As I join this conversation about mysticism, I think it best to confess, at the outset, a certain awkwardness. Adding my voice to a discussion on this topic generates within me an emotion similar to what I imagine a guest at a formal dinner party might feel if he arrived wearing torn jeans and a badly stained shirt. Other contributors are better equipped than I to describe and draw you into experiences of prayer, meditation, and sacred reading that can satisfy the deep hunger in your soul for communion with God. Integrity requires me to focus more on the hunger than its satisfaction.
I know something—only a little—of the delights of communion with God that overwhelms a deeply felt emptiness with an inflowing tide of divine love. I know quite a lot, however, about a desperate hunger for God that keeps me persevering in the hope of knowing him better, and I know about being sustained by that hope.
And I know something—more than I wish—of the powerful forces within me that oppose my pursuit of God every step of the way. And I know far more than I wish of the inner darkness I’ve come to believe must be entered to discover our primal longing for God. That darkness, as I now understand and experience it, is the loss of hope that anything in this world can satisfy the desire in my center that I cannot fully numb. But it is a good darkness, a darkness that centers us in God, the only source of real joy and, by so doing, releases us into the secondary joy of revealing his character in the way we relate, and into the double tertiary joy of hotly pursuing truth and enjoying every legitimate pleasure that God provides along the way, including simple things like a good cup of coffee.
It was Kierkegaard who observed that when a variety of wells present themselves to a thirsty man, no one well is passionately pursued. But let every well but one be exposed as dry or at best leaky, and the one with water, no matter how inaccessible it may seem, will be fervently sought.Charles E. Moore, ed. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), 381.
So, I make no pretense of presenting myself as a well-dressed mystic who can wisely engage in confident conversation about the abiding experience of communion with God. Such people do exist, and I wish I were among them. If you choose to read on, know that you’re listening to a confessing badly dressed mystic who, although he is wearing the perfectly tailored tuxedo of Christ’s righteousness (I am a Christian), enters this discussion feeling more like a misfit in torn jeans and stained shirt. One more opening caveat: Better-dressed contributors can offer more thoughts and testimony than I about the delights of entering the mystical regions of spiritual experience. I can offer only what you might expect from one so poorly outfitted, a short series of rambling, loosely connected reflections. With that, I will now proceed.