I do not think that all the scorn and all the trials which we may have to suffer in this life can equal these interior battles. Any unrest and any strife can be borne, as I have already said, if we find peace where we live.
But it is necessary (and His Majesty’s will) that we should take proper measures and learn to understand ourselves, and not blame our souls for what is the work of our weak imagination and our nature and the devil. (Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Fourth Mansions: Chapter One)
A “weak imagination” (or thought life)* leaves us spiritually vulnerable and the devil assails us with all sorts of deception. We risk shame, guilt, resentment, lust, criticism, complaining, and feelings of defeat. Teresa says, “I do not think that all the scorn and all the trials which we may have to suffer in this life can equal these interior battles.”
But we don’t have to be victims of the devil’s manipulation. We are more complex beings than our chaotic thought and have rich internal resources to find peace in the interior life. These resources include:
- Our Identity: Our souls have great beauty and dignity because we are created in God’s image and He indwells us.
- Our faculties (i.e. our physical and emotional powers): Things like reason, understanding, faith, will, and memory are sources of internal strength.
- Love: Our thoughts can fly all over the place, but love provides a filter to determine our actions.
Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen notes the importance of finding our identity as the “beloved of God”. He says, “The ultimate spiritual temptation is to doubt this fundamental truth about ourselves and trust in alternative identities.” Many of us have accepted unhealthy identities. We picked them up somewhere along the way and then a “weak imagination” and the devil took over. We can find renewal by embracing our identity as the beloved of God. We then center ourselves through our faculties and by loving others. When we find this internal center, our chaotic thought becomes nothing more than a powerless annoyance.
*We typically use imagination as a positive. Teresa uses imagination as synonymous with “thought” which is highly vulnerable to our weaknesses and the attack of the devil.
#Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. Henri Nouwen (with Michael J. Christiansen and Rebecca J. Laird)
Follow on Twitter:
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org