My friend and wise guide J.K. Jones refers to the ancient spiritual writers as “the dead guys” and was the first person to seriously suggest that the core of our transformation into being like Christ ran through the neighborhood of old dead saints from long ago.
One of those dead guys is St. John of the Cross. Today he threw a spiritual body check into me and I thought I’d share it with you.
St. John is most famous for his work The Dark Night of the Soul, which talks about the way God leads into deeper communion with him by removing the “warm & fuzzy” feelings we have in our initial spiritual growth. When the buzz is gone, we learn to lean into God for no other reason than He is God and worthy of it.
Today, however, St. John hit on a key issue in the church today – one that I have to be careful of – and one that has been hinted at by contemporary writers such as Larry Osborne. Here’s the quote, at length about a certain type of Christ-follower:
They would prefer to teach rather than to be taught. They condemn others who are not as spiritual as they are. They are like the Pharisee who boasted in himself and despised the publican who was not as spiritual as he. The devil will often inflame their fervor so that their pride will grow even greater. The devil knows that all of their works and virtues will become valueless and, if unchecked, will become vices. For they begin to do theses spiritual exercises to be esteemed by others…they will beg God to take away their imperfections, but they do this only because they want to find inner peace and not for God’s sake. They do not realize that if God were to take away their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder and more presumptuous still. But those who are at this time moving in God’s way will counter this pride with humility. They will learn to think very little of themselves and their religious works. Instead, they will focus on how great and how deserving God is and how little it is that they can do for him. The spirit of God dwells in such persons, urging them to keep their treasures secretly within themselves.” (Devotional Classics, 34).
Obviously, we have to take this with some discretion and pray on the strong points and the points of disagreement (i.e. how does the “think little of themselves” teaching work and how far do you take that?) but in total this is a great reminder to us today.
The pursuit of God can in fact become a pursuit of greater Us, with God as the vehicle.
Father, check my pride today. Help me to seek you because of Your full sufficiency to be both the beginning and end of my search.