Monday, November 19, 2007

Emptiness, Ecstasy, Hope

In this life, my soul has never been completely satisfied. Often I feel empty inside. I’ve typically dealt with this in one of two ways: 1) distract myself with pleasure (license) or 2) try to discipline the unsatisfied desire to death (law).

Recently, however, I think God taught me something. The desire is real and legitimate. But it can’t be met by illegitimate means (worldly pleasure), yet it can’t be removed either (through discipline or asceticism or lobotomy). Instead, it’s to be directed heavenward. And God taught me a prayer to express this:

“My soul thirst for God, for the living God, when shall I go and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2).

This has been helpful in two ways. Once, while I was feeling dissatisfied with life, I prayed this and was met with fairly strong internal joy. It’s my guess that was a small version of what some Christians have called “ecstatic experiences, visions or swoons.” This only happened the once, but I’ve only tried a few times. The other times, I prayed this only briefly and did not feel any ecstasy, but it was helpful nevertheless because it was comforting to be able to properly identify my experience. My heartfelt desires aren’t just my Mr. Jekyll trying to get out, but I also have a soul that thirsts for God, and on this side of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that desire will never be fully satisfied. But my faith tells me that there is a time when it will be, and properly understanding my unsatiated desire helps me direct my energy toward the trek toward Home.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, Kenny, you're very right and very much on the right track with this. I notice it was a Psalm verse that helped you. This is what I have found out over the course of 32 years as an adult Christian, and what I still practice and recommend to others, the praying of the psalms, in whatever fashion, be it whole psalms or just certain verses, be it regularly on a cycle or at random, or irregularly as according to need (with me it's the latter right now). What I know for sure, though, is that whenever I enter into the house of the psalms, I am always fed, charged, armed, clothed, encouraged, forgiven, whatever it is I lack, it is supplied. Perhaps we're not talking about the same thing, but I think we might be. The state of "not being completely satisfied" in me is somehow solaced by the psalms.

To God be the glory.
And thanks for the good post.

Kenny said...

Thanks for writing, Romanos. I am constantly amazed at the Psalms' ability to minister to my soul in all its states.

jose said...

I'm intrigued.
Does this feel formulaic to you? I have nothing against ritual and written prayers, but this seems more... like feeding that "immediate gratification" bug Americans have.

Then again you stop well short of a guarantee (if you pray this, something will happen!). And you do say, even when "ecstasy" didn't come, the psalm's truth was still beneficial.

Kenny said...

I'd say, 'try the prayer if it speaks to you, and if you get something quasi-tangible out of it, great! But the main point is to find acknowledgement in the Scripture that this unquenched desire of our soul is appropriate and a indication of our being designed for God.'