As I've mentioned, I'm working with JtM to teach a class about the book God is Closer than You Think. Wednesday, as we were preparing for class, my brother-in-law sent me a link to a Time magazine article about Mother Teresa. I'm betting that you've heard of this -- I saw several blog articles across the web about it.
Much of the lesson on Wednesday was concerning scriptures in which God could be scene to be very close to someone. The article above was a great counterpoint -- reminding us that even the most "saintly" of us can feel far from God.
In case you haven't read the article or heard about the story, Mother Teresa's personal communications have been released. When she first began to know that God was calling her to serve the poor in India, she records conversations with Jesus, where she could write down what he told her and what she said to him. She wrote, as she began her ministry, “My soul at present is in perfect peace and joy.” Shortly after that, she begins recording decades of loneliness, when she did not feel this personal presence of God. In writing to Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, she says, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” In August 1959, “Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?” She didn’t “feel” Christ, but she served Christ. What surprised me the most: “If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.” I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” The “sacrifice involved is infinite”. She would suffer through eternity to serve others, if that is God’s will.
Does it bother you that Mother Teresa expresses that she could not feel the presence of God? I think it is incredibly sad that she would feel such loneliness, but the idea that she experienced such distance from God while continuing to serve him, comforts me. It says to me that those times when we feel distant from God are not to be taken as unusual or an indication of something that we have done wrong.
I also wonder this -- she had such a close and intimate relationship with Jesus as she began working with the poor in India -- close enough that she could record conversations. Could it be that from the time when she began to stop feeling God that she was actually experiencing a relationship with God similar to what we have? Could the contrast between the blessing she was given early in her life and her experience with God after that was so dramatic that she interpreted life similar to ours as a desert of God's absence?
I don't know. But I do think it is amazing that she continued in her ministry even as she felt God's absence so keenly. Our faith is not to be based on our emotions. There will be times when we do not feel close to God. But he is there, and we cannot stop believing in him when we don't feel his presence.
This evening was J's birthday. My baby is eleven today! He has begun band in Middle school. Tonight we handed him the trumpet, and he made a trumpet sound. He wanted to play the trumpet (his dad and his brother play the trumpet) and we worried how he would do it with the limited movement he has in his right arm. But Steve just handed him the instrument, told him how to hold it, and poof -- he did. Trumpet noises began.
Images: Shrek birthday cake and a new trumpeter.