Beside Holy Scripture a good deal of my personal spiritual life has been shaped by the Saints who wrote of their journeys of faith and discovery. One such person is Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She was a Spanish noblewoman within the Carmelite tradition of the Catholic Church (Protestants were forming throughout her lifetime) known for her mystical faith and writings. She was not prone to writing until she was directed to write by the head of her Order. One of her best known works is The Interior Castle, where she describes the chambers of the human heart as a series of Mansions through which we move in growing closer to Christ.
- The Mansion of Humility & Grace
- The Mansion of the Practice of Prayer and Growth
- The Mansion of the Exemplary Life
- The Mansion of Prayer of the Quiet, where the supernatural and natural meet
- The Mansion of Prayer of Union, where the soul is completely possessed by God
- The Mansion of the Bride & Groom, where the soul would receive more favors, but also afflictions
- The Mansion of Spiritual Marriage between Christ and His Church.
Where would you find yourself in Teresa’s Interior Castle? In many ways, even at this stage of my life, I would place myself in the Mansion of Humility & Grace, needing a great deal of both. In other ways I am firmly planted in #4, the Mansion of Prayer and Quiet, wherein the supernatural and Natural worlds blend.
Most certainly I am not in the Mansion of Prayer & Union, where my soul is completely possessed by God; although I am most definitively striving for that.
It must be also noted that I more likely than not skipped over the Mansion of the Exemplary Life entirely. For this, I hold much regret. But I am not dead yet.
The most encouraging aspect of this delineation is that it helps me measure where I am in my journey to holiness, in my journey to become more like Jesus. It was penned almost 500 years ago. Maybe you might write one in a more contemporary vein?
My journey has been one of service, suffering, joy, and celebration. May our Lord grant you one of similar combination.
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Fear grips us. It transcends every emotion and dominates our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a temporary (or not) sense of exhaustion. Long term fear dissipates our energies and leaves us in a state of anxiety about anything new. This is the worst kind of fear. Seek help from a professional counselor for this one. It is more than spiritual— it is truly evil.
~ Gary Davis, When There’s Nothing Left.
Ever since I wrote this paragraph my empathy for those who live in fear every day of their lives has grown. How do they do it? Maybe you’re one of them. Scripture tells us that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. [Proverbs 9:10] But this is not that kind of fear. This fear wells up from deep within. It overwhelms everything we do— our thoughts, our confidence, our relationships, the way we drive (unless you’re in Boston or LA], our self-esteem, our ability to get anything done. This fear grips our soul and perpetuates itself.
The difficulty comes when you try to break free of this spider web of venom saturated virulence. It is no simple matter. Allow me to offer some discoveries I’ve learned through counseling.
- For a Christian, you can trust in God for His resolution from the terror. Sadly, many of us don’t. We do not truly believe He can take away our fear, or even walk with us through it. I would point you to Psalm 42. The writer admits his fears and depression and goes on to fight his dire condition with Hope. Seriously, give it a try.
- Whether you keep these things more to yourself or talk them to death, you should seek help from a true listener who has perspective and older wisdom. Yes, older. Your college buddies or business drinking buddies just won’t do the trick. You must act on this. And that presumes a prior decision to trust. Not so easy.
- Get outside of yourself. I’ve known runners who run to hide. They tell me it actually helps…, for a little while. It separates them from their fears in physical exertion; but it’s still there.
- Go see AVENGERS: endgame. Trust me…, you think you’ve have problems!?!
- Switch your prayers from petition to practical meditation. Not the kind where you empty yourself of everything, but the kind where you open yourself to the God of the universe…, and listen. Intently. I process externally and get a load of stuff off my heart (mind) on long walks in the mountains; then I can hear Him more clearly. Oh, wait! You live in Boston?!? Bummer. Try the beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. You live in Kansas? My prayers are with you.
- At least get a good massage. It will be the best $100 you’ll spend this week. A darkened room, soft music, and tranquil separation from the world outside.
- Sorry, you really do need to do more than breathing exercises. You need our Lord and someone who cares enough about you to listen.
NEXT— Excuses, excuses, excuses!
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
A few weeks ago I heard a sermon in our local church that really resonated with me. The series is taking prayer and our relationship with God and bringing it down to an almost childlike level. This sermon was especially poignant, as it spoke to the questions: Is it ok to be mad at God? Why do I feel so miserable? When will it get better? What do I say to my friend who is really struggling right now? I encourage you to click on the link below and listen, then ask yourself if you know how to truly lament.