Day 6 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
And so it is when we face dark hours and doubt all that we have believed, even ourselves. What an awful, empty, gut-wrenching feeling it is.
We retreat, withdrawing ourselves from all that we have known, and find ourselves in a vast, spiritual desert.
We begin asking ourselves all the ancient and eternal questions that have plagued mankind since the beginning. “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Why is this happening to me?” “Where do I go from here?” “What does all of this mean?” And so on. The internal world with which we were familiar and comfortable is all thrown into question and off balance. What happened to our foundation?
Too many times we approach spirituality the way John did. We try to deduce the meaning of life or the meaning of our existence using intellectual knowledge alone. And the moment our “beliefs” are challenged, the way the Pharisee challenges John, we are thrown into chaos and we bolt.
Maybe that’s because we aren’t completely sure of what it is we “believe,” which is why John probably doesn’t engage the Pharisee. John isn’t prepared to answer the Pharisee’s question of “Where is your master whom you followed?” His foundation is rocked, and he loses his footing.
The Pharisee doesn’t stop there. He adds insult to injury when he tells John that his master “has filled your ears with lies, he has closed your heart, and turned you from the tradition of your fathers.” In other words, his master turned him into something unrecognizable. All John hears is, “You are worthless. You have turned against us. You have abandoned your traditions. Loser!” Fight or flight. John chooses to flee and to go lick his wounds in private.
How many times have we done this?
How many times have we taken criticism as a personal attack?
But fleeing sometimes has its advantages, especially as we begin our journey.
Alone in this newfound darkness of the desert, we find ourselves “grieving greatly” and “[crying] aloud.” To whom? We scream and yell in anger, directing our questions and emotions toward “something” or “someone” in the hopes that we will be heard. In John’s case, he questions his savior’s whole purpose. But the deeper issue for John is the sense of abandonment he feels by his savior. He is a broken man.
How many times have we felt abandoned by those whom we loved and trusted?
Our intellectual knowledge can only tell us what something is, not what it means. It will only carry us so far.
Then somehow in the midst of our breakdown we breakthrough.
In the empty space we have created through our solitude, “the heavens [open],” and truth appears, bringing us the enlightenment we need to carry on. Our “teacher” appears in a new form, one we have never expected.
Whatever the form, we come to understand the “message” meant for us. It becomes transparent and visible all in one, one that is outside of ourselves and yet within us; it is all things when it says, “I am the Father. I am the Mother. I am the Son.” We see through the veils of reality, beyond what is, to what is yet to come. This is a new knowledge, an inner knowing, one that bypasses all intellectual understanding.
This is the language of the heart.
Through this dark night, we realize that the desert in which we find ourselves is holy ground.
In the words of Terry Tempest Williams, “If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide, and so we are found.” We discover that the Truth has been there all along and will always be there, even when we have our doubts.