These weekly posts show the Triad teachings. Starting at week 1 and progressing through the weeks will help you see the logic of the series.
Face Your Pain
The main reason that a person must endure dry periods in early contemplative prayer is that a person must begin to “see” themselves. That is, by enduring the pain of removing external distraction a person begins to face inward pain. The person then usually begins to see who they are as a “sinner”; that is, outside of Christ. When we “see” ourselves outside of Christ; that is, when we see our “lower nature” we will be appalled. As Paul said, “I know that in me, that is, in my lower nature, there is nothing good”. Paul really knew this because he experienced it. He saw it firsthand.
Do you realize that hidden inside of you there are negative desires and emotions? Usually a person will avoid feeling things like shame, insignificance or despair. But it is only by finally “seeing” hidden things that a person can become free of them. And it is only in a prayer dialogue with God that power can found to become free. Contemplative prayer is much more than introspection. It is a conversation with God in which He reveals things in us that are hindering our spiritual development. In silent prayer we see things that were previously hidden to us and as our spirit groans inwardly we turn to God for help. We allow God to expose things to ourselves and as they are exposed, and as we admit them to God a healing occurs.
These are spiritual experiences. They are more than mental knowledge. For example, I may realize from reading the New Testament that Paul stated that “in me, that is in my flesh, dwells nothing good”. He then goes on to say “wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”? I may appreciate from this that I also have a lower nature and that in this lower nature “nothing good is present”. I may understand that Paul suffered anguish about this condition; and yet I may never add up 2+2 and get 4: that is, I may never realize that I need to suffer anguish about my sin nature in order to get free from sin.
I have to suffer the full revelation of my sin nature in order to be free of sin. That is why many of us (nearly all of us) know in our mind that the Bible declares that we are “free from sin” and yet are still engaging in “besetting sins”. We call these “addictions” and “dysfunctions”. We trace the psychological wounds that led us to our current inability to be inwardly free and spiritually healthy. But we are not really free. We continue to fall into the same sin over and over again. Why? Because head knowledge alone is not transformative.
It is only when we actually “see” and feel the hopeless state of our sin nature that we can begin to get free. Only when I understand that I am trapped in a sin can I begin to get free.
Often times a person who is illuminated about his/her sin nature feels like they are waking up from a dream. Many people realize they have been lying to themselves; and when they finally see the truth their relationship with God changes dramatically. They no longer hide sin from themselves and others. They pray about their true state and admit it to God. This opens great grace and transformation: “humble yourselves in the sight of God and He will give you grace.”
Next week we will look at how facing our pain, and seeing the depth of our need, can free us to receive a revelation of who we are inside of Christ. We begin to actually see that we are raised up with Christ in His resurrection. This allows us see our “new self”. When we can see our old self and our new self we finally realize that we can change. We actually know that we have a choice.