Journal Notes on Saint Paul of the Cross #25
by Amy Knight
God knows that I desire that you would love God more than the seraphim, and all my effort is to keep you despoiled, alienated, and dead to all creatures, for God wills that Agnes be hidden, silent, despised, crucified, dead, and buried in the depths of her nothingness, in order to be better disposed to be transformed into her Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ. L232
Hebrews 4:11-13 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
How hard it is to “be diligent to enter that rest” that the writer of Hebrews exhorts in his letter. This place of “be still and know that I am God” seems impossible to the modern-day person living in the technological whirlwind and global connected-ness of our day. The fact is that God has created us for deep union with Him. The human soul desires deeply to know and be known; to understand and to be understood. This desire is so strong that when it is not met by God in the way that God intended it, it manifests in a distorted way in many different forms horizontally with people, and even trying to be known and understood using social media. This insatiable desire to be connected is manifesting in a global way through technological means.
Saint Paul of the Cross in the above quote is using strong language to exhort his disciple to detach from people in order to attach to God. This detachment seems frightening to the soul because it is an act of pure faith. One must let go of the visible physical human attachment to embrace the invisible spiritual God-man Who is the One who created in each soul the deep caverns of desire that can only be met by Him. The only way to enter into this rest that the Apostle speaks of is by being intentional in the place of prayer and developing relationship with an unseen God who desires the affections of His Beloved created human beings that He paid the ultimate price of death on a cross in order to attain our freedom from sin, death, and the devil.
In the midst of this global pandemic of the corona virus, God is giving a gift to His church to “go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”[i] He knows how important it is that relationship to Him be ordered to the first place in our lives. The first commandment must be in first place, or all else is out of order. Because of our technological connected-ness, this re-ordering of being connected first and foremost to God is the paramount need of the modern-day church. Indeed, God is using a global pandemic to get the attention of His church. His desire is for His Bride to be in such union with Him that nothing disturbs her peace; nothing vies for her attention; nothing matters to her but to know Him and be known by Him, that all her security and all her significance is found in Him alone.
The detachment needed is a profound detachment such that it almost feels as though we must deny ourselves even of our own familial relations. The piercing words of our Lord, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”[ii] These words are difficult to accept; however, what is the Lord really getting at in these seemingly harsh words? The first commandment of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the what the Lord desires for each of His little lambs. This first commandment must be first or everything else in our lives is disordered. The importance of this right ordering is highlighted in Revelation 2:4-5: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Again, the exhortation seems harsh, but the harshness is highlighting the importance of what the Lord is saying. The “deeds you did at first” that He is referring to is loving God first before all else and especially not letting good works for God take the place of loving Him.
How important is the ordering of the first commandment to be in first place? So important that He will use even a global pandemic to shut down all the activity so that we might go into our prayer closet and get to know Him Who loves us so much. What good is all our activity for Him if we don’t know Him well? Again, the sobering words of the Lord come to mind: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”[iii] Apparently in our Lord’s viewpoint, it is lawlessness to practice doing good works for God apart from loving Him first. He warned the Ephesians of such lawlessness and said He would take away their lampstand if they did not repent and do the first works of loving Him.
How can we begin to do the first work of loving God? Begin with three steps: 1) Go into a solitary consecrated space, a prayer closet, and repent of not having the first commandment in first place. 2) Go daily into your prayer closet and commune with Him, for He says to you, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” [iv] 3) Mediate on the crucifixion of the Lord. How can we know Him if we have no understanding of His love and sacrifice toward us? Meditating on His suffering is the most poignant means of receiving God’s love and returning it with thankfulness. He desired that we celebrate communion often for this reason: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”[v] He wants us remember His sacrifice: His Body broken for us and His blood poured out for us. Take communion and meditate on the cross daily until your heart is tenderized toward Him in a fresh and new way. This relationship is all about Love: the receiving of God’s great love toward us, and our returning this great love. May we respond to the call to stop everything and love Him first.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I repent of not doing the first works. Like the Ephesians, I have been very busy for You, but I have left my first love. I desire to turn back to You with all my heart, to love you first and foremost, to use all my mind and strength to love You. Tenderize my heart toward you in the secret place of prayer and may I never leave this secret place of union with You. Even when I must go out of my room physically, let me never leave You alone in my innermost being, but let me commune with You deep on the inside of me even while doing my daily duties that I must do. Let me simplify my life such that I never leave You alone there knocking at the door of my heart. In Jesus Name, Amen.
[i] Matthew 6:6
[ii] Luke 14:26
[iii] Matthew 7: 21-23
[iv] Revelation 3:20
[v] 1 Corinthians 11:26