Tuesday, June 15

The Dark Night – Prayerful Tuesday


I watched a PBS program the other night about Shakespeare’s Macbeth and one insight of the host made me sit up and take notice.  The play of Macbeth, as Shakespeare tells it, is about the ego. You see Macbeth let his own and his wife’s ego control his life and I resonate with that. As of late I am wrestling with my own ego issues. Now I doubt I am going to go and kill anyone to get ahead, although metaphorically speaking I may have done that already, but right now I am trying to separate my desires from the desires of God.  To be honest I don’t think I’m doing a very good job.  The question I ask myself (ok questions) ‘is what I want what God wants for me and from me,’ or ‘am I telling God what I want and just assuming that it is what God wants to do.’

You see telling the difference between those two things is really very difficult.  God doesn’t speak in direct ways. Rather, God speaks through the voices of those I love, the actions of others, or my own emotional response to things, but God never makes a telephone call, writes an e-mail, or even makes a Facebook® post, as much as I would appreciate that.  Sitting in silence and letting go of my expectations is wonderful but how long do I sit before I begin to wonder if anyone listening?

So how do proceed?  Well for me it is learning (and re-learning over and over again) patience and letting go of the necessity to be anything other than who I am.  That doesn’t mean I have no ambition it just means that I begin by changing how I view the world around me.  Is the world here for my benefit or am I here for the worlds?   If I am here to benefit the world than what I do should provide those around me with the love, compassion, kindness, justice and peace that God calls me to offer without expecting  a reward or recognition.  For me, as I’m sure everyone else, that is hard to do, we are, after all, ‘required’ to list our skills and what we have done with those skills whenever we apply for job or even volunteer.  I’m not sure putting down my skill as “walking with God” (Micah 6:8) is enough for most people. So that is my dilemma, how do tell the difference between “walking with God” and a desire for getting ahead in this world.

Life is rarely simple and well defined and looking for answers by sitting and listening for a ‘word’ from God is not an easy thing to do.  Currently, I am in one of the proverbial ‘dry places’ in my prayer and spiritual life that happens to all of us. I am questioning whether God is even listening to me, or even if there is a God. Such questions and doubts are difficult to face and are frightening to think I may have wasted my life in pursuit of God.  All I can do is continue to sit in silence and wait; to practice praying the scriptures and pray for an insight; and to pray the call of blind Bartimaeus “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:42). Instead of worrying about not ‘hearing’ from God I ‘should’ understand this is a time for me to rest and let silence enfold me and let the silence create its own richness and prayers that I cannot speak. And maybe I have to remember that I do not have to pursue God.  God actually sits near by waiting for me to surrender my ego and open the eyes of my heart to that Divine presence.  It is remembering prayer isn’t about receiving answers it is about sitting with God, creating space for God to move in my life in ways my ego will never understand.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 1, 2014


  • I would suggest that coming to know “what God wants” is an exercise in futility. The best you can hope for — and this is, IMHO, a real mark of maturity — is to finally come to know what you REALLY want, as distinct from (maybe even opposed to) what you THOUGHT you wanted. It takes a lot of interior work to even know what YOU *** REALLY *** want. Add what GOD wants into the mix, and the merely difficult becomes the impossible. Phuket after we were married, my wife & I bent ourselves out of shape trying to discern “God’s will” & in the process embarked on a near-disastrous 5-year process of moving to Boston, me getting a PhD & MDiv, long periods of (perhaps pre-suicidal) depression … all to “discern God’s will”. It damn near left my wife a widow & in the end accomplished nothing. We finally both said “Screw it”, “converted” to (at least functional) atheism, and stopped worrying about what God wants & started concentrating on what WE want. God’s silence and God’s non-existence are functionally indistinguishable.

    • I guess I agree with St John of the Cross that times of spiritual darkness and silence have their own richness and attributes. Yes I doubt, but that’s OK, doubting has always led me deeper into my faith and in long term that has been what is most important to me. When I do have a spiritual emptiness I know I slow down and become more mindful of the world around me. It will be in my relationships with all creation, human and non-human, where I again feel the presence of God. I also think there is value in searching for what God wants of me and, truth comes out here, I don’t think it matters that I never actually discover it until I meet God face to face when I crossover. It really is all about the journey and not the destination that is important. The mystery that surrounds that journey is what inspires me to continue on. One of the benefits of contemplation is enjoying the journey. Thank you for your comments they challenged me to think about this.

    • That’s certainly a perfectly valid stance for someone who thinks in religious terms, as I have dim memories of once doing. I no longer think in terms of holy or God, at least in a transcendently religious sense. I pretty much live in this phenomenal world & in the “noumenal” world of values & priorities humans build thereon. For me — I say again: FOR ME — that’s healthier than engaging in the “paper chase” of “finding God”. For me — again: FOR ME — that latter only leads to frustration followed by depression. Which for me is not progress.

  • In my ups & downs I hold onto my belief that all God wants of me is to learn and love in whatever endeavor I choose. Without learning there is no progress – without loving there is no humanity.

    Thank you for your raw and wonderful post.

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