We often think of mystics as people who are sort of out of this world: dreamy, irrational, not grounded in ordinary life. Yet the utter honesty of mystics upsets that perception. If anything, a mystic such as Umiltà, whom we quoted on Monday, or St. Catherine of Siena or St. Teresa of Avila, apparently had a very strong sense of reality. They speak bluntly at times; I love that Umiltà said, “I need You to tell me what I’m supposed to ask You for. I just don’t know.” She sounds a bit frustrated. She goes on to say, “You’re not unaware of the sadness in my heart.” That’s a polite way of saying, “You already know what’s going on—so what are you waiting for?”
I think that mystics have been given glimpses of the whole reality of things. Across religious traditions we hear them speak of great peace and unity and mercy and overwhelming wisdom. Once you are convinced of that overwhelming God-ness and wisdom and beauty, you can afford to call a thing what it is. In a Facebook post recently, I stated that I didn’t know how God is near to the brokenhearted in the Philippines right now, with thousands dead and millions bereft of property, help, or care. At my core, I believe that God is good and that the universe is fueled by Divine Love. So I can complain and lament and get cranky. I can ask God, “So what are you waiting for?”
I also believe that God would rather we complain and rant in his direction than that we clam up and stop expecting any response. How I have been tempted, through the years, to give up hoping for response, to decide that this God stuff is all nonsense and wishful thinking. But at some point, I did encounter the Divine—at least I must have, otherwise I would not keep believing and hoping and ranting.
- How have your prayers been affected by your own honesty?
- What parts do anger and pain play in prayer?