(Important: This is the third entry of a three part article. I recommend going back to the first phase of the series found in this blog for the sake of understanding the context. Thanks.)
Well, hopefully I haven't scared you all off with my intensity. I realize this whole "Losing My Religion" section is very heavy and may even sound depressing to some. But for me it is a story of immense hope. It is my proof that God has amazing 'keeping' power. It reminds me that all the friends I've seen walk away from their faith are being pursued by the same Person who was able to anchor me in my storms.
With that hope in mind I feel more capable of sharing my dying process. One purpose of my long winter was to kill off immaturity, in other words, it was a purification process. Bare with me for a quick side note. Regarding immaturity, I'm not convinced that it can be considered inherently wrong in every situation. A five year old will be immature. It's just the nature of being a child. In the same way, our own spiritual immaturity is to be expected. Immaturity is only dysfunctional if we never grow past our various child like expectations. To keep the faith and innocence of a child is a beautiful thing, but to remain needy and naive like a toddler is just sad.
When I first became a Christian I was soaked with emotional rewards for choosing Jesus. I could easily compare it to the euphoria associated with alcohol or drugs. Since I had just left the party scene I think God allowed similar feelings of euphoria because He knew as a young Christian I would need a lot of emotional motivation to keep me close. As incredibly corny as it sounds I really felt 'high' on Jesus, weird. When those feelings were withdrawn I was beside myself with grief. This was God weaning me from the bottle. He could have allowed me to keep those amazing feelings for the rest of my life, and He does allow some. But for me, this was milk. It was time for move on to solid food. (Hebrews 5:12)
In a recent Bible Study we studied the story of Joseph. If you're not familiar with the story you should go read it in the book of Genesis or else this next part may not make sense. I picture my Dark Night something like the image I envision when Joseph's brothers sell him off to be a slave. God allowed him to be tossed deep into a dark pit so that Joseph "the mommas boy" could die and "Joseph the man" could emerge. I picture myself taking that same death dive deep into real spiritual transformation. Jesus says it best in John 12:24, I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
My Dark Night began in 1998 and a very slow dawn has been sneaking up on me since the birth of my son Josiah in December of 2006. Now, in retrospect, I can look back at the past four years and see that His light has been warming me and luring me from a cowering posture back to a safe, open faced rest. I can look back and say, I suffered real spiritual torment. But I cannot say I am scarred from the process. On the contrary, I am healed.
p.s. There are few things comparable to the "Dark Night of the Soul". If you are going through something like this there is a book out there with this very title by an old sixteenth century Catholic Spanish mystic named St. John of the Cross. The book was one of the few life lines I had and I highly recommend it, be careful to get a good translation though. If you are in a season like this be encouraged, you are in good company. It's just proof that He is committed to maturing you.