There is a threshold of discipleship that seems somewhat rare and untapped. It can be a bit intimidating or feel counter to everything we would have expected from following the Good Shepherd. Most of all, perhaps it’s just far from people’s minds. But we need to cast off into these waters.
This threshold can be described with many words: ache, anguish, uneasiness, yearning, etc. This is the heart of a disciple that has been so baked by grace that it begins to burn with the same fire that burdened the heart of Jesus; one that feels both heavy and light, disconcerted and peaceful, dark and light. This is a threshold into the land of hunger, of peaceful dissatisfaction and a joyful aching, which remains restless until the gates of Heaven; until it has seen the Lord Jesus face to face.
We aren’t comfortable considering the possibility of being taken past this point of no return. ‘Wait,’ we think, ‘doesn’t Jesus want me happy?’ Yes, He does. That’s precisely why He would inflict our hearts like this. Such a reality is stated amazingly well by the contemporary author Michael O’Brien:
The only whole heart is a broken heart. (The Father’s Tale)
We are the hollow-hearted – we break so that we might be filled, we break so that we might be whole. In His mercy, God allows our hearts to be ripped open so that we are capable of greater and greater love. Once again we come to the impeccable proclamation of Pope Benedict XVI:
This world will offer you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.
Is there anything that we protect more than our comfort? Perhaps all of human history can be aptly described as, ‘the search for comfort.’ But our restlessness, our hunger, our desire for ‘we know not what’ is perhaps the best thing about us. It is our homing device. It is the charge of our being that always, no matter how we’ve maimed ourselves, draws us back to the original Magnet.
[From the perspective of the Gospel] it is not only normal, but necessary and even highly desirable that he experience at the outset a profound trouble linked to the metaphysical fact that on account of sin he is not as he should be. (Gabriel Marcel, Problematic Man)
And the more the Spirit of God has touched us, the more our hearts will turn to aching:
It is thus quite clear that uneasiness is here but a ferment, or if you wish, a leaven, without which the soul could not, strictly speaking, be converted, since this leaven is also the work which God, which grace, performs in the depths of the creature. (Problematic Man)
This uneasiness is a cry that rips open its ribcage and yells, ‘I want more! And I won’t be satisfied until the whole world knows of the glory of God.’
Don’t you feel it, brothers and sisters? Don’t you feel how the Lord wants to wound us with his love; how He wants to make us yearn for Him like lovers before their wedding night? And not only that: to yearn and beg and ache that others might have this same knowledge of Him who fills all in all – to shed tears, to be in anguish! That’s the meaning of this:
Shake off the shackles of comfort. Open wide your heart to taste but a drop of His Thirst. There is no greater blessing.
We need to get to this level of love. We need broken hearts, lovesick hearts, restless hearts. We need to have the courage to not try and push away or artificially still the uneasiness that trembles beneath our surface. We need to break the cage and let our hunger and our desire for infinity absolutely run wild. Let it hurt, let it ache, let it consume us like a fire.
And, in the end, our only peace and our only joy are found precisely in this desire, this ache, this uneasiness, this dissatisfaction, this restlessness that will only be satisfied when the whole world bows in awe before our King, Jesus Christ.
How do we arrive at this depth of love? It is always and only a work of the Spirit. So, all we have to do is ask. Let’s take Mother Teresa at her word:
My secret is simple: I pray. (No Greater Love)