The lady’s torment, seemingly, was the inability to experience God in prayer:
“Beholding me rowing with laborious toil, the breath of Your divine operations turned in my favor and carried me full sail over this sea of affliction.”
~Madame Guyon (1648–1717)
Of course, we can all relate. Times when God mysteriously vanished from all sensation and view, we were perplexed, really, as to what to do.
The presumption of Madame Guyon’s affliction is her inability to pray with gifted ease; to not have possessed yet, although still only in her teen years, what two spiritual mentors possessed with aplomb. And although our afflictions vary, they are just as tortuous, for they appear impossible for us to be released from.
God’s Miracles – A Truly Marvellous Paradox
Try as we might, as hard as we can, taking care never to give up, we may be farther from our objective than ever. Such an experience is infuriating. We deserve the thing we a richly want, ‘says’ the human mind for things.
But the thinking of God and the ways of God are worlds, even realms, different.
What Madame Guyon experienced, and what we too may have experienced, is the inexplicable miracle of God’s instant gifting. When all efforts ceased and she just came, bereft in her tears, sullen to all effort, and wanting nothing other than God, God gave.
God’s miracles are transformative in a world where the transformative is pricelessly rare. Miracles escape the perception of nearly everyone, let alone their grasp. And just like happiness, God’s miracles elude us the instant we insist on them. If we cannot order humanity around and get what we want, how are we to order God around to get what we want? God desires a particular heart. When that heart comes, God gives.
Understanding this, then, helps us as we come before God, to request of the divine operation that shall carry us over this sea of affliction.
When We Want Nothing Other Than God
The vehicle that carries us over the sea of affliction is God himself. There are no methods, no trinkets, and no programs that do it; only God.
And as we give ourselves over to the divine operation, having nothing of ourselves left over to steer our ship, and even as we experience the temporary misfortune of stormy despair, God breathes through us. Almost as if we rested on the stilled ocean bottom, completely hopeless, God resurrects us in our perfect willingness to commune.
This is a very difficult place to get to, seemingly. But once we have arrived, once-for-all-time do we know how to get back there. We now have the ticket-to-ride. And strangely enough God brings us back there, periodically, as a sweetly glorious reminder of his Presence. This is prayer in its most basic form.
One image: of God there, in the midst of our affliction, with us. This image, this experience, just once, transforms our lives forever. No future affliction will we meet the same way. Fear gives way to faith. And faith is our new way.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Fitz Hugh Lane.