I love the summer because it gives me more time to do two of my favorite things. The first is to read abundantly and the second is to write without interruption. In my world, a significant part of my time in the fall, winter, and spring is spent teaching, engaging students in discussions, presenting at conferences, and scheduling individual meetings to walk with people in their psychological and spiritual journeys. The summer is my reprieve and time to reconnect with the things that recharge my batteries, so I can pour myself out for others the rest of the year.
This summer I picked up a book I read a long time ago by Stephen Rossetti called When the Lion Roars: A Primer for the Unsuspecting Mystic. The book breaks down some wonderful spiritual truths about the mystical life and over the next few BLOG entries I want to elaborate on some of these ideas. Today I want to briefly explore what it means to see the spiritual life as a pure gift. This is such an important part of deepening our walk with the divine because we often think the mystical life is something we earn through various practices, readings, meditations, and exercises. If you look at any book store, regardless of religion or culture, many of the books about deepening your spiritual life present exercises for you to follow, meditations to ponder, and places for you to make retreats to deepen your spiritual life. The truth is none of this is necessary. Some of it can be helpful, but in the end, none of it is necessary. We like to think these are requirements for the spiritual life because we can puff up our spiritual pride and say, “I have achieved enlightenment and communion with God.” However, that perspective reflects our desire to control the mystery rather than letting it unfold as God intends. We need to feel in control and that’s one of the first issues to overcome when seeking a deeper spiritual life. The spiritual life of the mystic is one in which the control is given back to God, not kept in the clutch of one’s hand. The mystical life is a pure grace given to us by God without any effort of our own. The mystical life is a life of receptivity, not intense activity.
This is a difficult concept for so many of us. We believe the spiritual life is like the physical life where we perform exercises to gain strength, flexibility, and agility. There are some parallels spiritual writers make comparing athletic exercises to spiritual exercises but overall, the spiritual life is a life of “active receptivity.” Active receptivity is letting go of our preconceived ideas so that God can fill us with himself. It is a life of letting go of the illusion of control and embracing the truth of God’s providence. When we believe we can “do” certain things like spiritual exercises and meditations to make God more profoundly present in our lives we view ourselves as magicians and not seekers of the divine. Yet, when we realize the mystical life is about actively releasing our lives, futures, possessions, and goals to press more closely into the God who is already present with us, we take the first step toward the mystical life. Rosetti says it like this:
“God is boundless generosity. Tasting God is purely a gift. We only need to open our hearts and hands to receive the gift. This is the first lesson and it’s the last lesson.”
For those of you reading this seeking a more mystical, evangelical, and profoundly transformative experience of God, give up. When you try and grasp something you are doing so through your own selfish motivation. Rather than seek God with a goal in mind, just surrender. Actively surrender to the experience of God and let him be the pure essence of grace; a profoundly priceless gift for you to receive. It is only when we recognize the pure grace of God’s life and its overabundant blessings being poured into us that we can receive it. Lesson one, see God and everything he gives you as a gift of himself and be emptied of your small ways to be filled with his greatness. You don’t have to be a monk or great spiritual master to be a mystic, just a willing receiver of a profound gift.