questions: Why do you hurry? Why do you hurt others? Why do you ignore the empty gas tank? Why are you angry? He waits for our response. And for the duration of the time it takes us to be aware of our own heart-answers, he waits. He is in no hurry, as much a surprise to us as it was to the psalmists. They never questioned that suffering existed, they just wondered how long it would last.
Passive faith is relinquishment faith. Surrendering faith. Lamenting faith. “How long oh Lord,” and “Why have you forsaken me,” and “Remove this cup, this thorn of my flesh, from me” are passive faith cries. Eugene Peterson says it like this: “I will to not will what I am already good at in order that what is more than me and beyond me, the will of God, can come into existence in my willing work.”18
In dark nights we need to act “against instinct,” we need to do what is “counter-intuitive.” Competitive spirituality — the spirituality that has shaped us to this point — is now actually working against us, for it pushes us to do more and try harder, precisely what we should not do in dark night experiences. We need to detach, slow down and reflect. In his excellent book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster devotes a chapter to prayer practices for dark night times. Dark night disciplines would include:
- Pray the prayers of lament in the Psalms: express your suffering, your fears, your misery.
- Wait on God. When you are unable to put your spiritual life into drive, do not put it inreverse; put it into neutral.
- Do practice solitude and silence – your soul is probably telling you this is what you needanyways!
- Do practice rest – your body is probably telling you that you are tired.
- Do practice reflection – your mind is probably urging you to stop learning more and tofocus more deeply. Part of reflection might require that you learn to journal effectively.Also, the prayer of examen is a vital discipline you can cultivate during this time.
- Do find those who can help – your emotions will find safety in the loving care of soulfriends, spiritual directors and counselors. This is very important, for during the darknight it is easy to lose hope and to become deceived.
- Do things more simply – try fixed hour prayers, liturgical prayers, short breath or arrowprayers. Instead of relying on your ability to create new prayers or prayer methods, use the prayers of others, such as the prayers found in the Book of Common Prayer. Meditate on small portions of scripture and keep meditating until you see change.
- Do pursue healing – there may be neglected areas in your soul that you have not attended to before in your busy-ness to “pursue” God and “do for God.”
The Contemplative Discipline of Expanding Theology: When Our Heads Move Into Our Hearts
As in the discipline of new mentors, in the discipline of expanding theology we again find ourselves listening for new voices. With new mentors we pursue new life patterns; in expanding theology, however, we pursue knowledge, but knowledge that is mediated to us through either new experiences or through natural expressions that we squelched for whatever reason and now need to resurrect.
18 From the chapter, “Is Growth a Decision?” in the book The Contemplative Pastor, p. 102.
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