“I understood that, with divine passion, God wants to love us to fulfillment, and I understood that for this to happen we must surrender to him every single key to the kingdom of self. I understood, without realizing it, our spiritual life is often as not self-seeking. We are intent on creating a beautiful self into which God will be privileged to enter! We want to feel we are good, pure and holy; we want to be lifted up out of the drab reality of our human condition. We want a holiness of our own. I understood that God, in his love, must destroy this self-seeking and that our happiness depends on our allowing him to do so”
—Ruth Burrows, OCD, in “Love Unknown”
A Carmelite nun and mystic, Ruth Burrows lives in England and wrote these words to conclude the first chapter of her book, Love Unknown, which was selected as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2012. She had just finished telling the story of her envy of those who, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, devote themselves to the physical care of the poor and dying. Why couldn’t she do what they were doing, she wondered, instead of living her cloistered life, removed?
She came to realize, after much struggle, that her work was the work of prayer, a work with a value all of its own, which she expressed in a poem with these lines:
But deep within my heart I know
another way is mine: in silence and alone,
living at the source of life—your heart,
in constant prayer, complete surrender.
God had given her a work to do not given to others, and her prayer, finally, wasn’t to be given what she wanted, but to be given what God wanted to give her and for her to be open to the gift of it, receptive.
As we turn toward a new year with lots people of summing up the past and speculating about the future, I invite you, today, to look deeper into the present. Seek the work God is giving you to do right now to express and extend the rule of God’s love in your own unique circumstance. That work may be within yourself or it may be out in the world. Choose to embrace it as a gift. Be receptive and open. Be bold in using it for God’s glory. Don’t compare it to the work of others; it is your work, your gift. Let your prayer be, continuing with Burrows’ poem, these words:
Fill me, Lord, that I may overflow,
yet emptied first.
caverns . . .
Pastor Robin Yim