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Hark, Men of Athens

27 August 2007

qb’s been reflecting on the recent revelation – and the copious commentary that has ensued – that Mother Teresa served for thirty years or more during a long, suffocating, “dark night of the soul” in which she could not sense the presence of Christ and wondered if her faith was genuine, or even worth pursuing.

Where does a person get the energy and strength to persevere for decades in a situation like that? A couple of thoughts:

1. “Love never fails.” It always perseveres, always hopes, always trusts (I Corinthians 13). I guess it’s possible that Teresa had been so ravished by the love of Christ early in her walk, and His love cultivated so deeply in her spirit, that what ultimately became her love for others was sufficient to sustain her through years and years of God’s hiding from her (as she perceived it).

1a. “Now abide these three, faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13). When hope disappoints, and when faith fades, what is left? The love of Christ, the blood spilled, the body broken, the curses and contempt endured. And it is enough, somehow.

2. “He is not far from any of us…in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17). God’s presence does not depend on our ability to perceive it. The only way it can be perceived is by faith, which is the “substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In Teresa’s case, this ceases to be pious, religious, orthodox-sounding pap. It is the answer of Peter to Christ, when the Lord asked if they, too, were planning to check out on Him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

3. “…If perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17). Here is (one of) the pastoral implication(s). Are you surrounded by men who will steady your arms and your soul and give you the encouragement you need to keep groping for Him? Am I the kind of person who, seeing the one straying from the 99 others during an arid season of doubt, will draw upon that deep reservoir of Christ’s love, chase that one down and walk with him, providing at very least a cup of cold water to sustain him across Mordor, no matter how long it takes? Am I a Samwise Gamgee to the end, even the bitter end?

Grab your copy of _Divine Conspiracy_, if you have one, and read that Lewis excerpt at the front one more time. I am convinced that Teresa of Calcutta is a prime example of the threat that the love of Christ poses to the adversary’s schemes. Her faith shot through with many holes, and her hopes mocked by the withering realities of evil, still her love for those of low estate sustained her.

“By this,” Christ said, “shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

O Love that wilt not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee
I give Thee back the life I owe
That in Thine ocean’s depths its flow
May richer, fuller be

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Where are the hymns like that anymore? And to whom can we go to find someone who will preach this to us?


One Comment leave one →
  1. 27 August 2007 10:42 am

    Nice post. I look forward to reading more.

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