June 9th, 2019 | A Reflection of John 14:8-17
Scripture for this week: John 14:8-17 | Scripture for next week: John 16:12-15
I’ve been married to my wife Brenda since 1993. I met her in 1987, so I’ve known her for 32 years. I’ve known her, for 32 years, but do I really know her? I do know her tendencies, her idiosyncrasies, her… I was about to write, her hopes and dreams, but I’m not sure she even knows her hopes and dreams. Who really does? Brenda is the person I know the best in life, yet there are significant parts of who she is that are inaccessible to me. There are aspects of who she is that are a mystery to me. There are pieces of who Brenda is that are newly revealed to me regularly. Those revelations are what keep our relationship lively, fresh, and fun.
If it is a challenge to know the person whom I am closest to, how difficult is it to then know Jesus! How do we come to know a being, a person who we can’t see? What kind of insanity are we Christians involved in!?! On the surface, it does seem like the core of our faith, a relationship with Jesus, is a lesson in frustration. But there is a process for developing a relationship with Jesus, and the deeper we move into that process, that way of life, the more revelations we receive. These revelations are what make the process of developing a relationship with Jesus lively, fresh, and fun.
This process is the work of a lifetime, and there are many spiritual guides on this journey. I am going to offer two potential direction for you to pursue in developing your relationship with Jesus. The first step I suggest is reading the stories of people who have struggled to develop a relationship with Jesus and have then written about their journey. There are many such stories, but one of my favorites is the autobiography of Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain. Merton describes a life that we will all recognize. He lives the challenges and troubles that many of us live, and he gives us hope for our lives through the path of his life.
I am just finishing a book called Why Religion by Elaine Pagels. This is a fantastic read! Elaine is a brilliant scholar who lived in the deeply secular world of Ivy League academics, hung out with Jerry Garcia when he was playing small clubs in San Francisco, and is one of the people who helped translate and make available to the world the texts found in the Dead Sea Scroll and Nag Hamadi Scroll discoveries. She is also a very gifted writer who tells her personal story of deep grief and survival because of her developing relationship with God.
It is in Elain’s story that we see powerful examples of the second means of developing a relationship with Jesus, prayer. The following excerpt is from Why Religion. It is the description of how Thomas Keating (who is a student of Thomas Merton) came to visit her after her husband died in a hiking accident.
“The night before the (funeral) service, deeply distraught, I answered the phone. Thomas Keating, Trappist monk and spiritual father of the Colorado monastery, called to say that he was in New York visiting his sister. “Might I stop by for a visit?” Surprised and relieved to hear his voice, I said, “Yes, of course, Thomas; I didn’t know that monks made house calls!” When he arrived that evening after the children were asleep, he suggested that we meditate. When we did, his presence, like Theophane’s in the monastery chapel, felt like a deep anchor into the unknown. After we sat together in silence for more than an hour, I asked about something strange that happened during the meditation. “Thomas, I felt as though waves of energy were coming toward me from various directions, like waves and ripples in an ocean, as though people were sending me energy; but I have no idea from whom they came. What—if anything—do you make of this?”
Thomas simply nodded and said, “Yes, that is what sometimes happens.” Having spent over fifty years in contemplative practice, he seemed to inhabit such states of being, and find them familiar. (pp. 128-129).”
What Elaine believes she experienced were the spiritual energies of prayer being sent to her from many people. What she experienced was a revelation of the Holy Spirit that came to her through contemplative prayer. I have experienced such revelations, and they are the fuel my developing relationship with Jesus. If you would like to explore contemplative prayer through the words of master teacher Thomas Keating, check out Intimacy with God.
My prayers and spiritual energy are being directed towards you this very moment! May the Holy Spirit guide you and reveal to you the presence of Jesus and help the two of you develop a deep and life transforming relationship.