In previous blogs I have referred to a threshold that men need to cross in their journey with the Lord. The threshold experience is not just a once and for all event. There will be many thresholds to cross. By faith we are being asked to cross over the threshold. It will bring darkness. Isaiah tells us, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Is50:10). Crossing over will mean a new level of trust. It is at this point that the words of Isaiah 12:2 become real, “I will trust and not be afraid.” Each threshold confronts us men with the truth that we are not in control, we do not know it all, and that we can not fix our spiritual life.
You can name crossing the threshold many things. I like to call it “the Dark night of the Soul.” The dark night is the classic explanation for crossing the threshold, given to us by John of the Cross in the 16th century. So how do you know you are being lead and ask by the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd to go with him to a better place, even though it bring fear and insecurity. There are three well recognized signs. Gerald May describes them this way. First, “the drying up of gratifications and the powerlessness to do anything about it.” Things are not working the way they used to work in your spiritual life. Secondly, “lack of deep-down motivation to return to the old ways.” A person senses that there is more to the spiritual life. Thirdly, the surest sign. “There is a deep heartfelt desire to be alone with God in fellowship with him.” There is unrest in the heart, yet a sense of peace that this is the way to go.
The great encouragement that I got from reviewing May’s book is the awareness that the dark night is a good thing, even a joyful experience. The dark night happens to us all. The reason we don’t recognize what is going on, is due to the fact that we have not been taught the truth of the dark night. This was true for me, when I first encountered this teaching over 20 years ago. Since then I have had to cross the threshold many times. In our culture we want to know and be in control. This easy spills over into our spiritual life, especially as men. But in the dark night we are not in control and we have to live with “obscurity.”
Listen to these encouraging words fromMay. The dark night, “is a deep transformation, a movement toward indescribable freedom and joy. And in truth it doesn’t always have to be unpleasant….The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely.” He further points out that John of the Cross has been seriously misinterpreted and misunderstood. The dark night is not a sinister or negative experience. “It is, instead, a deeply encouraging vision of the joys and pains we all experience in life.” So be encouraged, men. Beyond the darkness is the braking of the dawn and new life. But first we need to go in trust through the threshold and be lead into the darkness.