a necessary empty darkness

I no longer want just to hear about you, beloved Lord, through messengers. I no longer want to hear doctrines about You, nor to have my emotions stirred by people speaking of You. I yearn for Your presence.

John of the Cross (1542-1591)

Oftentimes when reading scripture I feel as dry as a bone I would say, or more commonly put, dry as dust. I feel no life, but one might say, death. I certainly feel empty, oppressively so.

John of the Cross, quoted above is the one who penned “the dark night of the soul.” He evidently knew much of that firsthand, certainly witnessed to again and again in scripture, Psalm 88 perhaps being as good of an example of that as one can find. Jesus evidently felt something of it at the cross, even though the crushing, even consuming darkness on him, was not the result of the Father abandoning the Son, something utterly impossible given the nature of the Triune God, although teachers of that traditional view would chalk it down to mystery. Jesus with the psalmist (Psalm 22) voiced his experience of utter inward deprivation and pain as he drank of the cup of judgment, which is death, in order that we may drink from the cup of salvation, which is life.

Perhaps that is part of the work of scripture, of God, to help us see just how wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked we are in ourselves (Revelation 3:14-22). And to keep us on the straight and narrow both in terms of our own desire, and our readiness to receive God’s grace in Jesus.

In this life, as is pictured (and more than that) in Holy Communion, we partake of the heavenly food, the body and blood of our Lord, again and again (John 6). Both by faith and by sharing in the broken bread and cup.

Just as in the beginning of creation, there was an empty darkness which needed filled (Genesis 1), so it is in the new creation. The emptiness and darkness seems to be both a part of the normal existence in this present life of the world, the flesh and the devil along with the fact that we still sin, that indeed we are still sinners. And with just the nature of the fact that it is God’s work which we are caught up in, and all depends on him, in whom we are dependent for everything.

And so I can take some solace in my ongoing regular dearth of experience, as well as delight in and gratitude for when God relieves that with the joy of his presence in and through Jesus.

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