I would like to start this post with a quote from Thomas Merton, “In prayer we discover what we already have. You start from where you are and you deepen what you already have, and you realize you are already there. We already have everything but we don’t know it and don’t experience it. Everything has been given to us in Christ. All we need is to experience what we already possess” Wow, that says a lot about what I am trying to say when a man steps through over the threshold, surrendering “the clinging mind’s” need to know and be in control. One of the scriptures that I came back to often were the last words of Jesus in John 17:26. To me this absolute key verse in understanding the contemplative journey. “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Jesus makes the love of the Father real to us, while abiding in our hearts
At this point I want to give a word of assurance to that one man out there to whom I am writing. It is to give assurance that you do not have to “leave your brains” at the door or somehow have to turn off your capacity to think. What I am advocating along with so many others on the contemplative path is for a balance. We have become in Western culture, mostly “thinking” persons. Having a clear grasp of sound doctrine based on Scripture is our framework. You can’t have a spirituality floating in midair, which by the way, is true of a lot of spiritualities of our day. They are not grounded in reality. For me reality is found in the revelation of God in Christ and give witness to in Scripture. That is reality. But we have become overbalanced. We have forgotten the heart. The heart is the intuitive-imaginative function of our deeper mind. You could say that we should think of the “heart-mind” or visualize two minds – one rational, the other intuitive. We need to think this way because of the great split that has occured between the two. The contemplative seeks to bring about a balance and harmony between the two. There is not a duality in understanding the deep of the human heart.
Have said that, let use the next two paragraphs in giving two images of this deeper, inner life, what one author called “the homeland,” that you are entering when you venture across the threshold. The first is the realization that you are in the river of God’s love. The Spirit is described as “flowing water” and “as a spring inside you” (John 4:10-14) or at tht end of Revelation as a “river of life” (Rev 22:1-2). Our task is to trust the river. We don’t have to control or ever understand at times, but simply allow. So don’t push the river or even try to creat the river. It is already flowing from the heart of God. “Faith does not need to push the river precisely because it is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing; we are in it” (Rohr). The river is God’s love. Guess what we are to learn to do. Float!!! Yes, float. I have spent years learning to float. Learning to float has brought me to rest in the love of God. It is like the Nestle plunge of years ago, when the man just fell backwards in the pool. So I am learning to “relax” and just fall into the river of God’s love.
The second image is that of a sponge in the ocean. This comes from Martin Laird. The depths of the human are like the sponge in the ocean. “The sponge looks without and sees ocean; it looks within and sees ocean. The sponge is immersed in what at the same time flows through it. The sponge would not be a sponge were this not the case…..the more we realize we are one with God the more we become ourselves, just as we are, just as we were created to be. The Creator is outpouring love, the creation, the love poured out.” This is a very freeing image for me. I am immersed in the love of God. For years I had a fear of God’s real presence. I felt shame and guilt. I had a lot of self-pity and even self-hatred. But on the contemplative journey I have come more and more to rest in the love of God for me. Again remember “God does not love you as you should be, but as you are.” That is very freeing.