Last night I let Quinn have some chocolate milk for dinner, which is a pretty rare occasion at our house, but it was dinner and a movie night so we were living large. In less than five minutes, Quinn lost his balance and executed this incredible gyration that catapulted his drink across the living room in some twilight zone moment that I saw in slow motion where he managed to cover everything in a five foot radius with chocolate milk. It was gross. I tried to be kind about the accident, since he gets his genetic predisposition to ridiculous feats of clumsiness from me, but I did make him go to his room while I cleaned up the mess because I just couldn't deal with him as well in that moment. As I cleaned every exposed surface in the room, I heard these choking sobs coming from his room like his heart was going to break, and I was touched that he was full of remorse. So I went back to talk to him, and he was very pathetically splayed on his bed. I asked him why he was sad, thinking that he might actually be sorry for making such a mess, but he was barely able to choke out, "My shirt has milk on it, and it's my bestest Batman shirt." And then I remembered that he was indeed four.
At least being four, you have some excuse for being self-absorbed. I, being somewhat past four, have nothing like his excuse for the completely self-absorbed pity party that I find myself stuck in like quicksand. Strangely enough, I never set out to be here, and I've spent the last couple days trying to figure out how I got here and how I can get out. I've been looking over my notes from reading The Ascent of Mt. Carmel by St. John of the Cross, and it occurred to me how appropriate his words were, almost as if the Lord let me experience this week simply so I could understand what he is writing. So I'm going to summarize my notes here, as a sort of stream-of-consciouness explanation for how I got here and how I'm going to get out. Anything in quotes will be a direct quotation, otherwise, the words are my summary:
If our goal is union with God, then we must pass through two nights, the first of which is purging the sensual part of the soul, it's attachment to this world.
"We are not treating here a lack of things... It is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and desire for them, for it is these that dwell within..."
"The soul that loves anything else becomes incapable of pure union with God."
The misplaced desires of the soul are sources of endless weariness because they allow the soul no rest since they can never be filled. Like bugs to bright light, we are drawn to these desires, blind to all else, even our own destruction. "He that is blinded by desires has this property that, when he is set in the midst of truth and of that which is good for him, he can no more see them than if he were in darkness."
The soul that is divided has no energy to pursue God. Even the slightest whim or attachment to something, no matter how insignificant, has the power to prevent union with God. Even people who have conquered great sins and vanities may be tempted to cling to some small attachment, yet "one imperfection is sufficient to lead to another.... If a man is to enter this divine union, all that lives in his soul must die, both little and much, small and great."
How do we mortify these desires? We must have a habitual desire to imitate Christ and long for the greater love in Christ, to the extent that our strength, courage, and constancy to mortify our flesh comes from a desire to please him that is greater than our desire to please our flesh. (Does that sound like Thomas Chalmers to anyone else?)So it would seem in this light, that I have lost my greater affection for Christ, and the lesser affections of my heart have been waging war against my spirit this week. Thus I am weary and heavy-laden with the burden of trying to satisfy my insatiable desires.
But I am learning to say with the psalmist, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God." I am finding more and more that this verse is the picture of faith, to hope and praise despite all feeling to the contrary, to step out, regardless of my current state, with the expectation that I will be met by grace.
So I will continue praying 2 Thessalonians 3:5 for myself, "May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." Because right now, I desperately need more of God's love and Christ's perseverance.