“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us…” John 17:21
The Christian mystics describe our journey with God as stages of growth. Though there are various differences and additions, depending on whom you read, the stages are generally 1) Awakening, 2) Purgation, 3) Illumination, and 4) Union. Though our Christian walk is a journey that is never fully culminated this side of death, it is also true there is a goal, to use Paul’s words, toward which we press: knowing and being known by God.
Awakening speaks of those initial rays of light that indicate there is something more than darkness. There is a God. He can be known. He desires me. He delights in me.
Purgation speaks of the stripping away of those things that keep me from knowing Him. It’s a process God is in charge of. He, alone, knows what keeps me from experiencing His loving presence. In modern vernacular, this stage is Deconstruction: the tearing down of all the false narratives that have been written on the wall of my life.
Illumination is the rewriting of the story. God’s divine narrative, the only true story, is engraved upon my heart a word, a sentence, a paragraph at a time until the story is fully told. The light grows brighter. Darkness continues to fade and the unique creation I am is increasingly revealed. It is necessary to be a willing partner in the process, but it is the work of God.
Union with God. Many attempts have been made by those who have traveled far on this journey to describe what union with God is like. Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich…and more recently Henri Nouwen, Evelyn Underhill, and other dearly devoted followers of Christ. I cannot write of this stage; only of my longings for it.
In recent months, a yearning grows; a desire to live a life of awareness, an uninterrupted heart-connectedness to One who is always present. It is already true that God will never be closer to me than He presently is. Christ’s prayer in John 17 has been answered. We are one with the Father as Jesus is one with the Father. Yet, my life often does not reflect that present reality. Father, Son, and Spirit abide in me. I am seeking to learn what it means to abide in Them, for in truth I am already there. In awareness and action, I lag behind.
It is so easy to default to learning language. I am seeking to learn what it means to abide in Them. I’m not sure it’s something you learn, at least not in the sense of knowledge. I’m pretty sure the learning has to do with allowing. I want to allow and embrace the work of God within my heart, a work I cannot do, a work I can simply embrace. The wind (Spirit) blows wherever it wills. We don’t see it. We only see its effects. The not seeing can sometimes be a problem for those of us who imagine we must always understand.
I believe Jesus lived this life as a human being who was constantly aware of His Father’s presence. I believe it is the life to which I am called. I believe it’s possible. My heart yearns for that life. Perhaps that’s what having Eternal Life means: uninterrupted communion with the Father, a communion that includes but is not dependent on words. I want to live there, consciously live there. Help me, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to live there.
As the deer longs for the water, O God, so my soul longs for you.