Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mother Teresa & Dark Times

The soon to be released book on the life of Mother Teresa, “Come Be My Light”, has prompted many conversations about her faith in Jesus Christ and her service to the poor of Calcutta. TIME Magazine has published some excerpts that are somewhat surprising.

Disclaimers: I have respected Mother Teresa for years. I’ve never met her nor do I know anyone who knows her. Therefore, my comments and reflections are based upon the extensive quotes that have been gleaned from over 60 years of her letters and the commentary of other writers.

For those of us that know Christ and follow Him with a whole heart, it is more than curious that Mother Teresa’s correspondence and confessions are so full of darkness and dejection over the absence of Christ’s presence in her life. Some have concluded because of those confessions that the nun didn’t really have a relationship with Christ, but rather spent a lifetime trying to earn salvation by her sacrificial service. Others rightly point out that all true Christians have “seasons” of darkness and feel disconnected with Christ. Many have written about “the dark night of the soul” for hundreds of years.

I have personally had dark seasons of faith. They have had a powerful impact upon me and proved to be important experiences of spiritual growth. However, the prolonged nature of Mother Teresa’s darkness is almost incomprehensible to me since they lasted for decades!

Speaking of Jesus’ love Mother Teresa wrote in one of her letters, “As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear, the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak…”

In contrast Mother Teresa wrote vividly of Christ’s call in 1946 for her to go to Calcutta and serve the poor. She writes of her experience of Christ almost romantically. In one such comment she claimed, “Jesus gave Himself to me.” She wrote and pleaded with the pope on behalf of working in Calcutta with dramatic and mystical descriptions of her personal bond with Christ.

Likewise, I can relate to mystical experiences of Christ. I moved my family across the U.S. a few years ago to start Meadowbrook Church based upon a mystical experience I had in prayer. But, I wonder if the “high” Mother Teresa experienced in the 1940’s led her to seek for a replication of that intoxicating mysticism over the next 60 years.

There’s so much more to say but I’ll conclude this post with this observation. Relationship with Christ is built on faith. Faith is rooted in revelation. Christ is revealed to us best and most reliably in the New Testament of the Bible. Christ also reveals Himself to us personally. I must always discern and make sense of Christ’s personal revelations to me through the Scriptures. God is consistent and therefore my legitimate experiences with Him will be in harmony with that in the Scriptures.

To say that relationship with Christ is built upon faith is also to say it is NOT built upon either my sacrificial service or my mystical experiences. Both are important means by which Christ can be experienced but they are not the foundation. I wonder what the foundation was for Mother Teresa.

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