“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.” ― Walt Whitman
Today I slipped into the imponderable place. I am disappointed with myself that this is happening, which only makes it more resistant to my human efforts to change.
What happened? I have some slight success and the furies inside challenge. Their presence in my psyche is a relentless stream, even as I pretend otherwise.
I fear the furies and yet by doing so, I give them sway.
This is new, naming the furies, which have been with me all my life. They are a melancholy; the chaotic anxious thoughts, the doubt and self-recrimination, the clamoring perfectionism and uncertainty and let’s call it what it is, the monster itself – fear. There is also the need for validation and the craving for significance. It is ugly, mortifying, and difficult to decipher. I could add to this list all day long I think.
It’s fitting that I have read for two weeks on Humility in my Prayer Book. In it I read this:
Teach me, O Lord, thy holy way,
And give me an obedient mind,
That in thy service I may find
My soul’s delight from day to day.
Help me, O Savior, here to trace
The sacred footsteps though hast trod;
And, meekly walking with my God,
To grow in goodness, truth and grace.
– A hymn by William Matson
For many years my faith languished and deteriorated – I could not “see” God, feel him nor know his love. I did not believe. And as I stumbled, broken by depression and then addiction, I was chastened. Every pretense I might have conjured up was stripped from me.
“The Lord is near the broken-hearted; he is the Saviour of those whose spirits are crushed down.” Psalm 34:18
I then I understood Grace.
And from that time I have wanted nothing but this Savior, what he wants. That is not to say that I do not struggle as he challenged me to give things up – there were, are, many idols in my heart. I quit smoking because I heard God say I want you to want me, need me, more than you need Nicotine. And I wanted to want him that much too. Smoking became a metaphor for the sacrifice of praise that he sometimes asks for. He asked of me. I still stumble. I lean into him.
And yet when the furies swirl, I fear I have become disconnected from the Holy Spirit, allowing a deterioration of intimacy with Jesus. Sometimes the furies create such chaos, like tiny tornadoes of anxiety. I want to cut myself open and imagine them flying crazily away from me! Then I can be free, rid of the things that weigh heavily and make me unwise and thoughtless, quick to think or say things that don’t show God’s love. I want to lean into the Holy Spirit and allow the fresh winds of his spirit to fill me.
I want a deep, deep faith.
One that isn’t hasty or trite. No snatches of scripture, I want to be wading deeply into chapters and books. I want my spiritual roots to go deep into the ground, so that when challenges come I don’t stagger or fall as I have in the past.
Helmut Thielicke said “To work without praying and without listening means only to grow and spread oneself upward, without striking roots and without an equivalent in the earth.”
I want to penetrate life deeply.
These are the things I have been pondering today. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite writers, Christian or otherwise, Evelyn Underhill, from The Spiritual Life.
“Any spiritual view which focuses attention on ourselves, and puts the human creature with its small ideas and adventures in the centre foreground, is dangerous till we recognize its absurdity … We mostly spend those lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even on the religious—plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.”
Humility and penetrating life deeply. That is definitely not craving, clutching and needing the attention for myself.
Lord, help me to Be.