On Mother Teresa’s Confession
“Nay, Diamond, if I change into a serpent or a tiger, you must not let go your hold of me, for my hand will never change in yours if you keep a good hold. If you keep a hold, you will know who I am all the time, even when you look at me and can’t see me [the least like the North wind]. I may look something very awful. Do you understand?”- At the back of the North Wind, George MacDonald.
Mother Teresa’s confession: Surprised?
We all must be really surprised with Mother Teresa’s confession- A little more shocking than Augustine’s confession. I want you to pray for me- that I let him have [a] free hand.” I’m not going to try and draw parallels and show how one is different from the other nor am I going to defend Mother Teresa’s case with whom we differ greatly on theological issues. My thought here is the challenge which Mother Teresa’s s letters has left us with. Can it be possible for a Christian to go through spasms of loneliness and depression?
The heart of the matter
What does it mean to be, dry, lonely, and in the dark to a woman who said, “Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile we receive.”? What does it mean to be a Christian? Is Christianity a drug or like Marx said ‘opium to the masses’? Do we get a kick in being religious? And if we aren’t entertained by it, are we being hypocritical to still practice it?
It isn’t surprising that the church with its tele-evangelists have the whole act and screenplay suited for today’s “make me feel good” audiences. Some of us have taken it upon ourselves- the role of entertaining the masses; an attempt to ‘disnify’ Christianity. If one needs to be happy and entertained he doesn’t need the church, a little vodka will do him some good. And we know that vodka all the time will kill us. When entertainment and pleasure becomes common place boredom becomes home. And that is why “our father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home” says C.S. Lewis.
The ‘real’ difference
So then what is Christianity all about? It is about doing the will of God. Mother Teresa in those letters said, “I accept not in my feelings-but with my will, the Will of God- I accept His will.” And His will is good. Good not in human rational terms but rather in divine terms. Like the difference between a good circus monkey and a good human being. Monkey morals are different from human morals. Now if a human were to become a good monkey he will only be regressing into a state of imperfection and weakness. So is the difference between human goodness and divine goodness. A good parent cannot have their child shove his hand into an electric socket and then save him. But God can save him miraculously. G.K. Chesterton writes, “The Old Testament hero is no more supposed to be of the same nature as God than a saw or a hammer is supposed to be of the same shape as the carpenter.”
The spiritual mystery
Every human being goes through these periods more so the Christian because for them it is to do the good will of God- against all odds and against the grain; for instance, Elijah, Jeremiah, Job and Apostle Paul and the plethora of missionaries. When we are taken through these tough periods unlike what most of us think we will come out better human beings. Just like, only when a seed falls to the ground and dies will it bear fruit. Life then, will be a mystery to be lived and not a problem to be solved. “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man”, said the wise G.K. Chesterton. “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold ” (Job 23:10).
Living the mystery
It isn’t strange for a believer to go through periods of loneliness and maybe even depression but not boredom. Could it be that because we are a generation that gets bored easily – of this, that and the other, we are incapable of appreciating and engaging in a mystery? While actually it is a mystery that brings us back to life. This is not masochism; only perverts are masochists.
The logic of pain
It isn’t surprising to see the rich and the famous indulging in crime when they have everything they want. Some of them are so comfortable that they can no longer bear it, and drown themselves in it. If happiness is regarded as a reward for a good life, then we will stop making good people happy and take on the stupid task of making happy people good. C.S. Lewis contends, “Pain often produces brilliant work and strengthens, hardens, and sharpens character till we become tempered steel”. The mystery of pain puts character in us.
Facing the challenge
Mother Teresa’s life and ministry has challenged many lives. Now, her spiritual struggle provides yet another challenge. Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British Journalist writes this about Mother Teresa: “The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on… And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity, and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t feeling Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to Him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”
My father once reminded me that treasures can also be found in darkness, Isaiah 45:3; Psalm 139:7-12. As Christians we shouldn’t be very shocked with Mother Teresa’s confessions. Her Savior went through it as well, which she writes herself, is nothing compared to what he went through on the cross-“My God my God why have you forsaken me?” But before we ask Him that question, we will have to allow ourselves to be asked questions that will probe into the deep recesses of our hearts and minds- to be put under the scrutiny of Gods Light (Job 38-42; Jer. 15:19-21; Psalm 139: 23-24)
– Daniel P. Thejus