Tag Archives: Dark Night

Dance of the Dark Night and the Kindness of God

To be free of habitual mortal and venial sin is a glorious reality. To live within the beautiful rhythm of a rule of life, to dance in step with the heart of God, to have a tangible and near-constant experience of His peace and love is a gift beyond any other. To discover how easily the rhythm of this exquisite dance is broken can devastate a holy heart.

The beautiful ascetical rhythm of the committed pilgrim begins with reliance upon Christ and the sacraments. It continues to emerge from sin to holiness by the power of self-awareness, humility, and dependence on God as it wastes precious time in silent prayer with the One who reveals all and heals all.

Then, by Divine kindness, He allows the storm to rise. He is present, but the awareness of His presence and sustaining power slips into the background, obscured by the relentless wind and waves. The rhythm of the holy dance is broken and the heart is brought low as it seems to stand alone, separate and defenseless. Regardless of how much effort the holy heart extends to hold on to the beloved and maintain the ebb and flow of the dance, the eternal melody of peace fades, until all is a storm.

How is this a Divine kindness? It is a kindness because of our blindness. Holy hearts, created hearts, limited hearts, must be ever prepared and purified for deeper intimacy with the Beloved.

What seems to be a broken rhythm is really just an interlude, a purifying pause in the sacred dance. It is a place where God shifts the tempo to force us to see what we would otherwise miss in our comfort, bliss and complacency.

Our wounded hearts always drift from the beloved. Our broken nature, no matter how much it shines in the eyes of the world, is always in need of purification through circumstances that cause us to reflect, to ask why, to weep, and to cry out for His help and healing.

It is a Divine kindness to allow us to fail and to fall that we might see our true state, our deepest need. When we cry out, He always steps back into view and with a gentle and heavenly touch calms the storm. If received, His perfect embrace of reunion releases the flow of holy tears and healing. If received…

When faced with this Divine kindness we have a choice. The world, the devil, and the flesh would have us flagellate ourselves into a bloody heap and then violently hurl barbs of condemnation into our battered souls. This self-flagellation is a kind of spiritual pride that only further imprisons the soul, emboldens the evil one, and solidifies the attachments that keep us from the healing He longs to give.

The Holy Spirit, our heavenly Lover and Healer, would have us come to the end of ourselves, weep, sorrow for our sins and imperfections, receive His love and forgiveness in reconciliation, and then return to the dance. When we return in this manner, we do so with a profoundly attentive humility and awareness of our need. Then the Holy one gently looks into our eyes, receives our trembling hand, and leads us ever more deeply into the sacred dance.

This is the dark night. This is the dance of Heaven. This is our redemption.


The Other Side of Pain

I wrote this post quite a few years ago and the poem decades ago (updated about seven years ago). I don’t know why I didn’t publish it. A student at the Avila Institute reminded me that I had written the poem and shared it once in class. She took a screen shot and shared with another student. By God’s grace, I had opportunity to see them both this past weekend and they both independently reminded me and noted the impact on them. Here’s the long overdue post.

During my prayer this morning I was once again moved to tears as I considered the words of Christ in the context of my own suffering.  But before I begin, it is important to note that my wife read the draft of this post and indicated that it was a bit surreal. So, to be clear, it is all true. In fact, because of the brevity required in the post, it is really a significant understatement.  So, here it is, as it is, raw and relatively unfiltered.

My body has never been a good friend to me; countless surgeries, almost constant pain and fatigue have troubled me all my life.  With respect to my youth, if you can imagine any home where gunfire might occur, and where your mother is beaten into the emergency room, you might suspect it to be a devastating place for the heart of a child.  The early loss of a best friend to a drunk driver, coupled with the loss of two siblings in their 30’s, and then a niece at two years old, and more surgeries…

Then, just before the 911 attacks, and just after publishing a business book, I quit my job to start a consulting company. This perfect storm resulted in financial devastation. This financial disaster, my own sin, my health challenges, and a more complete turning to God – all culminated in my first wife’s decision to abandon the faith and our relationship. Since then, two emergency surgeries to save my life. The pain is still almost constant.

So – I have known a little suffering.  But this morning, in prayer, in pain, I was overcome with gratitude. Why? Because, by His mercy, He has met me in my suffering.  Through these experiences, I have come to know Him in a way I could have never imagined. These thoughts sum up what I have learned by experience, prayer and meditation on God’s wisdom in scripture regarding suffering.

If I have not been in pain, He has not relieved me

If I have not been sad, He has not lifted my heart to heaven

If I have not been reviled, He has not comforted me

If I have not been abandoned, He has not come to me

If I have not been broken, He has not healed me

If I have not been lost, He has not shown me the way

If I have not been in sin, He has not redeemed me

If I have not been without a friend, He has not walked beside me

If I have not mourned, He has not comforted me

If I have not been betrayed, He has not restored me

If I have not been in chains, He has not set me free

If I have not wept, He has not dried my tears

If I have not been in the depths of darkness, He has not brought me into to the light

If I have not suffered, I have not known Him

The ultimate and most profound joy I have known in my life is in knowing Christ. I would not have known Him even in the small ways that I do, without suffering. Though I would not willfully choose the path I have traveled, I would choose it if I knew it was the only path to Him.

My suffering has come because of my sin, the economy, my health, circumstances beyond my control, the sin of others, the sin of Adam. However, how can I feel anything but gratitude?  I have found Him there! I have found the greatest treasures of my life in the midst of the greatest pain.

He is there in the darkness. You will find him if you will only reach out for Him. But, if you can, when you extend your hand, don’t ask for relief or remedy for the very circumstance that has you seeking the only real answer to life’s cruelty.  Just, ask for His presence.  He will respond – you will know Him as you could not, without suffering.  Only in Him will you find peace and rest for you soul in the midst of darkness.

“Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He keeps His promises.