Testimony on Spiritual Life Teaching
My spiritual life was progressing quite happily. I had been blessed with a second conversion. Worldly things didn’t matter to me much anymore. Most of my attention was focused on our Lord. I sang (awfully made up) songs to our Lord and spoke to Him as though He was right by my side. I felt like I was walking on air most days. It was all going so well until a question popped into my mind.
Is this all?
Quite suddenly I saw myself standing on a vast plateau. It was a scary feeling. Where did I go from there? I felt a painful emptiness within me. I couldn’t sing anymore songs. Even the happiness had left me. I started to get worried because if this was it, how was this going to last me a lifetime? I suppose deep inside, I knew there had to be more! After all, if God is infinite then how can spiritual life be limited? The problem was I didn’t know how to find it. Or worse still I realised, what if I never found it?
When I asked a few religious, they didn’t understand what I was talking about and told me to keep praying. In the meantime, the questions would not stop nagging at me. I also struggled with the biggest fear that if that was all, whatever I already had with Christ would not be enough to sustain me. I needed more. I kept asking God, but nothing resulted. I talked a lot to God in my prayers. I offered Him my love, my life etc. I told Him how much He meant to me and how He must never let me get away from Him and so on. After so much talking for a long time, I felt one day that there wasn’t anything else I could say to Him that I hadn’t already said – so what else was needed? The only thing left to do was to stop talking, be still and quietly offered my heart (my love) to Him so He could read it all for Himself. My heart to His heart.
In fact, I started practising Prayer of the Heart without knowing what it was. I thought I was just being idle, down and disappointed so this quiet prayer wouldn’t be of much use. I still had no aim, no direction.
I read many books and even googled trying to search for more. I considered taking spiritual direction but I was hesitant about who to go to so I thought I should just wait. Another alternative I considered was to give up searching. Just be happy with what I had and that it would just have to go on like this for the rest of my life. Maybe I was expecting too much. Maybe I was living in fairyland. I was truly sad as I knew I would not have the strength to keep walking in His way without anything more to hope for ahead.
Then one day, God in His mercy answered my prayers through a friend who invited me to one of the Courses of the School of Mary. From the first few minutes into the class, I knew I had been led to the right place.There was indeed more and yes, it would certainly be enough to last me a lifetime and some. For the first time, I heard of Prayer of the Heart and had it explained to me. I learnt about the union with Christ and much more through the School of Mary and I knew that this is what I had been searching for. Finally, my questions were being answered – the world of spiritual life opened up for me. This finding has helped my spiritual life go forward. I was no longer aimless. I started practising being in the presence of God throughout the day everyday, I asked to hear well the Holy Spirit and to be in complete obedience to Him.
I used to say that death would be a comfort to me because I wanted to be with God and see Him face to face. For many years, I longed for death. Nothing in this world was good enough to keep me here. Nothing could comfort me more than the idea of death bringing me to Him. I do still look forward to going to Him but the difference is – I am no longer waiting.
Why wait till death? Why wait so long? To be in union with Christ whilst on earth – this is the good news He came to give us. Our Lord says, ‘the kingdom of heaven is amongst you.’ In union with Him, our whole self and our inner and outer world are transformed. After all, how can it be possible for one to have the king and not the kingdom? Nothing else matters. As St. Paul said ‘… it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.’ I pray even as my body goes to sleep at night for my soul and spirit to stay with the Holy Spirit in worship and adoration. Now I do not just want death; I am praying and asking for a worthy death and what worthier death is there than the one which resulted through a tremendous exchange of love with Him? But let God’s will be done. I have also learnt one thing recently – true love does not make demands of the beloved. It allows the Beloved to give as He wants.
Looking back, my love for God was rather immature and selfish. I loved all the wonderful consolations He gave but I wasn’t always willing to say ‘God’s will be done’. On certain matters, if someone told me that, I would get quite annoyed. What if His will didn’t agree with mine?! Through the classes at the School of Mary and learning about Union With ChristI started to reflect on my previous proclamations of love and offering to Him. How sincere were they if I was not willing for all His will to be done in my life? How can I hope to have union with Christ if I wasn’t willing to give up myself? As I am still a coward, I always ask that He be gentle with me and not test me too much because I am only fragile, but at least I am now willing to say, ‘Do with me as You will’ and mean it. May He continue to work on me. For the moment, I just have to close my eyes and trust that He won’t test me more than I can bear and even then, He will always be by my side. Besides, the reality is His will is always done anyway so if I work with Him, I am on the winning side! One thing is certain, compliance with His will gives one an internal freedom that man alone can never achieve.
All Christians (from all denominations) talk about union with Christ and quote St. Paul. For most (me too, until I attended the School of Mary), it is only about walking with Him. They lack an understanding to push it further, because true union with Christ is a lot deeper than that. Union with Christ is why there are saints and there aren’t saints. Since sanctification is what we are all called for, this is an absolute necessity for all Christians to understand.
An aimless spiritual life, in my experience, is one of the saddest things in life. Since our God is both Infinite and Love, the only way forward for a Christian is to make a conscious effort of continuous growth in our love for Him leading to union. There can be no stopping in infinity or in love because the moment we stop, we go backwards.
It makes me wonder now – if two years being stuck on the plateau was enough to make me suffer, then how hard it must be for those who are stuck perhaps for a lifetime – and maybe they don’t even realise it. Many go to church day in and day out accepting that that is all there is. What a shame it is, what a waste of a lifetime, to not know there exists a spiritual life so rich, so abundant and so generously offered by Christ. This life on earth is a precious gift from God for us to unite ourselves with Him, to become divine as He is divine. Had He not breathed life into me, I wouldn’t even exist to have any opportunity to unite myself with Him. How precious it is, therefore!
This Great Friend, who laid down His life for His friends, has not bought our salvation only for us to receive it after death. His love is so great that He offers us a union with Himself in the present so that we can live with Him in His kingdom even whilst we are on earth. An offer that would reduce all the things in this world to nothing by comparison. We only have to reach out to receive – that is if we know about it.
* The icon above is taken from the Icon of St. John of the Cross made by the Carmelite nuns in Lebanon.