This morning my spiritual director sent me Richard Rohr's daily meditation e-mail. He wrote of John of the Cross' dark night of the soul:
You can’t go forward by “knowing” in the usual way, but only by experiencing. At some time in your life, I hope you are so ambushed by God, that God catches you by surprise. If you try to go by what you already know—John of the Cross makes it clear—you will pull God back into your pre-existent categories, and you won’t get very far. That is why most people stay with their childish faith.
When God leads you into a dark night, it is to deepen and mature your faith—which, by its very definition, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The gift of darkness draws you to know God’s presence beyond what thought, imagination, or sensory feeling can comprehend. During the dark night the tried-and-true rituals and creeds of religion no longer satisfy or bring assurances of God’s love. (So you might get bored with church services for very good reasons too, but that is not the same as mere spiritual laziness or a lack of faith.)
God is calling you into deeper and closer intimacy, beyond anything you could achieve with your most sincere attempts, closer than you could even dream. But you must learn to proceed without any guarantees from your feelings or your intellect. That’s the only real way to grow in faith and divine love.
I wonder if that dark night isn't where my soul has made its nest over the last three months. For a long time--years and years--I have sought my life's value outside of myself. And I wonder if it hasn't been within me all along, in that deep place within which God's fiery life flickers.
I wonder now if I would find comfort in this dark night by writing not to or for or about others, but simply to God, my life's source. In intimate communication with God, could there be any doubt of my value? What would I discover?
Perhaps I, the expert in liturgical prayer, have been praying in the wrong way, with the wrong words. Perhaps my own words were the ones God beckoned from me. It is one thing to pray the psalms, and another to pray the psalms of one's heart. Is one thing to read God's word, and another to enflesh it.
Maybe what God is bringing to birth in me is not what I can do for others, but the birth of God's name for me: "Beloved."