Evelyn Underhill was an Anglican mystic who lived in England in the early 1900s. Her approach to some of the more troubling aspects of our shared religious heritage, such as the image of THE CROSS, is fresh and eminently sensible. Today I want to quote from a letter she wrote in 1911 to a friend who was in great emotional distress. In it she emphasizes the importance of embracing the cross as an essential part of our spiritual transformation.
“I do not think you have ever made the Cross the centre of your life really,” she writes. “And you have got to, you know. Nothing else will do. And if you do not accept it deliberately, why then it will be forced on you in some subtle and ingenious way, as it is at the present moment. And by struggling and tiring yourself out, you make it worse. Accept what you are having, quite simply and obediently. Take it as it comes. And do not get into a despairing condition. These experiences are a perfectly normal part of the spiritual life, which is not designed on the lines of a ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon.’
“Surrender yourself altogether and be quite quiet. The thing is not in your hands at present. Leave off mental prayer and meditation. Stick to formal prayer. And it will be well to leave those you ordinarily use, and take for the time to quite fresh ones. I do not know how long you spend in prayer, but very likely now you will NOT be able to spend so long. There is no object in exhausting yourself.
“I know quite well what these states are like, and how dreary it is; and do not behave at all well under them myself. Humility and willing suffering have got to be learned. But once you really surrender it is extraordinary how the nastiness goes and you perceive that it was the ‘shade of God’s Hand outstretched caressingly.”
If your life, like so many in these turbulent times, seems to be fixed in a state of perpetual challenge, take these passionate, somewhat impatient words to heart. The ordeals that seem to crucify us are not a sign that we’re doing something wrong. They are an essential part of the spiritual path, and the only efficient response is a state of surrender to the infinite power of our own Being. I find that, for me, the clearest, simplest and most effective prayer is simply “Show me the good!”
Let us affirm today that we are open to the lessons of our challenges. We are eager to see and embrace the Good in even the most trying of events. We learn and grow and continue to move toward the kingdom.