53. Intimacy with God.
The first time, about five years ago, I didn't really get it but now I think I do and it's glorious.
What struck me today is his thoughts on illusion, concupiscence and weakness of will.
I had to look up concupiscence. It means 'ardent, usually sensual, longing.'
The illusion part means that even though we humans are what Keating calls 'irresistibly programmed for for boundless happiness in a way that is inherent in human nature,' we do not know where happiness is to be found.
The concupiscence part means that we seek happiness in all the wrong places—or too much of it in the right places (the latter as in over-doing it in addictions).
That's what 'repentance' actually means: to look for happiness in a different direction from the one we've been trying and which has failed us so often.
And to cap it all, even if we do find the path to true happiness, we are too weak-willed actually to do very much about it.
That's because it takes effort ... and it takes us out of the tribe/family/social expectancy. We are trained very early to need control, esteem and security at the cost of our joy.
A very simple example would be my Mum who, yesterday, was on the phone, wanting 'a result' from the intravenous vitamin C therapy. Trust me, Mum, I want a result as much as you do ... and I think that there is one beginning but I don't want to say too much right now.
But Mum's reaction to that was, 'Yes, but what am I going to tell people?'
She has done brilliantly coping with my alternative viewpoint so far but she really, really needs to have positive news to relay back to her church where they are praying for me. After all, it's her church; it has to work and it has to have results. Otherwise what use is it?
She can't necessarily see that the prayers, the healing and all the love that is coming my way (and I can feel it—I really can, it's palpable) are working. But they are working on my soul and bringing me closer to God.
Yes, my body will respond to that level of joy but in its own time.
But, on the phone, I feel that powerful call to say the 'right' thing; to reassure her that it's all working. To make her world better rather than mine. To sacrifice my truth to serve the truth that she wants. In my childhood, I was taught that this was the way to get approval and approval made me (temporarily) happy. I learnt to lie to get that approval because it was the only happiness on offer to me at the time.
But not now. I do not play those games any more. I can tell her quite clearly that there are signs that there may be some improvement but it is too early to be sure. She questions me closely so, instead, I tell her that my soul is healing.
She says, 'there's nothing wrong with your soul. I still don't understand why you, of all people, got this'—as in 'you're a priest and a good woman—and most importantly my daughter—so you shouldn't have this kind of challenge.'
Actually, I'm probably exactly the kind of person who will get this kind of challenge. I gave my life to God a long time ago and I am on a journey to keep giving it, and giving it, and giving it.
I can't not give my life to God. That doesn't mean I understand God because I don't ... but that I want to get closer, and closer to God and to let go of my need to even try to understand. I just want to be in the Kingdom. That journey doesn't end with faith. It begins with a loss of faith.
As Thomas Keating writes: "If God did not seem to disappear, how many of us would keep going [on the spiritual journey]? The worst thing that can happen to us is to settle in an oasis under a palm tree. Growth is the challenge of the gospel ... Spirit keeps inviting us to new levels of surrender, faith and love.'
He goes on to say (I'm paraphrasing here) yes, you thought you'd dealt with all that rubbish. But God is asking you to deal with it again at a deeper level; at a really wholly cleansing level. Are you woman enough to do that?
Yes, I am.
I know now that even if nothing I believe about the goodness and love and compassion of God is true, I will still believe in it because that in itself is the Kingdom of God. It's called Puddleglum Theology after the character in C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair. Puddleglum and the children are held captive underground by a witch who is lulling them with drugged scent to stay in the comfort with her rather than struggle to get back to Narnia [the Kingdom]. This is what he says:
'Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.'