The last blossom on my Christmas cactus fell weeks ago. For forty days vibrant pink glory adorned the room where I pray, write, and offer spiritual direction. But now that glory is gone.
I think of the Israelites. For forty years they beheld God’s presence–cloud by day, fire by night–until they entered the Promised Land. Soon afterwards they woke up and the cloud was gone. No quail, no manna, no Moses. And at night? Only darkness.
I feel their loneliness; I feel mine. I know God is here, but I don’t see or sense God’s presence. I hear nothing but the clock ticking.
God is silent, but in this foreign land I am given a new rule.
“Don’t change. Change is impossible, and even if it were possible, it is undesirable. Stay as you are. Love yourself as you are. And change, if it is at all possible, will take place by itself if and when it wants. Leave yourselves alone. The only growth-promoting change is that which comes from self-acceptance.”
–Anthony de Mello, S.J.
Once I hear these words, there’s no going back to Egypt, to a life of slavery and toil. I’m done with trying to fix myself. De Mello isn’t condoning bad behaviour; he’s inviting me to love myself the way God loves me: unconditionally. And out of that love, whatever is not loving in me will fall away.
This truth resonates deeply in my soul, opening doors, setting me free. The blossoms, cloud and fire led me here, to this land flowing with milk and honey, grace and mercy, and peace, peace, peace in every direction, as far as my eyes can see.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Questions for your Lenten pilgrimage:
- Where are you with God? In Egypt, wandering in the desert, or in a new land?
- How is God loving you here?
- What would it be like to “leave yourself alone” and join God in loving yourself as you are right now?
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“Wake up!” Anthony de Mello, a master at love mischief, joyfully encouraged everyone. Until his sudden death on June 2, 1987, Jesuit priest, Fr. Tony was the director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counselling near Poona, India. Author of five best-selling books, renowned worldwide for his workshops, retreats, and prayer courses, he aimed simply to teach people how to pray, and how to wake up and live.