Monday, April 24, 2006

When The Well Runs Dry

This was supposed to be with the next post, but it became too long, so decided to seperate it.

when the well runs dryI recently finished the book When The Well Runs Dry by Thomas Green. It is the follow up of the previous Thomas Green book I posted about - Opening to God. This book is about prayer beyond the beginning. In that post I quoted his example of the father and the baby, and how it is frustrating to crawl again after being carried. Well this book goes on to provide a "map" to what can be expected as a pray-er's prayer life grows.

The first part of the book uses an example from St Teresa of Avila's writings, about us being the gardener watering the garden. The water we use symbolises the joy of our prayer, and the flowers are the virtues in our lives. In the beginning, we draw water from the well with a simple rope and bucket. This is us in the beginning of our prayer life, where prayer is a tiring process and we don't get much water/joy for our efforts. Then as we progress, we are given a pump, which means less effort on our part and more water. The 3rd and 4th stages are water from a stream, and rain. Basically, as we grow in our prayer life and relationship with God. The effort and "labour" on our side decreases, and the joys and consolations increases.

All this is wonderful, and a wonderful motivation for me to continue in my prayer life, knowing that it will be easier and more fruitful as develop my "spiritual muscles". But as the title of the book hints, it does not end there. Thomas Green, calls that stage, moving from Knowing God, to Loving God. The next stage is to move towards Truly Loving God. And this is the part that provided me with much food for thought, leading to much doubt.

In the next stage, the joys we get from prayer are interspersed with times of dryness or desolation. And as we go on, the periods of dryness will get longer, until it becomes the norm. He uses the example of human courtship to parallel this process, we have the initial period, where we Discover more about each other, then the Loving and spending more time together, and then after committing to each other in marriage, comes the Truly Loving, through good times and bad, sickness and health... and living life together, no longer about the thrills and excitement, but just really two becoming one.

Thus this next stage is where our love is purified. The reason why this is necessary is that, our human minds and intellect cannot fully comprehend the love of God, and because of that we limit God and His love in our lives. And it will challenge us to lose our concepts of God and we would doubt His presence by our side. This is the dark night of the senses and soul that St John of the Cross talks about.

This will definitely be a trying time, and he uses very illustrative examples of the potter and the clay, and that of the small child who does not understand the necessity of the pain of surgery to save his life. And it is only when we truly embrace that dark night, and trust in God that our whole being can be transformed.

Lastly, he uses the example of floating to differentiate the different approaches to prayer that we take. While we are so used to being active in our prayer, judging our progress by our own efforts, as a swimmer, we still try to control the direction and the destination. But what we are called to do, is to float, and allow the Lord to guide and bring us to the destination that he chooses. To do nothing gracefully, totally surrendering our will to Him.


Distant feet said...

I am as grateful as you are finding these books. I have been praying and asking for more enlightenment. I sometimes felt that I was in a dead end but just currently overjoyed upon stumbling on to these readings. Just the right timing.

Unknown said...

This summary is amazing. Am already at a different level of understanding yet I have just started reading the book. Thank you very much for the synthesis. Stay blessed.