With Joyful Abandon
“Every act should be considered from the point of view not of its object but of its impulsion. The question is not ‘What is the aim?’ It is ‘What is the origin?’”
To write or not to write that is the question posed to me. Yet behind this question lies deeper existentialist questions such as ‘to live or not to live,’ ‘to become or not to become.’ I have pondered the idea of writing for years but have allowed myself to be assailed by innumerable doubts and fears. What shall I write about? To whom will I be writing? Will the content and style of writing be good enough? Unknowns such as these have plagued me. And they still do. Perhaps this is an odd first entry for a writing project but I would like to describe the origins of this writing and for whom it is intended.
I have read and re-read the above quote from Simone many times over the past several years. It popped into my head just yesterday as I was again grappling with the idea of writing, followed by a little bit of light and clarity. I have recently been sitting with?, considering?, asking for?…detachment. Detachment is a slippery state. The more one tries to grasp it, the more elusive it becomes. Indeed, it is a gift. According to Meister Eckhart, it is the “one thing necessary.” The turning of my attention to the origins and essence of my need to write allows me to become detached from the results. I can
focus on the source of the stream as opposed to the water itself.
Teresa of Avila has further prompted me recently with the surprisingly uplifting phrase joyful abandon. It is surprising for me to be coming from her. She urges her fellow sisters on the spiritual path to “remember to walk with joyful abandon.” What an image of true Christian detachment! I myself am more familiar with melancholy abandon. Joyful abandonment presupposes great trust and faith in God. It requires an image of the divine as a benevolent Source of goodness, charity, and friendship. Jeremiah encourages us to boast in this God who delights in “steadfast love, justice, and righteousness.” It is this loving Father who is the origin and source of all life and any spiritual endeavor. Teresa continues in saying, “Be confident; Don’t hold back your heart’s desires. Believe in the power of God.”
While detachment and joyful abandonment give me the freedom to write, a main impetus toward writing has been the encouragement of friends over the years. They have shared that maybe I have a gift in writing. I do not know that to be true, but I am learning that gifts are to be shared for the benefit of others. I desire to walk into that invitation with open hands. Maybe my words will be a gift to some. Maybe repulsive to others! Again, another surprise invitation from Saint Teresa. She advises those in the beginning stages of meditation and prayer to “not hide your talents.” Again, I do not know if this is a talent, but it might be the only thing in my life that could be considered a talent. Although I must profess a natural talent for melancholia.
I have discussed briefly what has helped me get to the beginning stages of writing. There are others as well which I can return to at another time. I have delayed in writing as I have wrestled with whom my intended audience will be. There are two audiences I would like to accompany on the journey. The two groups seem to be separated by a great chasm with no apparent interrelation but perhaps a connection will emerge. The first group are those on the spiritual path, primarily those following the contemplative tradition. I write so as to walk with you as a friend. I have practiced prayer and meditation for several years in the hopes of becoming drawn deeper into intimacy with God. Those who choose to walk this path know that it is a dark path. It necessarily leads one into unknowing and poverty of spirit. I recall Thomas Merton remarking after years of being in the monastery that upon his entrance into the monastery he felt that he had many answers but that now he did not have any answers. I find this to be true. It is not that we do not have answers but that our previous ones have proven inadequate. A deeper, more intimate knowledge of God involves, by necessity, the letting go of ideas and experiences that are less than Him. And everything is less than when compared to the divine being. Even though we may not have “answers,” it is vitally important to share in friendship our experiences of God. For in the mystical body of Christ all gifts are for the community.
You might now have guessed at the content and origins of this project. I would boil it down to Christian mysticism. It will not be an extensive, organized survey or academic study of the subject. If you are looking for that, please read Thomas Merton or Evelyn Underhill. It is my firm belief that true Christianity is a mystical religion. We will talk about mysticism in more detail, but what I mean, in short, by mystical is that the divine Source of all existence desires intimate friendship with us. It is in Christ that this friendship develops as He reveals the nature of God to us. Throughout the ages, certain individuals have especially accepted the divine invitations into friendship with God. We tend to call these people mystics and saints. We will meet some of these people and discuss their lives and works.
This leads me to the other group of people whom I hope to encourage. In many ways, they are the primary audience. These are people who deeply desire God and love God yet find themselves unwanted by religion, or perhaps find religion undesirable. The beautiful truth which Christ reveals is that “there is that of God in everyone” and that this God desires friendship with you and I. We all, regardless of race, nationality, religion, are created in the image of God and there is deep within us all a secret, eternal divine spark. We must tend to and cultivate this spark. I hope we can find ways to discover and rediscover the spark. It is this spark which is the origin of these writings.
Let us walk with joyful abandon in the knowledge that you promise us friendship through and with Christ. Let us remember that when you promise bread you do not give a stone.
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"Worship the Lord in
the beauty of holiness"
Mr. Russell Tillman