I’m reading Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer by Thomas Dubay. I was hungering for something to help me advance in prayer and spiritual maturity and this has been an excellent book at the perfect time in my life.
One section covers St. Teresa’s writings on interior mansions. As I reflect on some of the stages and the hallmarks of each, I feel compelled to write down the times in my life when God spoke to me directly. They won’t make much sense to anyone else but hopefully writing them down will help me to make more sense of them and where they fit into the interior mansions of my life.
I have heard God speak to me twice. Neither was an audible sound, and both were unmistakable – they weren’t from my own thoughts. In fact, at the time my thoughts were frantic and racing and pouring out fear and sorrow to God and the instant He spoke to me I stopped, was still, and knew it came from God directly to me.
The first time I had spent a weekend at my parents’ home and mom had broken the news that she and dad were separating. Everyone was very upset - especially my dad – and I was in my usual role of being strong and being a caretaker for anyone who needed a shoulder to lean on. I was very calm throughout the weekend and at the end of it I drove my young children back to our home. We unpacked, they were hanging out with my husband, and I excused myself and drove to our church. The doors were unlocked, the church was quiet, and I fell to my knees, sobbing. My mind was racing and I didn’t know how to pray. I was hurting so much for mom, for dad, for each of my siblings and for myself. As I poured out my heart, I heard very clearly and spoken directly into my heart: “It will be ok. Not as you would have it, but it will be ok.” I was immediately stilled and knew it was true. It brought me great comfort in that moment and as time passed it was exactly as He said. It wasn’t “great” or what I would have wanted, but it was “ok.”
The second time God spoke to me I was in a hallway outside my dad’s ICU room. It was a time in my life when many different people were causing me to question what I’d been taught and were insisting “this” doctrine or “that” doctrine was essential to salvation. As the doctor and team worked on my dad after he coded, I was frantically praying and cried out to God, “How are we supposed to know? Catholics say ‘this,’ Baptists say ‘that,’ Karen believes a completely different thing. Did he do the right thing or believe what he needed to, to be saved?” Immediately I heard the LORD: “Oh, Lori – I am so much bigger than all of that!” Again, I was immediately still and I knew it was true. All of my fear melted away and I felt great peace. I was able to sincerely thank Him for my dad, and surrendered my dad into His loving hands.
Other very different and distinct events have occurred that are hard to describe but as I read St. Teresa’s accounts, I know the first is an experience others have had. I was awake but in bed. Suddenly I realized a wonderful light was growing. I’m not sure if my eyes were open or closed, but all I saw was this light getting brighter until it filled everything, was everything – all I saw was the brilliant light. My heart nearly exploded with joy and I knew it was Jesus! Nothing was spoken, it did not last long, and soon it was just me in my bed again feeling great joy and smiling until it almost hurt! It felt like a promise to me. I’ve never doubted it was the LORD and I was in His presence, a momentary lifting of the veil. I wasn’t sure what to make of it; I have simply pondered it in my heart and treasured the moment.
The last event was again the presence of the LORD. I was driving on a beautiful spring day across Iowa, conversing with God out loud. I looked across the landscape, a quilt of fields with young crops of corn and soybeans and I said, “That is so beautiful, LORD! My dad would love this drive today, looking at the crops.” Immediately I felt a burst of light or energy and I absolutely knew that somehow, in some way, my dad was with me. More than that, I knew the LORD was intimately present as well and I burst into tears. The gift was knowing my dad was present, but all my words and attention and gratitude were directed at God for giving me such a wonderful gift. I felt such great joy! It didn’t last long but stayed with me the rest of the trip and again, I have simply been left to ponder it and treasure it.
I am intrigued by St. Teresa’s interior castles. I know these experiences fit very well into what she described, and her own went far beyond my own.
Not long ago I read about Moses speaking to God face-to-face and I covet that greatly! Every step I take seems to both feed me, and leave me hungering for more. I continue to pour out my heart to God, begging Him for more. Not more “experiences,” necessarily, but more of Him.