Q & R: Experiencing God
Here's the Q:
I began reading "Naked Spirituality" from one of your responses to a doubt struggling individual, whom you recommended to read that book. Doubt has been a roadblock in my life for almost all my life so I went to my library and got this book and began reading. I've just reach the end of chapter 5 where you guide is to concentrate on the aspect of being "here" with God. Here I am, Here you are, and Here we are together. Oh what a struggle even this is for me. And I found myself considering what you said about your field experience where you were lying in the grass and you had this "feeling" of being seen. Which then led to that overflowing laughter which was as if the space inside of you was filling up with pure happiness.
Mr. Mclaren, when I read that "experience" that you had I find myself feeling such frustration and emptiness within myself. Because as with so many other's, I have never felt or experienced The Mysterious Creator in that or any way at all. And I do not know how to understand that in the slightest. Because from my limited perspective; and also viewing this moment out of hurt and seemed rejection from God because he has not granted me such an intimate moment with him, all my mind and heart is able to come up with is "WHY"?? Why has the creator, who knows my heart longs for him, has chosen not to give me such a gift.
I must take this moment to explain that I, like you, do not want just an experience for the momentary peace of a feeling. But I am desperate for hope in this walk to find our who this being is? And like so many others, all I experience within myself whilst trying to find my way forward is just desert and dryness..hollow and empty. Futility in that how can I do anything other than what I have been doing than simply being naked before this God with all of what and who I am bared open and just cry out for help. And the silence....the silence is so, so killing. It shreds me inside and leaves me feeling such utter rejection from this being that I am not understanding in even the slightest or most remote way. I long for something personal from God to me, that breathes, if even, just a portion of hope and peace...peace that I need so badly. How can God expect us to sustain and go on if when we are not able to make it through understanding or we are just utterly stuck in our own cycles of bad habits and thinking, and yet our hearts thirst for him...how can he expect us to go on?
But this is a question that almost everyone has asked in some form I would think. Making any kind of sense of the silence. But Mr. Mclaren, it's the ravaging of doubt and hopelessness within that silence that leaves me broken. I don't know how to think being this way, my mind just is worn out and Oh for My God to wash this mind with peace...peace that cannot be understood but enables me to make it. I'm rambling now but this is how my thoughts pour out. I do not want a temporary relief but I am dying for a taste of God that will take root in me deeper than all my doubts, worries, fears, weaknesses.
Here's the R:
Thanks so much for your letter. It really touches me, and I think many people will groan a sigh of identification and empathy as they read it.
Your response suggests one of the reasons that I've been hesitant to share my spiritual experiences: as I explained in the book, extraordinary experiences can be promoted to seem normative, and in that process, they can become tyrannical. (If we never talk about our spiritual experiences, there are other problems too.)
But you're among the many who are not yearning for an extraordinary experience - you're thirsty for any experience at all - especially the experience of peace. Before I offer a suggestion, I want to share something that I don't think enough people of mystical bent share: even people who have dramatic spiritual experiences are also susceptible to doubt.
That might sound counter-intuitive, but the fact is that an experience is an experience, and the experience can be doubted. (Elijah in the cave is a biblical case in point.) Not only that, but sometimes last year's dramatic experience makes this year seem all the more barren - which raises questions like, "What went wrong?" (You get a feel for this in Psalm 42 -
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
The memory of a great spiritual experience can make the present seem even more dismal.
As true as all this may be, though, it doesn't help you, I know. So here's my suggestion. I think you should find a trained spiritual director and begin meeting with him/her. I say this not because I think there's something wrong with you - but rather the opposite: I think your desire for intimacy with God is extraordinary and it deserves to be supported and guided with the best possible expertise. Here's a good place to start ... http://www.sdiworld.org/what_is_spiritual_direction2/what-is-christian-spiritual-direction.html
Please know that you're in my prayers - and those of many readers of this blog, too, I'm sure. Let me know how things are going for you down the road, OK?
PS - I'm not sure how far you've read in the book, but I also encourage you to keep reading. You'll find a resonance with your "WHY" question and a later chapter in the book.