I hear that Teresa of Avila stopped praying for two years— years of struggle. She backed into a quiet corner and closed her mouth.
These days, I feel a little like Teresa. Silenced by a dark night of the soul. Dark night. I always thought that meant a time of suffering or depression, but I learned differently not too long ago. It can be just this... a fog, a confusion, obscurity, change, travel in the dark, unknowing. All because the journey has shifted. It is not always painful or negative, but clarity escapes us. Which I suppose could be painful if we fight it.
In the darkness— I'm talking real darkness, like on some night in my back yard— I realize I become a magnet for sound and fragrance. The rain tip, tip, tips
or the tree branches crackle, crackle
. Things blur. Water sounds like fire, ice like the opening of a wrapper. Unknowing descends. Visions of alternate realities push in... maybe I am sitting under a giant toffee and some night creatures are nibbling through paper to lick and bite sticky candy.
The smells of earth drift past... death, new life, openings, disintegrations, bloomings, fallings. My senses come alive to... I'm not sure what. And in these moments I feel the purity of experience. The illusion of control slips away. Things come to me as they will, not as I will.
In the darkness of the soul, I do not see God, but I hear and smell God. I cannot reach out and touch God, for I know not which bush He hides behind. I am left to myself. I touch my neck, trace my finger out towards my shoulder. I feel how very real I am. I am asked to grow up just a little more, like the way a baby is asked to begin to comfort itself in its own bed. The baby is not turned out of the house... shelter still comes from parents; there is deep watchfulness, provision. But...
So I am a baby in the darkness, asked to find that I can do a few things for myself, even as I trust that God is in the yard somewhere, loving me as tenderly as ever. And as I open my mouth to sing a little lullaby for me, it becomes a prayer that moves out into the night, into the heart of God.
Teresa regretted those two years of silence so much that, for the rest of her life, she strongly counseled people to never
stop praying. For any reason. Teresa, thank you, for reminding me to sing. A lullaby, even, especially, in the darkness.
Labels: dark night of the soul, God in the Yard, spiritual reflection