Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When pleasurable feelings fade

Every spiritual director is familiar with the disappointment many people feel when they once experienced religious ecstacy or delight only to have those feelings later disappear. It is hard to help the person who experiences this disappointment let go of the attachment to feelings and learn not to confuse such feelings with God. Martin Smith speaks to this:
The mystics teach us that God is responsible for weaning us off the early religious “highs.” In spite of the stress of feeling so much less spiritual than we used to, the disappointment that God no longer visits us in special moments of closeness and consolation and insight, the end of the honeymoon is for our good. It is an invitation to another stage of intimacy with God, a more mystical one. And by mystical we mean one marked by a deep intuition that God is in and around every experience, not just ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ experiences. The onset of a more mystical sense of God can only come when we give up identifying God with this or that special type of feeling or event. It dawns on us that God is not one of the actors in life’s drama, entering the stage one minute only to exit again. God is the theater and the play.
Feelings are fickle. Let us appreciate pleasant feelings when they come but not rely on them.

1 comment:

  1. How fascinating to identify religious "highs" as a honeymoon phase. So many things in life are identified as having a honeymoon phase (relationships, jobs, etc.), then we must move on to the work of every day life. The conversion experience of ecclesiastical churches would most definitely be a honeymoon phase. Yet, no one explains that just as in the rest of life that phase must pass and the work of recognizing and practicing spirituality in every day life must begin. What a wonderful concept.
    Thank you.


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