Bleak winters

“In the lives of those who believe and pray, there are bleak winters of the spirit.  We seem to go along well for a while in prayer and relationships and life generally, but from time to time we disintegrate.  It is very painful.  You may suspect that this will prove to be a creative disintegration, that God is re-creating you, putting you together in the likeness of his Son at a new and deeper level.  Certainly this does happen: growth is not easy; there is a probably distressing period for the caterpillar on the way to butterflyhood.  We are all participants in this experience from time to time, and a chrysalis needs sympathetic understanding, so we should be gentle and patient with ourselves, as with others.  Nevertheless, they are hard to live through, these winters of the spirit.  When you know yourself to be sterile, helpless, unable to deal creatively with your situation or change your own heart, you know your need for a Savior, and you know what Advent is.  God brings us to these winters, these dreary times of deadness and emptiness of spirit, as truly as he brings winter after autumn, as a necessary step towards next spring.  But while we are in them they feel like a real absence of God, or our absence from him. . . . .In the winters of your prayer, when there seems to be nothing but darkness and a situation of frozenness, hold on, wait for God.  He will come.”  (Maria Boulding)

I hope this provides encouragement for you.  Know that I’m praying for you . . . all of you who “know what Advent is.”

A longing for God (repost)

For the past few Advents, I have pulled the same book off the shelf to read: The Coming of God by Maria Boulding.  It is, by far, the meatiest book I have ever read for Advent.  She goes right to the heart of the reason for this season: longing for God–and that longing being indisputable evidence of the prior longing of God for us.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the book:

If you want God, and long for union with him,  yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes.  If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that yo have no strength even to want him, yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life.  If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn into the central mystery of salvation.

Your hope is not a mocking dream: God creates in human hearts a huge desire and a sense of need, because he wants to fill them with the gift of himself.  It is because his self-sharing love is there first, forestalling any response or prayer from our side, that such hope can be in us.  WE cannot hope until we know, however obscurely, that there is something to hope for; if we have had no glimpse of a vision, we cannot conduct our lives with vision.  And yet we do: there is hope in us, and longing, because grace was there first.  God’s longing for us is the spring of ours for him.

So take a moment, look for that desire in your heart however buried it might seem, and simply say, “Come.”

The self-gift of God

None of us are excluded from God’s gift of Himself.

Creation is shot through with the self-gift of God . . . Grace is the initiative of God, his self-offer that is prior to any kind of movement towards him by the creature.  It is sheer gift, bestowed wherever human beings do not finally close themselves against him and refuse his love.

The gift of God is for the poor, the needy, the empty.  It is for those who are too poor to recognize or identify their need.  It is for those who do know their need, and hunger and thirst for him.  It is for those who do not even suspect the depth of tenderness with which they are loved, yet are potentially open.  God is most known as God when he gives to the undeserving, when he fills the hungry with good things, lifts up the downtrodden, transforms hopeless situations and brings life out of death.  His gift is most typically not the crowning of our achievements, but wealth for the bankrupt and power at the service of the weak. (Maria Boulding)

Discontent

A lot to reflect on in this passage by Maria Boulding.  Hope you can make the time to read it slowly . . . and to find hope for yourselves and others in it:

There is a discontent in us that can be partly stifled by material satisfactions, but some experiences tend to awaken it.  It may be roused by beauty, or by love, by great pain or by the nearness of death.  It can surface easily in times  of silence when we try to confront the mystery of ourselves and wonder about God.

If you have ever known this discontent and pondered the mysteries and contradictions of the human condition, it is of consequence to both yourself and others that you hope, expect and listen in silence to the word of God who is himself attuning you to hear.  Your silent listening through prayer, through people and through events will be very personal; it may seem very solitary, but it is not.  You are the answering readiness, the receptivity, without which even today God cannot give as he longs to give.  Our noisy, busy world has little time to listen and wait; and–what is worse–it is starved of hope.  So many hopes disappoint, and people are afraid of being disappointed yet again.  It is when we reach the brink of despair that hope grounded in God has a chance, because there is nothing else left.  The modern world can surely not be far from the brink.

Then it may be

“When people are making demands on you and you feel drained and empty; when you have to speak and you have not had the time you wanted to prepare; when God calls you to a task for which you know yourself inadequate; when you feel humiliated and foolish because some undertaking in which you did your honest best has turned out disastrously–then it may be, to your astonishment, someone will tell you that you helped most, did your most fruitful work.  When our ego is humbled and not obstructing, God’s creative Spirit can often have freer play.  Like the bare trees, it may be that we allow the glory to shine through at these times more purely than in our summer prosperity.”  (Maria Boulding)

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Longing for God

For the past few Advents, I have pulled the same book off the shelf to read: The Coming of God by Maria Boulding.  It is, by far, the meatiest book I have ever read for Advent.  She goes right to the heart of the reason for this season: longing for God–and that longing being indisputable evidence of the prior longing of God for us.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the book:

If you want God, and long for union with him,  yet sometimes wonder what that means or whether it can mean anything at all, you are already walking with the God who comes.  If you are at times so weary and involved with the struggle of living that yo have no strength even to want him, yet are still dissatisfied that you don’t, you are already keeping Advent in your life.  If you have ever had an obscure intuition that the truth of things is somehow better, greater, more wonderful than you deserve or desire, that the touch of God in your life stills you by its gentleness, that there is a mercy beyond anything you could ever suspect, you are already drawn into the central mystery of salvation.

Your hope is not a mocking dream: God creates in human hearts a huge desire and a sense of need, because he wants to fill them with the gift of himself.  It is because his self-sharing love is there first, forestalling any response or prayer from our side, that such hope can be in us.  WE cannot hope until we know, however obscurely, that there is something to hope for; if we have had no glimpse of a vision, we cannot conduct our lives with vision.  And yet we do: there is hope in us, and longing, because grace was there first.  God’s longing for us is the spring of ours for him.

So take a moment, look for that desire in your heart however buried it might seem, and simply say, “Come.”