God as the healing place
Thomas Merton in a letter to Linda (Parsons) Sabbath which he wrote on 19 March 1966 says in response to her concern about her rather volatile emotional health: ‘your nature is getting a bit rocked, and there is not much you can do about it. Do not attach too much importance to any individual happening or reaction, do not look for very special significances: all is part of a purification process…’ He explains that she cannot will away her ego and if she does so she will be in a bind – for Merton sees that it is only God who ‘can unlock the whole business from the inside, and when He does, then everything will be simple and plain.’
I think this links to the last post where I discussed the security that may be found underneath all the mistrust and all the anxieties, fears and worries – again as Merton calls it ‘that constant business’.
Alexander Ryrie has written a wonderful series of chapters in a book called ‘The Prayer of Silence’ which I have been reading over Lent and as I have just discovered he also wonders about trust and security and how difficult it can be at times to believe that God is in charge, and that we can trust God to make everything all right. He says that the Hebrew word for ‘to trust’ means ‘to find one security’. This is not about believing that God will prevent terrible or unpleasant things from happening but rather refers to something deeper and more inward. He goes on to say that to trust is to know about ultimate safety and that it can only be God who provides absolute safety and security.
As we know if we seek for security in the things of the world we place ourselves at the mercy of all that is temporal and illusory. It is only through the experience of seeking God inwardly that we can find this security. This has nothing to do with vocal prayer but is rather about moving into deep periods of silence where in seeking God we open ourselves to God in the very heart of ourselves. I think this is really about surrender in allowing God to take us down into himself; it’s also about allowing dependency and vulnerability.
To quote Ryrie again: ‘As we go down into God, we begin to recognise that God is not above human life and controlling it, but underneath it and sustaining it; that God is below us, supporting us and suffering with us.’ He believes that this can affect how we look on God in relation to natural disasters, but will also affect our own personal relationship with God where we can feel in the depths of silent prayer held by God – surrounded, contained and enfolded. As the Quaker writer Rufus Jones describes it ‘I felt myself invaded by a Presence and held by Everlasting Arms.’ In this way we know experientially an inner security. And we know this in the very centre of our being – it is deeply personal but if we can experience enough authentic security it will free us to be open to life. ‘In a world of tragedy and suffering we can become, to a small extent at least, not predators but healers.’
God as the healing place