How often do we need to be shaken out of our complacency or even out of our mountain top experiences? Truly following Christ will constantly rock our world to greater and greater joy.
I think about Moses seeing the burning bush. He had eschewed the pleasures of the palace and "was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian" (Exodus 3:1) when he happened upon an astonishing sight and was compelled, like people in a horror movie, to investigate. He had settled into his life and was content; a wife, a wealthy and well connected Father-in-law, even hopes of becoming the patriarch himself one day.
The blessings of God are not a reward for living His will but are a natural part of it. They can bring contentment, joy, peace.
But joy is not complacency. If we keep at it, the experience of God can also show us the darkness that still surrounds us, even though we are bathed in his marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9b); God is an ever brightening light in a dark and fallen world.
At the same time that can cause fear, a sense that there is no stability in the world. But these are the fears of the devil, the temptation in the desert. Think of it that way: in the midst of the privation of the desert, Jesus finds the fullness of God. But it is not a journey that ended at that moment -- there is always a deeper place to go where the marvels of God await us, as well as a deepening of the call that goes with it: a deeper call to bend our will to God's will.
Thus we quite easily and spontaneously come to spend much of the time...in these smooth flights of simple repose, gliding through the verses of the Psalms with our hearts absorbed in a simple gaze upon the God Who is invisible but near, and Whose love now holds us captive by its unworldly charm. But it also happens – and this is rarer – that under the pressure of a very great love, or in the darkness of a conflict that exacts a heroic renunciation of our whole self, or in the ecstasy of a sudden joy that does not belong to this earth, the soul will be raised out of itself. It will come face to face with Christ. In an experience that might be likened to a flash of dark lightning, a thunderclap over the surface of the abyss, its eyes will be opened and it will know him and he will vanish from its sight. This momentary blaze of recognition is not produced by a created species or image in the soul. It is the flash of a flame that is touched off by an immediate contact of the substance of the soul with God himself. In one terrific second that belongs not to time but to eternity, the whole soul is transfixed and illumined by the tremendous darkness which is the light of God.
– Thomas Merton, Bread in the Wilderness
Things to Think About