open to the Presence and you may be surprised again, that's my advice ...

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

God is constantly surprising, isn't he? LOL.

Lately, the most intense moments of connection with God occur as the priest is preparing for the Eucharist. As he waves his hands over the wine and bread, as he lifts the big host and holds it over the chalice, as he speaks or sings

"by him and with him and in him..."

I just feel faint. (Like a Victorian lady...)

Strangely, it isn't so much during the communion itself.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Another thought:

I am always grateful for consolations... but I think the key is not to make them an end in themselves. Not to search after them. Accept them as gifts, but don't expect them.

And when they drift off, I am sometimes tempted to slack in my relationship with God...but am learning to persevere even when I feel like I am in the desert with John the Baptist. It is during those times of dryness that my relationship can take the most surprising turns. It is often then that God is most busily at work in my life. If only I have patience.

Nancy said...

Widening Circles said it very well, and I couldn't agree more.

Having left a church tradition that overly valued "experiences", I thought the days of that kind of spiritual intensity were over. I am finding at this point however, that I am having more experiences of a "mystical" nature than ever before. I can't count on this kind of thing though. It can become a temptation to become too focused on such things, and I wonder if that is not one reason for the dry periods. We generally don't realize it at the time, but the dry times are good for us and necessary. The experience of the dry times helps to enable us to fully participate in the intensity of other times.

Widening Circles said...

I have continued to think about this and I think you are onto something in not making the consolations an end in themselves. (Although once you have had those feelings you want them again, for sure.) When I think, I want to feel that way, I'm less likely to. When I think, I am here, trying my best to focus on God and open to experiencing him however he wants to present himself, it's more likely. But it's best when it's God and not the feeling that I'm aiming for.