The Christian mystic Hildegrad von Bingen thought of herself as being “a feather on the breath of God.” I read this quote in David Benner book “Soulful Spirituality.” In this very helpful book on the spiritual life, Benner is making the point that the Spirit of God invites us to live “in the place of airy spaciousness and lightness of being.” I personally was struck by the idea of “spaciousness and lightness of being.” Much of my spiritual journey as been heaviness, in which I have worked hard at being “spiritual,” while trying to understand what is going on in my soul. I would say that a lot of men reading this blog are in the same place as I have been in for most of my life. Your journey is one of “heaviness” rather then “lightness.” The words of Jesus seem far from our experience, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
It is not healthy for our spiritual life when our journey becomes to substantial, that is, weighed down with our performance and understanding. We can become burdened by our need to cling to our understanding, our explainations, our experiences, our habits and disciplines, and our beliefs. These all can weigh us down and close us off from the awarenss of God “real presence” in our lives. This mayh produce a be a kind of heaviness that will discourage a man to the point of either giving up or “going into coast.”
What we need to embrace is “a spirituality of lightness” in which we practice a detachment from our need to know and control our relationship and understanding of God. “Real faith,” says Benner, “is rooted in being willing to acknowledge our fundamental inability to know much about ultimate things.” We learn to become content with living in a “cloud of unknowing.” A lightness is produced in our souls when we can learn to trust God as a little child. Jesus tells us, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little Children.” Our task is to let go and let God do his work, becoming like a weaned child.
Further, Benner makes this remarkable statement. “Authentic spirituality grows out of emptiness , not fullness.” Because we often are so full with our own thoughts, experiences, and emotion, we are not aware of our deeper hunger for God. along with being aware of his still, small voice. We are so weighed down with our own understanding of ourselves and God, that we are not able to experience “actual lightness of being.” There can be men reading this blog today, who have been trying hard to be a “spiritual” and “godly” man. But it can be more of your doing, and not that of the Spirit’s work in your life.” Don’t be afraid of seeming empty. If your focus is on Jesus and your intent is to know him, he will keep filling you. But the hunger and longing to know God more will always persist. Beware when you think you are filled spiritually. That is an illusion of your own making.
“Spirituality that supports the human journey,” observes Benner, “will always be rooted in a life that is open to the vitalizing and transformative breath of the Spirit and to the mysteries of life and faith.” A posture such as this will leave room for mystery and the surprises of God in our lives. So men, I encourage you to ponder the reality of lightness in your walk with God. Embrace the reality of being empty. Pray for a heart that can trust what God is doing in your heart. Embrace the longing that produces that emptiness in your soul. God will continue to fill you with his presence.