Friday, September 14, 2007

Teresa's tormenting darkness and the poor

Disconnected diary ramblings at the end of a difficult week with a view to recent revelations of the "darkness" surrounding the inner life of Mother Teresa, evidently for decades:

--Her call to serve the very poorest of the poor evidently came 61 years ago this month. Her mystical experience held out the most important question of her life: "Wilt thou refuse?" She did not refuse.

--By the 1950s, she was walking into a deep darkness that would remain with her for over 50 years. I found these words from the nun's journal quoted in an insightful essay that was posted on and appeared in The Washington Post by Michael Gerson ("The Torment of Teresa," September 5, 2007, A-21):

"Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of your love--and now become as the most hated one--the one You have thrown away as unwanted--unloved. I call, I cling, I want--and there is no One to answer--no One on Whom I can cling--no, No One. Alone. . .I am told God loves me--and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."

--I find it unsurprising that, called to be among the world's poorest people, the little nun falls into darkness--the suffering of the poor, the unfairness, the lack of hope, the continual and unrelenting road blocks to progress, to improvement, to life--no surprise that darkness is the result.

--The life of the poor in this world is beyond tough. Those who go there--invited or uninvited--will encounter darkness--darkness in their own lives. I have come face-to-face with this darkness, often. It has no explanation. There are no clear ways to the other side. The darkness must be set aside to allow for the work of justice and compassion with those who suffer needlessly.

--The little nun decided to believe, at times against all rational evidence. She decided to love her God, as her lover, in spite of the coldness, the fear, the abandonment that she felt and knew at that deepest place in her life. Only believers can know this sort of "doubt."

--Those who decide not to believe do not face this burden of hers. To say "no" to the idea of God is to simplify the struggle. God complicates everything about poverty and injustice. This nun's ever present smile, her joyful encouragement says to me, "I believe in the face of a darkness you will never be courageous enough to face."

--Her path in life was hard. It begs questions of God, whatever one's view of God.

--I like Gerson's essay. I like his point of view and his questions. Especially these words: "Assuming. . .that she was not self-deluded in her calling, what kind of God would set such a difficult path--ministering to lepers and outcasts for a lifetime--and then withdraw his presence? Mother Teresa herself seemed to struggle with the unfairness: 'What are you doing My God to one so small?'"

--Is it possible that God revealed to one of his most trusted friends the very darkness he faces while watching the madness of our world. Did this one, very simple but incredibly strong and lonely nun come to terms with the truth that hers was a God of the darkness? In the agony of her honest, unrelenting doubt, do I discover the ultimate expression of faith's deep places, its immovable center?

1 comment:

Deborah Gohrke said...

You wrote: This nun's ever present smile, her joyful encouragement says to me, "I believe in the face of a darkness you will never be courageous enough to face."

When some face it, others can and will. I am grateful you have said YES. Courage can be contagious.