My Dusky Hour of the Soul

 st johnMy husband recently listened to St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul on his iPod.

After hearing the description of this phase of spiritual growth, I’m not sure I can claim to be passing through the Dark Night. But what about the Dusky Hour?

Since I lost my job, I’ve not posted for two reasons:

  1. I’ve been pretty much consumed with rebuilding our kitchen (which you faithful readers will recall was taken out by an overflowing toilet… see: How Bad Can it Get?? Apparently Worse…  ).
  2. My doubts have returned. My confidence in God has waxed and waned over the past two months. It’s been disconcerting, to say the least.dark night

I do wonder if this dark passage is part of God’s way of answering my prayer that He would help me repent of anything that prevented greater intimacy with Jesus (see Compelled by Love ).

Anyway, I told a friend I was in this dark passage and she sent me A Hell of  Mercy by Tim Farrington which discusses its author’s trip down Dark Night lane and back.

There were some passages in the book that were just spot-on about how I feel right now. Such as:

You will be graced by the disaster your soul requires to find its way home. (p. 79)

disasterA wise friend of mine once said that God gives us the exact curriculum we each need for our spiritual growth. To me, these two statements say that God knows exactly the disaster – the life loss – each of us requires in order to find Him in a deeper way; He knows what idols to remove so that we turn from them to Him.

Here’s another:

One way or another, life will bring us to the point of feeling we have nothing left to lose, in spite of our best efforts to avoid it. But the miracle of this thing we call death is that it is only in our seemingly final mercydefeat, only through suffering the annihilation of everything we know and think ourselves to be, that we find ourselves capable at last of knowing God’s real mercy. (p. 90).

I’m not there yet, but I sure do look forward to more deeply knowing God’s “real mercy,”  the mercy of the cross.

Just not too crazy about this dusky hour.

More observations coming in future posts…

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17 thoughts on “My Dusky Hour of the Soul

  1. Pingback: 2017 Day 124 – Got Doubts? | Longing for a Holiday at Sea

  2. Christov:

    I am curious what you think about how I describe intimacy with Christ in my post entitled Compelled by Love. I must admit, I have often applied the marriage metaphor individually, so you have me thinking. I need to go back and do some research before I post on the topic…

    Holiday Longing

  3. I didn’t mean to dismiss Piper altogether — just that I’m a little wary. Desiring God is on my wish list. And at some point I hope to read some of his dialogue with Wright.

    Also, I haven’t given up on church — just I’m very very disheartened lately trying to find a church we can go to where we won’t feel — hmm, looking for words — crusty, oppressed, dirty, disgusted, discouraged, alone, disappointed — every week because there’s so little in the service that we can enter into with a full spirit of worship and community.

    We left behind two very good churches from our two previous hometowns, and just haven’t found anything really suitable in this new area yet.

  4. Whoa – there has been quite a discussion since my question!

    C – I get what you’re saying about the mushy-gushy weirdness prevalent in many churches. However, I think that the original intent of the phrase “fall in love with Jesus” wasn’t meant in the same way as one would fall in love with a potential mate. I think, rather, it’s taken from the Scriptural idea that we’re to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Further, the Scriptures are replete with images of hungering and thirsting for God. Those are all images and examples of an individual yearning for communion with the Lord. Although, I do quite agree with the metaphor of the Bride of Christ being the entire Church in an aggregate sense.

    As far as John Piper goes, since everyone’s talking about him, I think it can be harmful dismiss everything someone has to say because you found one thing you disagree with. I would recommend his book, Desiring God, although the writing style is probably similar to what you didn’t like about the other book, C. I did feel like I had to sometimes “decode” what he was really trying to say, but I found it completely worth it. I do generally find his work to be very well thought-out and very Scriptural.

    And lastly, (what am I, writing a paper or something?), I do also find the American church to be fairly disappointing in many ways. But, there are true Christ-followers among them and there are good, Spirit-led things happening as well. You will find sin and extra-Biblical teaching, but I don’t find it worth discounting all churches completely. We just have to work to be true to the Scripture in our own lives and to boldly stand up for it.

    And that’s my belated two cents! 🙂

    • I know that there’s a good way to come as a little child, for sure. But I realize there’s something bad about not growing up. 1 John recognizes levels of maturity and I think I may need to move on in a profound way.

  5. I met with my pastor recently about my Dusky Hour. It was a great meeting. He and I were both bemoaning the state of the church in America, how little it reflects Christ. He told me he needs his visits to Indian and Chinese Churches (overseas) in order to get revitalized and remember what the church can be.

    Re Piper, I didn’t know he extended his view of women to the church place. Well, with him, I’ll take the good stuff and overlook what I disagree with… My husband read the criticism of NTWright. I think Piper is extremely concerned to maintain substitutionary atonement as the main purpose of the cross and believes Wright (apparenty a friend of his) is waffling on the issue. But it’s been a while since I thought about this…

  6. Aggregate — good word. Individuals in community — not isolated individuals, nor community without individuation.

    About Piper — I heard that he applied his complementarianism to politics — that women shouldn’t run for office. It’s one thing to believe that the Bible prohibits women in church leadership, but does that really apply to politics? What about being a boss in a job?

    Also, I can’t remember if I read an article he wrote against N. T. Wright, or heard about his views about him, but it seemed to me he didn’t really take the time to understand what Wright is and is not saying. It seemed like knee-jerk “The Westminster Standards, I mean, Christianity, believes X and that’s the end of the story, no matter what that Bible says!”

    I’m with you on Sunday School and even most book studies — churches in general have been really irking me lately. We’re trying a new one this morning, but reading the denomination’s position papers has been disheartening. Sigh.

  7. Don’t Waste Your Life was not one of my favorites at all. The thing about Piper that folks don’t like is his apparent legalistic tendencies (which Don’t Waste brings out) and his stand on women (not Elders, etc.).

    The two books that had the most impact on me were Desiring God and his bio of Augustine. He may not write well, but he thinks of things I’ve not heard elsewhere and he has an amazing awe of God.

    Go online and listen to his sermons, too. He’s very convicting.

  8. I didn’t for an instant mean that God doesn’t see as or want us to be individuals. Just that the bride of Christ metaphor is about the church as a whole.

    Additionally, the body of Christ metaphor, and the one about being built into a temple of living stones – both referring to the church – are about Christians in, I think the word is, aggregate.

    One year, at the small PCA church where we were members had a discussion class using Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. Preferring discussion classes to the customary tedious lecture adult Sunday School classes, I picked up a copy of the thinnish volume in the foyer, and took it home. I couldn’t get past the introductory matter. Piper, evidently, cannot write a readable sentence. He cannot write at all, without making far too frequent and liberal use of word, “precious.” He cannot write the word, “promise,” without prefacing it with the word, “precious.”

    If I’d wanted flowery 19th Century devotional literature, I’d buy some.

    I told the fellow leading the class I wouldn’t be able to attend because I’d spend the bulk of the class time critiquing Piper’s lousy style. On the other hand, I’ve heard he speaks better than he writes.

    What have you heard about Piper that makes you leery?

  9. I’ve really appreciated this discussion, too.

    I haven’t read much Piper (some things I’ve heard about him have made me wary), but I am guessing that his take on intimacy with God is indeed very different from the “falling in love with Jesus” stuff.

    I have noticed that there are really only a few people in the Bible who have what we would generally consider any intimate relationship with God. Moses, for example. The vast majority never hear God’s voice like Moses did, perhaps never even know for sure that such and such was a direct answer to prayer. They live in faith without much feedback.

    I think, too, about all the people who only got to hear Jesus, but didn’t get to talk to him, or all those who only got to talk to him once. Was it enough for them?

    So whatever intimacy with God really is, surely it’s not a buddy-buddy or romantic kind of thing.

    But I also don’t think we have to give up all idea of individuality — this trend in some circles of the church has really bothered me. In the effort to remember that the church is a community, and that God’s purposes are for wider things than individuals, so many folks have gone too far, almost going Eastern about the dissolution of individuality.

    See? It’s all related, HolidayLonging — the loss of self and this question of intimacy.

  10. C-

    Feel free to hijack my blog any time! I appreciate the discussion!

    The issue you raise is very interesting to me. For the fact is, if I didn’t think there was greater intimacy with Jesus at the end of my current tunnel, I might walk away altogether. But I do think there is, and I think there is scriptural basis for such intimacy.

    My guess, however, is that what I consider intimacy is different from what bothers you in the American church. When I feel like it, I’ll get to work blogging on the matter. Meantime, I’d say John Piper’s teaching about Christian Hedonism (see http://www.desiringgodministres.org) has had a big impact on my view of what God calls us to in terms of our intimacy with Him. I’d be very interested in hearing what you think of Piper’s views (if you are familiar with him).

    Well, I now owe two blogs – one for Marcy on the subject of losing one’s life and one on the subject of intimacy with Jesus. Meantime, I have a few more thoughts from this book on the dark night to share, as well as some fun before, during and after pix of our kitchen (done next week: YEA!).

    Keep up the discussion. One thing I like about my visitors (the ones who leave comments anyway) is that you all are a THINKING crowd (something in short supply in the church today IMHO). So, think and debate away!

  11. Okay, here’s what I meant, but I really don’t want to hijack this blog post – you’re totally free to brand me a heretic here and to fight with me at my own blog, if you wish:

    Nowhere does scripture intimate that God seeks intimacy with individuals. At least I don’t find it anywhere.

    What I tend categorize as small “c” christian subculture, at least in North America, seems bent upon generating in the individual “loving” feelings for God, teaching individuals to pursue God like love-sick, obsessed stalkers. Or at least like they’d pursue someone they thought would make a good spouse.

    Again, and you can find this in the Bible if you’ll look, Paul talks about the church as the bride of Christ making a metaphor to help Christians understand that God has chosen the church (all who have had saving contact with God through time in space) as his companion through eternity and has made his earnestness known to the church in a number of ways not least of which becoming embodied, that is, incarnate, as the means of applying his law and redemptive purpose to humankind in the person of Jesus Christ, and by the way so identifying with humanity, his creation, that he (if John’s testimony in Revelation is to be trusted) remains embodied still.

    Nowhere does scripture teach that individual Christians are to consider themselves individual brides of a polygamist Christ. As a man, I don’t think myself scripturally obligated to perform whatever mental gymnastics and emotional gyrations would be necessary for me to “fall in love with” Jesus. I mean, that’s just silly. And it’s unscriptural.

    So that’s my last two cents on this matter here. C.

  12. “About intimacy, I don’t think God seeks intimacy with Christians as individuals.”

    The only alternative to God seeking intimacy with an individual is for Him to seek intimacy with a group, which is what it looked like you said, hence the quote. What did you mean?

  13. (I love your blog posts. They are not always frequent, but they are always honest and meaningful.)

    I believe God does want intimacy with us – individually. How can you be intimate with a group? Besides, He already knows us intimately. It’s about us getting to know Him to reciprocate that intimacy – and the Scriptures are saturated with the idea of individuals pursuing God with abandon.

  14. I am glad to see you blogging again!

    About intimacy, I don’t think God seeks intimacy with Christians as individuals. Remember, the whole bride of Christ thing is a metaphor for the entire church, not the basis for a theology of individuals relating bridelike to the Almighty. God gives us husbands and wives for marital intimacy, and friends for companionship. God expects us to value him more than these, but he doesn’t anywhere in scripture that I can think of expect us to replace them in our affections with him (if I knew html, I’d’ve italicized ‘with’).

    $.02

  15. I don’t like this idea at all, but it’s better than thinking that the disaster shows that God’s love is no love at all.

    It’s pretty much the same thing that my late therapist talked about in his cancer blog.

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