Letters to Jesus (Similes, Metaphors & Paradoxes)- 13
I have written to You many times before about things that strike me as paradoxes of the spiritual life. A study of individual directives and paths within the context of a Christian life might aptly be titled, The Paradoxes of Christianity.
One I’ve thought about lately is what strikes me as a paradox from the contemplative life style. St. John of the Cross and others have written extensively about an essential emptying of one’s self of all desires so that being empty we might be filled with You. What seems like a paradox here is that in so doing we are, in fact, exercising an amazingly strong desire of the self. Does that desire, because it is self-generated, get in the way of its object? I mean, it cannot be denied that at some points in our spiritual journey we generate from the center of our selves desires to seek You in different ways and desires to grow spiritually closer to You and to others in our lives, and desires to learn how to love. Are these desires in conflict with our efforts to rid ourselves of desires?
I want to say these are the only desires we should have and nurture, but, at the same time, I can see how self creeps into such desires and how a total emptying of even these allows for greater facility in recapturing for You the space they occupy in us. Our desires emanate from no other place but the self and are unavoidably filtered through it. I think the gifts of Your grace place the efficacious desires in our consciousness. It therefore becomes important for us to be able to discern efficacious desires from frivolous ones. The spiritually efficacious ones may come not so much from ourselves as from somehow being instilled in us by You.
The paradox of desires is ameliorated by prayer and discernment, yet even then we have doubts that our self is not somehow involved. It is at this point that we abandon such doubts and trust You.