Death of the Butterfly: Part III: A Desire to Suffer
I mentioned in a previous post Teresa occasionally begins to enumerate her ideas – and then doesn’t continue her pattern clearly. She gets there, but it’s not always easy to follow. This leaves some work for the modern reader to sort out. But we’ll take a short cut: Kavenaugh and Rodriguez in their translation of The Interior Castle complete the enumeration. The effects of The Death of the Butterfly include:
- Forgetfulness of self
- Desire to suffer
- Deep interior joy in persecution
- Desire to serve
- Great detachment
- No fear of the devil’s deceits
In this post we’ll discuss the “desire to suffer”. Teresa writes: “The second effect is that the soul has a great desire to suffer, but not the kind of desire that disturbs it as previously. For the desire left in these souls that the will of God be done in them reaches such an extreme that they think everything His Majesty does is good. If he desires the soul to suffer, well and good; if not, it doesn’t kill itself as it used to.”
In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Paul says we can “boast in our sufferings”. Previously in the book of Romans, Paul used “boasting” as a negative — an arrogant attitude about our human ability to be right with God and keep his “law” through our own willpower. Now Paul says we can boast, but the boasting is not about human ability. The boasting (or celebration) is about our justification through God’s grace. This justification happens to us, but apart from our own effort. And through this justification we find the future “hope of sharing the glory of God”. We’ve also presently entered a new creation where “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Suffering fixes our attention on our future glory through justification. Through suffering God also brings us to a present experience of God’s love through the Holy Spirit. We participate in God’s new creation with his glory breaking into our daily life.
So Paul’s argument is something like this:
- We are justified by grace through faith. (We’re declared by God to be in a right relationship with him. Our dependence on divine grace eliminates boasting based on human effort — and consequently, our judgmental attitude about others.)
- We are at peace with God through Jesus Christ. (There’s nothing broken in our relationship with him.)
- We can “boast in our hope of sharing in the glory of God”. (We can have confidence in our future participation in God’s glory.)
- We can also boast in our present sufferings. (Our suffering is developmental in life, not an obstacle to life.)
- Our sufferings produce endurance. (We become strong – “in shape”, so to speak, for the challenges of life.)
- The endurance we develop from suffering produces character. (Through endurance character becomes a habit.)
- Refined character produces the “hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Our character allows us to see more clearly our future glory with God.)
- We have present participation in the new creation because God’s love through the Holy Spirit has already “been poured out into hearts”. (The indwelling Trinity resides within us [i.e. The Interior Castle] and saturates our being with his love.)
Back to Teresa: When we enter into spiritual marriage with Christ, we are one spirit with him. This intimate relationship produces a “great desire” to suffer because we know this suffering produces deeper intimacy and abundant blessing. In the past, suffering came with a great disturbance in our soul. In spiritual marriage, we recognize that everything God does is good and infused with love for us. Therefore, we are at peace.
For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.