I was praying in my study this morning and my oldest daughter Mary Joy came in terrified because of a nightmare about monsters.
Have you ever thought about monsters?
I don’t know what Freud would say, but it seems like everything scary in this world is a twisted picture of what is whole and complete. A monster is a perversion of a good creature or human being… an evil person is a corrupt version of a human being… a deranged person is a sick version of a human being. Bad often seems to be the deficiency or brokenness of what is good.
This is a lot like St. Augustine’s view of evil. Augustine believed that bad didn’t exist as an independent entity. Rather, his view was that bad or evil is the absence or twisting of good.
On this view, spiritual growth or sanctification means the unbending and becoming of what is already latent potential through the work of the Holy Spirit. Becoming like Christ means becoming what God originally intended for men and women before sin corrupted our nature.
I don’t think that this is how we usually approach spiritual growth. I believe that we approach sanctification 3 dimensionally rather than spiritually. We run from monsters that we think exist. We run from people who threaten. We run from situations that scare us. We hide (much like Adam and Eve hid in the garden).
We think we can move, evade and find space in order to be spiritual. We think that the bad things are “out there” – thus the 3 dimension approach to growth.
Whether Augustine was right or wrong about evil, it seems like we may be able to learn a little about spirituality through his views… that we need to irrigate the arid places of our own souls and that we need to spend time with God so that he can straighten out our inner tangles. That the monsters we see are often just pointers to the reality that the things of this world need to be sanctified and remade.
Maybe there was a hint of all this thinking in the things I whispered to my daughter as I rocked her in the Lazy Boy… “Mary Joy, you are so very special and I love you.”
I didn’t whisper to her about the reality of monsters and that they couldn’t reach her; rather, I whispered to her about the reality of good and that she could reach it.