So how does one describe the experience of surrendering into the love of God? Firstly I can believe that this is NOT fully what surrender is. This is merely the first steps into something that will grow beyond. Probably the biggest surprise was that.... I really do not want to say the I got there because it is so much more than that. Yes I did the leg work and the praying and went to where the mystics and contemplatives advise us to go to. But, there is so much more that God and others have done to help me to this position.
I had spent that whole weekend and most of the week before praying only “Lord Jesus, help me!”. The exclamation mark is definitely needed. I was quite sure that where meditation and contemplation leads I had not gotten near the door.
“But the contemplation of the saints is fired by the love of the one contemplated: that is, God. Therefore it does not terminate in an act of the intelligence but passes over into the will by love.” St. Albert the Great - Spiritual Direction & Meditation (48)
What St. Albert describes was a bit of a stumbling block for me as intellect and thought processes dominate my waking hours. I exist in my thoughts, in my mind. There are a thousand links being made between different facts and images every day in any mind and mine is no different . Sometimes I think mine is a bit more active than others. Being able to be still and know that He is God is quite troublesome if you cannot be still for more than a second or two. So the silent Saturdays , the not talking to myself Tuesdays and regular primitive prayer of “Lord God, help me!” Were a gradual acclimatisation to the silence required to place myself in a position to be still for more than a few minutes. One of the biggest helps was reading two books by Thomas Merton. Spiritual Direction & Meditation and Contemplative Prayer. In Spiritual Direction & Meditation Merton maps out the plan for the apprentice (or religious as Merton calls the beginner) to be guided by the experienced Spiritual Director much like the desert fathers with their apprentice or Christ with His disciples. The lessons are learned with the Director encouraging and assisting the apprentice pointing the apprentice to God and the path well trod into the established forms of Prayer, Contemplation and Meditation. Contemplative Prayer is more of a technical book a call for a redevelopment within monastic practice a call back to contemplation with action not just one or the other. However, the drops of wisdom in Merton's descriptions of Meditation and Contemplation are what made me realise that it was intimacy with God that I was being led into. An intimacy that I was very intimidated of.
“I cannot discover my “meaning” if I try to evade the dread which comes from first experiencing my meaninglessness!
By meditation I penetrate the inmost ground of my life, seek the full understanding of God's mercy to me, of my absolute dependance upon him” – Contemplative Prayer (84)
“...we should should let ourselves be brought naked and defenceless into the centre of that dread where we stand alone before God in our nothingness, without explanation, without theories, completely dependant upon his providential care, in dire need of the gift of grace, his mercy and the light of faith.” - Contemplative Prayer (85)
Being brought there not on on my own but being assisted there in front of the whole class was vital. With the lecturer (or as Merton would say Spiritual Director) just helping holding the bike steady enough to let me get my balance in this new light of faith. There was no way I can ever claim any of this as my own. Too many witnesses for me to ever try and tell anyone otherwise. I had been prayed for and have had similar experiences but these were fleeting and never did I think that I could return. I had no thought of meditation and contemplation. In fact I probably had way too many competing thoughts and God has waited till now in His time. My first thoughts after class were “So this is what that communion with God is. Gonna have to do this again (if he'll let me)”. Of course He'll let us back in again. Does not the lover call to his beloved always? Does not the father embrace the prodigal taking him back, putting rings on his fingers and clothing him as a true son? Is it easy, not all the time. There is a descent sometimes like closing your eyes on the downstroke of a swing and a return to the surface of active thought again as the dog barks or a car speeds past. This is something that is practiced and learned like riding a bike. It will change and grow as I learn to ride the surrender bike better.
To describe it factually would be wrong and sully such a divine residence with any analysis of feelings. I find myself describing it in riddles and metaphors such as “dunking my head in bucket and finding the universe”. Water and depths instead of sunlight describe the experience better for me at the moment. I expect change as God has never left me in the same place for very long.
"It is precisely the function of meditation in the sense in which we speak of it here, to bring us to the attitude of awareness and receptivity. It also gives us strength and hope, along with a deep awareness of the value of interior silence in which the mystery of God 's love is made clear to us." - Contemplative Prayer (49)