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August 29, 2007

Dark night of the soul

Under Jason's post on Mother Teresa, Diane asks:

Regardless of what we may learn about her inner struggles (what Christian doesn't have them?), she wanted those letters burned after her death. Shouldn't her wishes have been respected?

Good question. This is a tough issue and always has been. On the one hand, it’s been instilled in us that the wishes of the dying should be respected, and for good reason. On the other hand, would you really want to be the person responsible for depriving the world of the works of Mother Teresa—or Virgil, or Kafka, or Hardy? No matter how imperfect their works may have looked to them, they look pretty darn good to us. The mere act of putting a match to them would make me feel like a Philistine, on the level of the executive who reportedly brushed off Fred Astaire’s screen test with “Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little.”

Anyway, getting back to Mother Teresa’s spiritual crisis, another commenter, Carter Johnson, goes so far as to suggest that maybe her feelings of emptiness meant that she was following the wrong Gospel. I don't believe that. God has promised to be with us always, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll always have what Dorothy L. Sayers called "lovely feelings." Sometimes we will, and they're important, but they're not guaranteed and they're not why we believe. I really like what Chuck Colson has to say on the subject in his BreakPoint commentary today:

She continued to do the toughest job anyone could possibly do. And she did it to her dying day. Why? As she wrote to her spiritual advisor, she submitted to God. “I accept,” she wrote, “not in my feelings—but with my will, the Will of God—I accept His will.” I came to that realization in my own dark night of the soul a couple of years ago when two of my three kids had cancer.

The very essence of faith, you see, is believing even in the absence of evidence. And it is the only way we can know Christ. We can conclude rationally that God exists, that His Word is true, and that He has revealed Himself. But without that leap of faith, we will never know God personally or accept His will in Christ.

Besides that, it was Jesus Himself who told us that we would know His followers by their fruits. The fruits of Mother Teresa's selfless life would tell us where her heart was, even if we never had a chance to read her words.

I would take no for an answer
Just to know I heard You speak
And I'm wondering why I've never
Seen the signs they claim they see
A lot of special revelations
Meant for everybody but me
Maybe I don't truly know You
Maybe I just simply believe . . .

Chris Rice, "Smell the Color 9"

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This comment was going to go on the original post but might as well stick it on the most recent one:

I've been reading The Screwtape Letters recently and one passage from it struck me as particularly relevant to this discussion:

"Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that is is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. [...] He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles."


This is just another reminder to not put any trust in man for he will do what he wants instead of what is right. The letters should have been destroyed as per her wishes. The world would not have been deprived, They could have focused on her life. It's a shame that her deep and personal emotions are now for anyone(including those who will use this for negatives) to use and twist.

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