The critical question of the Third Mansions is: Will I follow Jesus to freedom or simply fine-tune my “upright and carefully-ordered life”? The “spiritually mature” can struggle making progress because they become unteachable. They model Christian behavior. They instruct others. They know the Bible. They lead the church. And since they do everything “right”, instructional trials perplex them and they deflect advice. Consequently, their spiritual progress stalls.
To avoid stalling, Teresa advises us to:
- Eliminate Constant Calculation: We reason to the point of gridlock or spend our days refining our carefully ordered life. But all this caution gets us nowhere. Exploring the Interior Castle pushes us beyond the boundaries of our abilities and comprehension into the unknown where we must act in faith.
- Increase Velocity: Once we identify the critical path for our spiritual growth we must press hard in that direction. “Escape velocity” gets us out of the gravitational pull of those things that hinder us. Teresa talks of “this habit of always serving God at a snail’s pace!” We can be “eminently reasonable folk” but nothing serious ever happens when we trudge through life.
- Reduce Distractions: We can live virtuous lives and still cling to wealth or reputation. We risk spiritual distraction anytime we mourn the loss of what we will never use, pursue what we don’t need, and blame others for our reputation.
- Find a Spiritual Director: When I talk about spiritual directors, I’m talking about wise people with a holistic approach to life. Unfortunately, good spiritual directors are hard to find. But with some creativity we can find the guidance we need.
Christian spirituality is not simply about being on our best behavior. That hasn’t worked for any of us — so why do we advise others to do the same thing? Instead we must go deeper into the Interior Castle. In the Fourth Mansions we begin the shift from ascetic prayer (action we initiate by God’s grace) to mystical prayer (action God initiates). This may be unfamiliar territory for some of us, but we can learn a lot from those with different faith experiences. Teresa says, “there is no reason why we should expect everyone else to travel by our own road” and “those who live carefully ordered lives are apt to be shocked at everything” but “we might well learn very important lessons from the persons who shock us.”
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I hesitate to ‘Like’ this post because the direction this post gives is far beyond a ‘Like’. Walking this road of ‘eliminating constant evaluation’, ‘increasing velocity’, ‘reducing distractions’, and finding a ‘wholistic spiritual director’ are no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of humility and faith resolve to walk in obedience, picking up, taking on only what the Holy Spirit directs oneself. Thank you again for these insights.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Always nice to hear your perspective.