Reading the Mystics

What is the ultimate end of a Christian life?  To get into heaven?  To succeed at the American dream while maintaining Christian values?  To make a difference in someone’s life?  To share the gospel with as many people as possible?  According to the Westminster Catechism, the chief end of one’s life is to “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We glorify God when we honor who He is, and who He created us to be.  We enjoy Him when we commune with Him, walking in relationship with Him, as Adam and Eve once did in the garden.  God instructs us, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).  And specifically, we are told that we are chosen to be conformed into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

Much of our focus in our Christianity is on our personal relationship with Christ, and our aim to become more Christ-like in our thoughts, words and deeds.  There is an entire genre of writing that focuses on describing and detailing those very relationships between individuals and their God.  Their writings capture the imagination and heart, and transport us to the very intimate interaction between God and His creation.  They remind us of God’s unfailing love – a truth we could all be reminded of more often:

“Our Lord showed me a spiritual sight of His familiar love.  I saw that He is to us everything which is good and comforting for our help.  He is our clothing, for He is that love which wraps and enfolds us, embraces us and guides us, surrounds us for His love, which is so tender that He may never desert us.”

The writer goes on to describe a small item in her hand:

“It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God….In this little thing I saw three properties.  The first is that God made it, the second is that He loves it, the third is that God preserves it.  But what is that to me?  It is that God is the Creator and the love and the protector.  For until I am substantially united to Him, I can never have love or rest or true happiness.”

If you are not familiar with these writings, you may be wondering who this author is, and to what genre of writing I am referring.  The author of the quotes above are from Julian of Norwich who lived in the 14th century.  She belongs to a group of writers called the mystics.  Don’t let the name “mystic” or “mysticism” alarm you.  The mystics’ main focus was to describe their personal relationships with Christ; today as readers of the mystics, we can grow in our knowledge of and devotion to Christ through their work.

If you’re looking for a new devotional to read, consider picking up something from the mystics.  Their unique approach to faith, devotion, and intimacy with the Lord will challenge and enrich you.  They may have written long ago, but their words are timeless and instructive to us today.  Here, for example, is yet another quote from Julian of Norwich, which speaks beautifully to our busyness and desire for true rest:

“Those who deliberately occupy themselves with earthly business, constantly seeking worldly well-being, have not God’s rest in their souls; for they love and seek their rest in this thing which is so little and in which there is no rest, and do not know God who is almighty, all wise and all good, for He is true rest.”