When a man moves beyond the threshold, where by faith he begins to move from that which is within his control, where he had some understanding, where he could rely on some familiar signposts, and now begins to sink into his heart, he will now be out of control, sometimes in darkness, and will not often understand. It will be one of the most difficult aspects of the contemplative journey. Our mind will rebel and sometimes almost flee from going into that which is unknown. We have been conditioned by what Robert Mulholland calls a “objectivizing, informational-functional culture.” He quotes Parker Palmer – “We are well-educated people who have been schooled in a way of knowing that treats the world as an object to be dissected and manipulated, a way of knowing that gives us power over the world….[We] have used [our] knowledge to rearrange the world to satisfy [our] drive for power, distorting and deranging life rather than loving it for the gift it is.” We become “graspers,” “manipulators,” and “controllers.” All of this dies a slow death on the contemplative path.
Coming to the place of letting go and sinking into our hearts, will produce fear. I can not say it too strongly, men. We will have to face our fears. Our mind which does so much analyzing, judging and labeling will have to come to rest in God. But there is good news about this fear. You are not your feelings or your thoughts about your feelings. Fearful thoughts are all part of our false self. The reaction of fear is based not on reality, but our subjective view of our circumstances. Remember fear is a deep inner emotion that we would rather not face. For me to realize that I could face my deepest fears and know that they were not part of my true self in Christ was truly freeing. Thomas Keating reminds us, “Fear…as an emotion, is not us. When we say, ‘I’m afraid,’ this is not true. We should rather say, ‘I have feelings of fear.'” It is vital to understand that we are able in the silence of “sinking” into our hearts to become disconnected from our feelings. We become observers of our emotions, rather then letting them define us. A key verse in this whole process of learning to deal with fear is I John. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” ( I John 4:18). When we sink into our hearts, we are sinking into the love of God that will bring us to peace and rest
What has helped me tremendously is to come to the understanding that when I am in Christ I am also in relationship to myself. That is, I have the ability in Christ to observe myself through my relationship with Him. I can see myself through a new set of eyes; my spiritual eyes. This means that from a spacious place provided by my union with Christ within my hearts, I am able to look objectively at all my diseased emotions and distorted thinking. “Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught” ( I John 2:27 – The Message).
So in regards to my fear of letting go and being in the darkness of not knowing, I can learn to just rest in this state. With the help and discernment of the Holy Spirit I can see the reactions of my false self wanting to take over the spiritual agenda of my spiritual journey. Remember the words of Paul when He tells us, “Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life” (Romans 8:7 – The Message). Beyond the threshold, God is helping us to get beyond the obsession with ourselves.
So my encouragement to that one man who is struggling to go forth, being lead by the Spirit, following the desire and yearning to experience to love of God, remember that your mind wants to be in control. It will put up a big fight. Your mind will react in a number of negative ways, causing your emotions to bring you into a grip of fear and anxiety. But this is not your true self in Christ. You are being lead by the Spirit to move beyond the practice of simply thinking about God and practicing spiritual habits. God want you to come to rest in his love, allowing you to experience a spacious place within where you can observe the patterns of your old nature, learning to let them go, and embrace the knowledge that comes through love. Don’t give up, my friend!!! Stay on the journey. The darkness and the unknown needs to be a part of your experience. God desires impart to you His life, that is beyond thinking and normal experience