Saturday, August 25, 2007
Time Article- Mother Teresa
I read an article in the newspaper this morning that mentioned Mother Teresa, and it said that letters and journal entries that she had written were being published in a new book that was coming out. It gave an example of her writing and said that she had spent almost 50 years without sensing the presence of God. This was enough information to intrigue me, and then I received our Time Magazine in the mail today, and who should be on the front cover? Mother Teresa, of course! The headline reads, "The Secret Life of Mother Teresa," and the secondary headline reads, "Newly published letters reveal a beloved icon's 50-year crisis of faith."
I quickly turned to the article (you can read it here) and realized that there were so many interesting thoughts that I couldn't read it without a pen to underline portions of it, so I put it aside until this evening. As soon as the I had some free time, I sat on our living room sofa and read the entire seven page article. I did underline portions of it because I found it powerful. I mean, how many people in the world don't know about Mother Teresa? She was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, she started the "Missionaries of Charity" organization serving the poorest of the poor in India, and her death in 1997 was a world news-making event with world leaders from over 50 nations in attendance at her funeral! Quickly there was talk of making her a saint, and so far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization. The Time article had a subtitle that read, "A decade after Mother Teresa's death, her secret letters show that she spent almost 50 years without sensing the presence of God in her life. What does her experience teach us about the value of doubt?"
Doubt - that's a word that Christians don't want to place on themselves because they know the verse in James that says,"the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." James 1:6 We good Christians never doubt that the Lord is with us, do we? The word, doubt, means: "a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something; to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe; to distrust." With that definition, I know I have had times of doubt. What about you?
In speaking of the "dark night" of Mother Teresa's soul, the author of the book said, "[Mother] Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960's, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. [The author] produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.
The Lord has brought the term, perseverance, to my attention many times lately. Have you ever been sensitive to something, and the Lord keeps bringing it to your attention because He's telling you something? Well, Mother Teresa's life exemplifies perseverance. Mother Teresa had asked that her notes, journals, and letters be destroyed, but the church overruled her wishes. And I believe that perhaps God will speak just as powerfully through her notes of doubt and her life of perseverance in the face of that doubt.
Mother Teresa told a Reverend in 1979 that "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me - the silence and the emptiness is so great - that I look and do not see, -Listen and do not hear." Oh my friend, have you ever been there? Have you ever shown up at church and smiled your Sunday smile, all the while thinking that Jesus has great love for others, but as for you, well.....you are not seeing and not hearing, and you're wondering if any of it is even true? There have been times when this has been true of me. I'm sure some of my journal entries arn't too far off from this letter of Mother Teresa's which says, "Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself -for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead." I personally have had times of such terrible darkness of the soul that I've not even been able to pray. I have had to ask Dave to pray over me because I can't even form the thoughts or words to pray, and even if I could, I question whether it even makes any difference. Have you ever felt like that?
Towards the end of the article, there is this quote from James Martin of Jesuit Magazine: "Everything she's [Mother Teresa's] experiencing," he says, "is what average believers experience in their spiritual lives writ large. I have known scores of people who have felt abandoned by God and had doubts about God's existence. And this book expresses that in such a stunning way but shows her full of complete trust at the same time." He takes a breath. "Who would have thought that the person who was considered the most faithful woman in the world struggled like that with her faith?" he asks. "And who would have thought that the one thought to be the most ardent of believers could be a saint to the skeptics?" Martin has long used Teresa as an example to parishioners of self-emptying love. Now, he says, he will use her extraordinary faith in the face of overwhelming silence to illustrate how doubt is a natural part of everyone's life, be it an average believer's or a world-famous saint's."
So, perseverance is what Mother Teresa's life exemplifies, and that's what the Lord is teaching me in many ways. "Keeping on" is of great value to God and His kingdom. Those who don't follow Jesus should wonder how Christ-followers keep going in the face of struggle, illness, doubt, financial issues, etc... I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am to keep on keeping on, even when it's not fun or glamorous, even when others don't understand or approve, even when my reputation takes a hit, and even when I don't believe it! God sometimes works best through those moments when we've said we can't go on.
I currently have many quotes that I use in my classroom from Mother Teresa, so I know I will be interested in reading this book. I encourage you to please check out the article and let me know what you think. Does the article encourage you and your faith, or make you question? Do you identify with anything Mother Teresa went through, or can you not understand the "dark night of the soul?" Let me know your thoughts.