This is just to remind you also that today is the memorial of St. John of the Cross in our liturgy." - Brother Marcus, my monk friend at Christ in the Desert Monastery
"Some forge connections with people arising from sensual lust and not from purity of spirit. To test this, they should consciously recall the attraction and see if it causes remembrance and love of God to grow inside them or instead trigger remorse of conscience. If the connection is pure, love for God deepens with the deepening of friendship. [If] remembrance of God arises as often as thoughts of the friend arise, the friendship is from the purity of spirit. But when this love springs from the vice of lust, it has the contrary effect. As love for the human friend intensifies, love for the divine flows away, even from the memory. The soul who loses herself in that other affection will find her love for God growing cold -- remembering one and forgetting the other." - St. John of the Cross
"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." - Jesus
My monk friend sent me an email today that included a news flash for me...today, in the liturgical prayer schedule that he follows with his monastic community in the desert, remembers the life and contribution of St. John of the Cross.
His news flash did just that for me...I'm remembering the contribution John has had on my life through his incredible work entitled "Dark Night of the Soul". I pulled out my well-worn copy and opened it to the thought above concerning relationships with people, which I had underlined. John uses very strong words (i.e.: "connections from sensual lust" vs.. "connections from purity of spirit") which leads the modern reader thinking that he is speaking of proper romantic relationships. Be assured that he is not. He is speaking of any kind of relationship, friendship, family, or otherwise. When I read this the first time, I wrote in the margin "good test for whether a relationship is a 'transforming friendship'."
That kicked me right to the statement of my Master about who he considered "family". Jesus says that anyone who does the will of God was his family.
I feel like that.
And I also feel freedom from judging what another persons "doing" of the will of God looks like externally. I have met many, many people who do not "do the will of God" the way I do, but I can tell we are of one mind and heart and soul and spirit (i.e.: Jesus). Brother Marcus is an incredible example of that, who is finding God primarily through contemplation. And so is my new friend Garrett who works at a Real Estate place down the road from my house, who is sharing his life and story with me. And so is my friend Paula who stopped by my office this morning on her way to her "office" where she teaches countless people in Africa about Christ through the mail. And so is my co-worker Edie who was on the floor with a hurting woman praying for her and sharing in her suffering by touching on her own. And so is my friend Russ who at lunch yesterday tapped into the calling he has received on his life and let me wade around in it with him. And so is my buddy Larry, who at lunch today spoke of an incredible "fathering" lesson for his son just by going on a hunting trip with him and an older, grandfatherly type man who trusted his son with his binoculars.
They are my mother and my brother and my sister. Nothing like me at all, and yet the family resemblance is uncanny.
Remembrances of God arise in me when I think of these friends.
Do you have these people? Seriously. If not, I consider you to be in poverty. The poorest of the poor on the planet. Destitute. Broke and pitiable.
I am absolutely sure that God is trying to provide for you in this, and that your blame on others for not giving it to you is merely that...your blame. All you have to be is willing.
Thanks, Marcus, for being a friend who reminds me of God. Thanks, St. John of the Cross, for being open to whatever you had to be open to be able to chart the inner spiritual journey like you did in your book. Thanks, Jesus, for being the perfect model and source of everything good and worthwhile, and making it so available to everyone.
And thank you, God, for so many mothers, brothers, and sisters.