The Beauty of Transformation
I would much rather dwell on how much God loves and accepts me just as I am. Or contemplate the wonder of creation and goodness of the Creator. But sometimes instead of the beauty of the spiritual life, the tall, green forest of the empowering grace of the Spirit and the majestic mountains of oneness with God, the Spirit urges me to look down. The words of St. Paul, “I fail to carry out the things I want to do and I find myself doing the very things I hate” come to mind. And I feel led by the Spirit to explore my fragmentation within, to enter the territory of my own shadow. As scary as this may be, there are real treasures I have found in such times, the gifts of new awareness, fresh perspectives, deeper compassion, and more wholeness.
“We so much want to be whole and finished that our greatest temptation is to think and hope that the task is done. Embarrassed as we all are at the wounds we bear and the scars hidden at the bottom of our being, we only reluctantly admit our vulnerability.” John Kavanaugh, S.J
On the floor of the forest lies the dark decaying humus that feeds those tall majestic trees. And somewhere deep within the earth lie hidden the forces of heat and destruction from which majestic mountain ranges emerged over time. I am reminded of the wind and extreme weather that sanded, filed and shaped the stone that forms the magnificent peaks. New creation is born out of these apparent dark and cataclysmic but natural processes. Likewise the pain and humiliation of recognizing where I am weak and broken is necessary and even formational.
My experience is that grace and beauty abound everywhere, and sometimes especially in places I did not want to go, both figuratively and literally. While I still believe that transformational moments can come through peak experiences of the Divine, I also accept the more common purgative way, the slow process of recognizing my tendencies that lead me toward “the very things I hate.” And while our inclinations toward the myriad of temptations to selfishness, arrogance, control, ambition, greed, competitiveness and pettiness are dark, being tempted is somehow part of human experience. And so I have developed at least in part some compassion for these and for myself. I am not content to be less than all I can be, but I am hopeful as I keep opening myself to further growth. I want to believe that although the pace is slow I am evolving toward goodness, truth and beauty.
The view from the mountain top is glorious, but the grass is thin. From time to time, to be feed the sheep must go down into the valley where the grass is thick and green. Perhaps it is the Good Shepherd, that face of God I call the Spirit, who leads us into the valley of our own darkness, a place where we can grow.