I stumbled across these words the other night.
In five minutes, all the pain and perplexity of this long dark season was… validated.
These words were quoted and contained within an article on this man‘s website; his depth of mind and heart astonishes me and has the ability to comfort my soul like few can.
I’d like to just cut to the chase and post the first couple paragraphs of the article and share the very words that have made me weep. I am sure that those of you who are in a similar painful season will be compelled to click the article link at the bottom to read it in its entirety.
In her book, Survivor, Christina Crawford writes: “Lost is a place, too.”
That’s more than a clever sound-byte. It’s a deep truth that’s often lost in a world within which success, achievement, and good appearance define meaning and value.
What can that phrase teach us? That sometimes it’s good to be without success, without health, without achievements to bolster us, without good appearance, and even without meaning. Being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be.
One of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, John of the Cross, would agree with that. If he was your spiritual director and you explained to him that you were going through a dark, painful patch in life and asked him: “What’s wrong with me?” He would likely answer:
“There’s nothing wrong with you; indeed, there’s a lot right with you. You’re where you should be right now: in the desert, letting the merciless sun do its work; in a dark night, undergoing an alchemy of soul; in exile, lamenting on a foreign shore so that you can better understand your homeland; in the garden, sweating the blood that needs to be sweated to live out your commitments; being pruned, undergoing spiritual chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours of emotional and spiritual dead-wood that have built up from wrong-turns taken; in the upper room, unsure of yourself, waiting for pentecost before you can set out again with any confidence; undergoing positive disintegration, having your life ripped apart so that you can rearrange it in a more life-giving way; sitting in the ashes, like Cinderella, because only a certain kind of humiliation will ready your soul for celebration; and undergoing purgatory, right here on earth, so your heart, soul, and body can, through this painful purging, learn to embrace what you love without unhealthily wanting it for yourself.”
He’d also tell you that this can be a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. That doesn’t make it less painful or humiliating, it just gives you the consolation of knowing that you’re in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, Jesus included, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.