I had an opportunity yesterday to talk to some folks in my church about spirituality. We took Corinne Ware's "spiritual types" test and it evoked some great conversation.
One thing I talked about (although I wish I'd said it better and expanded on it) was how spiritual depth means being OPEN to both joy and pain.
This wasn't the direction I took, but I remember once, years ago, when I was doing some heavy-duty inner work, how this thought came to me: "I'm feeling the pain of the world." Everything seemed so very bleek and dismal. The Middle East was in crisis, I'd heard news reports of children being beaten up by their parents, and personally I was in a relationship with a man whose "love" for me wasn't exactly healthy. Dark. The world seemed exceedingly dark.
But that sense that I could feel the pain of the world was so strong. And yet it wasn't ... it wasn't something I couldn't handle. Such a mystery. It was as if I was bearing the pain of the whole world, but it wasn't unbearable. My soul was expansive and touched the Divine, and pain, while excrutiating, became simply pain, and not something that I had to immediately push away.
Pain was simply another experience. It wasn't that I was masochistic; I didn't feel I deserved the pain and I didn't want the pain. But it was there, and its presence wasn't repulsive to me. Inextricably the whole experience was a spiritual high. I know that sounds impossible, but I feel it was a real gift to me. In the midst of it all I was so close to God's spirit, so in tune somehow with the Christ.
I've not repeated that experience, but it has stayed with me, forming and transforming me.