Journal Notes on St Paul of the Cross #15
by Amy Knight
The way to free oneself from deceit is to humble oneself well, not to trust oneself, to recognize one’s nothingness, to annihilate oneself before God, and to abandon one’s self with filial confidence in the arms of God. With regard to prayer, if you cannot put in that much time, it is not important. He always prays who does what is right. Attend to the work for your household, and in that way you will do your duty, keeping yourself attentive to God and frequently plunging your spirit into the immense sea of divine love….As for penances, for now be content with what God gives you. These are infinitely better than those we take on ourselves. In prayer occupy yourself with the mysteries of the holy life, passion, and death of Jesus; but if your soul relishes being alone with God in a humble, holy, and loving rest, let it remain thus. L160
Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance for you serve the Lord Christ.
“Never worry when duties of love call you away from prayer; It will only increase your prayer life.” Dr. Anthony Lilles
St Paul of the Cross wisely counsels the soul who lives in the world and has a family that he is not to worry over not having much time to pray, but, instead, to know and understand that in this season of life when it is impossible to spend much time in the place of prayer, that the work that he does in taking care of his family… his duty of love… is prayer in and of itself. His work IS his prayer! Certain seasons of life require much of our time. The important thing to remember in these seasons is that God understands our season and thus reckons our work as unto Him as prayer.
When my children were babies and toddlers, this was a season for me where my prayer consisted of: “God, I wish that I could pray.” Indeed, that was my prayer day in and day out as I served my family by taking care of them. My spiritual life did not feel vibrant but desperate. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and in survival mode most of the time. The feeling of failure of having any kind of a life in God ensued. I could not understand this season. I wanted desperately to pray and have a life in God, but it seemed impossible.
Looking back on these seasons, I have a little understanding with hindsight what God is doing in such difficult times in life. First know, that He is not disappointed in you, and secondly, know that He understands these seasons in life that require our time extensively. What is God doing in these seasons? One thing He is doing is working into our being a deep longing for Him. When it seems that our Beloved is out of reach, He is not distant, angry, disappointed, or upset with us at not finding the time to be with Him. He is loving and understanding. He is actually doing a deep work in this season that seems void of Him. He is producing a longing for Him that is a deep well that one day will become a flowing fountain.
With five children spread out over fifteen years, it seemed as though I would never have a prayer life. Out of this season, some desperate measures of love did happen: some giving up of sleep to pray all night trusting Him for energy to be a mom the next day with all the demands of that. Some giving up of food to seek God in fasting as much as I could do when I wasn’t nursing a baby. Desperate measures are a love story happening and God honors those desperate measures; however, most days were just plain long days of seemingly no God-time whatsoever. The fruitfulness of the longing heart increasing day in and day out is impossible to calculate. However, I do know that when the season shifted, and I had opportunity to spend time in prayer with God, nothing else held sway over that desire. The desire for Him had become my chief desire and pursuit even among years of dry desert spiritual life. I suppose, in a way, I had gone to the desert and found Him not unlike the desert fathers of old.
He gives the desire of the heart when the only desire is Him alone and that longing fulfilled is the ultimate love story played out without any comparison. The dark nights of the soul and the spirit play themselves out and the subsequent union with God is an indescribable reality that knows no bounds and the depths have no end. Oh, the wisdom of the Lord to increase longing over many years to bring about His work in the soul that produces such intimacy with Him!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, let every person in the season of high demands of serving be brought to peace in their soul that You are IN this season and producing something so deep that it cannot be cut short or compromised for it to produce the full weight of glory that it is meant to produce. Let each soul in this difficult season take courage and persevere by loving You in the midst of all the work, all the serving, all the giving of self that seems never-ending. Encourage them Lord! You hold them with such tenderness. Amen