Monday, June 24, 2024

Lord of the Storm, God of the maelstrom

    I'm inspired by the storm motif in yesterday's Mass readings to tell you about another mystical experience I had back in 2016. I had only recently acquiesced and committed to my eremitic vocation, and it would still be almost 3 years before I was able to leave work and take my first vows as a hermit. This was the honeymoon of my love affair with God. I was head over heels in love, and it seemed as if my Lover was, too, and every sunset and wildflower and singing bird was like a gift from my Beloved to me. Anyway, Love has always been my experience of God, from the first (38 years ago), when He responded to my cry for help from the depths of trauma and depression. He revealed Himself to me then, and ever since, as Love.

    The "fear" of God has always seemed totally wrong to me, incompatible with the God of my understanding. Not any more! I mean, yes, Love, so much love! But also, now I understand the fear of God, too. Not a fear of judgment, but a fear of annihilation, of Ego-loss. Fear of surrendering to the overwhelming power of God, Who is so entirely beyond my ken, let alone my control. I confronted this right in the middle of that sweet honeymoon, when I had a sort of Transfiguration experience, and saw a glimpse of the cataclysmic power of the Lord of all creation. 

    It was a Sunday morning, October 9, 2016. In my journal, I described it like this:

Driving into town to the monastery for Mass, I was struck by the tremendous sky: dark with heavy clouds behind, gradually lightening through marvelous cloud formations eastwards, until over the horizon just ahead there was an end of cloud and a band of clear, luminous sky in gradually deepening Maxfield Parrish color shades. It was glorious and awe-some, sobering but in no way fearsome.

    Later on, during Mass, the vision of that storm-laden sky came back into my mind, but with a totally different emotional import. I saw in it, in the chaotic storm energy, a vision of the overwhelming, cataclysmic, dangerous power of God. It was as if my gentle, tender Lover was pulling back a curtain to let me see Who He really is, before I actually took vows to consecrate my life to Him. The tender Lover is real, He treats me that way, it is how I experience God still. But in Himself, God is the Lord of chaos, the power of the hurricane, the lightning bolt, the tsunami, the supernova. God is not some cute little lamb, He is not safe.

    Let me tell you, it was terrifying! I was shaken up, shocked, and it took me a minute to get to "yes."  But as I wrote in my journal,

He is revealing Himself to me beyond the sweet, tender, gentle Lover Who called me aside into intimate solitude. Will I accept Him so, will I love Him still, as He is, frightening and overwhelming? Entire? Yes, I do, God, yes. I surrender! You are life, there is no life for me apart from You, I choose You, I will jump into the maelstrom with both eyes open, with fear and trembling, and I know You will give me Life."

    Reflecting back on it in 2020, I wrote more of the sense of the danger of Ego death, or annihilation of the false Self: 

    He wanted me to know this, to see this, and I felt as if He was laying His lover's heart at my feet, trembling with wishing that I would still choose Him having seen this other vision of Him, the rest of Him, as He really is, a power that is fearsome and fierce and terrifying, and His lover's fear that I would turn away and hide, and reject Him as He really is.... And I was AFRAID, it did give me pause, it seemed that life with God would be dangerous, that really to give myself to Him might mean being broken into a million bits.... but I know, I know this with a total assurance, that I would be re-born from any such shattering as a new, purer, brighter, stronger creature, bursting with life and health and power and grace. The world shattered me on its wheel ... if loving God means being broken again, it will not be the same. If God were to require the shattering of myself, it would be the shattering of my shell, of my patched-up self-image, of my false and never-quite-convinced sense of security in illusory things ... and I would rise from the ashes as the pure being He made me to be, all light. Incrementally, of course ... never entirely, not until the final break, when the breath leaves the body. And anyway, I said to Him, "to whom shall I go?" There is nothing else, there is no way else, there is no alternative to God for me. So I took a deep breath, and opened my heart, and opened my eyes and said "YES, Lord ... I choose YOU. Even so, more so, because it is more You ... and I trust You, and I love You. Amen!"

    But last year, I returned to this vision and saw it from another angle: 

    I had a new and different insight into the "God of the Maelstrom" revelation. I had always thought of it as a revelation of the violent, dangerous side of God. Not that God is Lord over the maelstrom, but that He is its source. That all that violent, destructive energy is the power of God. I felt that the question being asked of me was whether I would accept potentially being torn apart, tossed and bruised and broken, in this espousal to God. Because: Christ was crucified! Death is visited on each and every single one of us! Growth seems always to come with a painful breaking down of the old self, with a shaking off of safety and comfort. 

    But this morning, it occurred to me that God is the Lord of the Maelstrom -- He is its Lord, chaos is not chaos to Him, destruction doesn't destroy Him. He is safe in all of it. 

    And I thought, if I am wedded to God, (I AM!!), then I can unite myself to the Lord of the Storm -- the Lord OVER the Storm -- and let myself be swept out to sea, let myself ride out the storm, ride the storm in its power, and I can be tossed and tumbled and unmoored but still perfectly safe. Because I am with my Beloved, Who masters the storm, and I am His beloved, too. I can trust, and go with the exhilaration of being carried, in perfect safety, in the center of the storm. Go breathless, go helpless, go rudderless and mapless, in His fiercely loving care. Lord of the Maelstrom. 


    Why am I writing publicly about these things, that are so personal? I'm not really sure, and I'm not entirely comfortable about it myself. But having left my own country and people behind, I think more than anything I'm hoping to get back an echo, to find a few people who are willing and able to meet me in my crazy inner world. And then again, as I find it helpful to find my intense religious experience mirrored in other people's writing, so maybe someone out there will also see themselves in me and find comfort in it.

    Whether you relate to what I've written, or have thoughts about my mystical theology, or are just curious or have questions or comments, please let me know. And I post very inconsistently, so if you want to see more in future, please subscribe!



  1. Yes, I relate to what you've written. Not so eloquently, of course. But, in my relationship with God, I have had some similar experiences. My heart and spirit have taken that leap into relationship with God, in trust and boundless confidence that he will sustain me. Loving God is choosing freedom. -- Kate Jesse

    1. Yes, exactly! I used the phrase "surrender into perfect freedom" with someone a while ago, and didn't realize the power of it until they picked it up and repeated it back to me. Turning my will and my life over to the care of God is the ultimate, paradoxical, freedom.