There is one thing so important that, although I have said it on other occasions, I will repeat it once more here: it is that at the beginning one must not think of such things as spiritual favors . . . For it is not in these Mansions, but in those which are farther on, that it rains manna . . . embrace the Cross which your Spouse bore upon His shoulders and realize that this Cross is yours to carry too: let her who is capable of the greatest suffering suffer most for Him and she will have the most perfect freedom. (Teresa of Avila: Second Mansions)
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Teresa cautions against seeking “spiritual favors” or “manna” in the first rooms of the Interior Castle when we are “suffering from imperfections by the thousand, with our virtues so young that they have not yet learned how to walk”. We must shift our focus from seeking manna to carrying the cross. Carrying the cross means saying “no” to self and experiencing suffering and humility. This is not meaningless humility and suffering but the kind that changes the world through love.
In almost any other area of life we expect to “sacrifice” in order to have the “manna”. We exercise and diet (sacrifice) for a healthy body (manna). We work hard (sacrifice) to be successful in our jobs (manna). We learn and practice financial disciplines (sacrifice) in order to have options (manna). We research and study (sacrifice) to be well read (manna). We may not always execute, but we know what it takes to have the “manna”. But when it comes to spirituality and relationships we expect it to “rain manna” without the cross. It doesn’t.
Churches are also prone to desire manna without the cross. We want sensational churches, so we hire talent and add unsustainable programs hoping to make it “rain manna”. When leaders without a strong spiritual center attempt this, the “manna” is only an illusion and the church implodes. But what do we expect when we place “spiritual adolescents” in charge of the church? We convince ourselves the next minister or new program will “change everything”. It doesn’t — because we are missing discipleship, the interior journey, and the cross.
I encourage you to gain the “perfect freedom” that comes from carrying your cross and let the “manna rain” when the time is right.
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