Thursday, December 6, 2012

Brick Walls of Grace

Photo Credit: Muffet (Creative Commons)
"St. John supposes a complete contradiction between what is authentically spiritual (therefore simple and obscure) and what appears to these men to be spiritual because it excites and stimulates them psychologically.

"God brings these people into the way of life by depriving them of the light and consolation which they seek, by impeding their own efforts, by confusing and depriving them of the satisfactions which their own efforts aim to attain. Thus blocked and frustrated, unable to carry on with their accustomed projects, they find themselves in a very painful state in which their own wishes, their self-esteem, their presumption, their aggressivity and so on are systematically humiliated. What is worse, they cannot understand how this comes about! They do not know what is happening to them. It is here that they must decide whether to go on in the way of prayer under the secret guidance of grace, in the night of pure faith, or whether they will go back to a form of existence in which they can enjoy familiar routines and retain an illusory sense of their own perfect autonomy in perfectly familiar realms, without having to remain subject to the obedience of faith in these trying and baffling circumstances proper to the 'dark night.'"

(Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer; emphasis mine)


I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
   and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

May your unfailing love be my comfort,    
   according to your promise to your servant.

(Psalm 119:75-76)

God brings us into the way of life through deprivation and humiliation? He impedes our own efforts?  In faithfulness God has afflicted me?

Why would God place spiritual brick walls in our way?

Perhaps He is redirecting us into His grace.

My infant daughter has recently mastered crawling and is swiftly learning how to walk. Her newfound ability to travel has led her to repeated attempts to climb our stairs. She's pretty good at it, too, and proud of her accomplishments when she finally arrives at the top of the staircase. Yet she is also fragile and unsteady, lacking the motor skills to balance herself properly or recover from stumbling. We place gates in her way in order to keep her safe and alive.

My daughter needs someone to pick her up and carry her so that she doesn't hurt herself. But she hates it. She screams and whines and flails and growls, expressing her strong disapproval through infant cries. 

How dare you stop me, Daddy! How dare you put up these gates! Can't you see that I'm doing this on my own?

I calmly carry her in my arms. She is secure and arrives at her desired destination in a loving paternal embrace. She didn't arrive in the manner or efforts that she originally anticipated. But this way is better.

She is being carried by her father.

So am I. So are you. In faithfulness, the Father afflicts and frustrates and confuses and redirects in order to guide us into the ways of His grace, allowing us the true opportunity to lean into Him for strength as He carries us in His arms.

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