by Ken Rolheiser
Soul vision and molding one’s inner life

Doctor: Read the bottom line
Patient: Copyright 1995 Made in Japan

Now that’s vision!

Recently I heard the story of a retired railway worker who at some point in his career obtained glasses. As the train was going down the tracks he asked his buddy an astounding question: “When did they put gravel along the tracks?”

The thought struck me that in spiritual matters we would do well to have our inner eyes checked. Our deficiencies at seeing what lies within hinders us from fulfilling the destiny God may have planned for us.

An amazing story is the soul challenging Etty Hillesum diaries of the anti-Jewish persecution that took her life in 1943. Unlike Anne Frank, Etty chose to go to Westerbork, a Nazi concentration camp, to be “a balm to all wounds” of others.

"Those two months behind barbed wire have been the two richest and most intense months of my life, in which my highest values were so deeply confirmed. I have learnt to love Westerbork".

Of her time at Westerbork Etty writes, "The sky is full of birds; the purple lupins stand up so regally and peacefully; two little old women have sat down for a chat; the sun is shining on my face - and right before our eyes, mass murder... The whole thing is simply beyond comprehension." (Wikipedia)

Sr. Jean-Marie Dwyer invites us to a deeper insight into the soul vision of Esther Hillesum. In The Unfolding Journey: The God Within: Etty Hillesum & Meister Eckhart, Dwyer explores how grace helped Etty to a clearer vision of God’s plan.

At the heart of Etty’s clear vision is humility: “I have to make myself let it go, must have the courage to be alone with my weakness, to be that small bundle of exhausted and not very inspired humanity I happen to be at the moment and nothing more.” (Etty, 378)

The light of the Spirit gradually reveals what needs healing. God loves us because we are loveable, though imperfect. A sense of our human fragility is often the starting point of a deeper spiritual awareness, says Dwyer.

In her diary Etty writes of the need to, “…understand one’s various states of mind, to keep a grip on them and to put them in perspective instead of mistaking them for absolutes.” (Etty, 374)

Etty goes on to say a sense of shame and her inhibitions keep her from letting go, from allowing things to pour out of her. Inside she feels “like a tightly wound ball of twine…nothing more or less than a miserable, frightened creature despite the clarity with which I can express myself.”

“And we have to take everything that comes: the bad with the good, which does not mean we cannot devote our life to curing the bad. But we must know what motives inspire our struggle, and we must begin with ourselves, every day anew.” (Etty 463)

Dwyer leads us to a conclusion: we are all sinners, no matter how far we progress. Even the great saints were aware of their sinfulness and imperfection. The closer we come to God, the more this awareness is intensified, but it does not produce despair at our deficiencies – rather, grateful humility at God’s great and merciful love.

One customer reviewer writes: If Etty loved and trusted God in circumstances that are so horrible we cannot fathom, then I can develop a long lasting connection with God again and want to talk to Him everyday.

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