Spiritual Virtigo   14 comments

confusion boxMy mother in her quirky way used to make us Christmas gifts of various kinds.  This  Christmas I noticed my dad is still using a bathrobe she made for him 30 years ago.  She must have made it out of upholstery material, because it is soft and warm on the outside and stiff and scratchy on the skin-side.  My older brother David once unwrapped a gift from her and responded graciously, “I love it!  What is it?”  Indecipherable love.  God’s been putting together a special gift for me this year as a resource for my spiritual growth, and it looks like a box full of confusion, without an instruction manual.   God, you know I’m already depressed, right?  What the heck do I do with this?

Hundreds of years ago St. John of the Cross descended into “the dark night of the soul” and left a consoling account for those who followed.  The Christian psychiatrist Gerald May describes his own experience of it:

[This spirit of virtigo] seems specifically designed for people like me, people who refuse to relinquish the idea that if only I could understand things, I could make them right.  Having lost the old willpower and its satisfactions, we desperately try to figure out where we have gone astray.  “What’s happening here?  Where have I gone wrong?  Maybe my problem is this… No, maybe it’s that… Perhaps I should try this… Or that….”

Every effort at soul-diagnosis and cure fails.  We are left in the dark.  And that is for our salvation, May says: “Sooner or later, there is nothing left to do but give up.  And that is precisely the point, the purpose of the ‘dizzy spirit.’  In each relinquishment… reliance upon God is deepened.”   I’ve been mapquesting God for directions to my soul’s healing and taking every turn He signaled.  Apparently I’m in the Slough of Despond not from getting confused and careening off the road, but from following His bullet points.  He drove me straight into the bog.



There are some advantages of sinking into the quagmire.  No worries about getting lost if you’re already there.  No wrong turns to make if you can’t move.  No real expectations to fail if there are no goals.  If it’s God’s move; all I can do is wait… and trust.  That’s always the tough part, especially for us hard-working, self-reliant types.  “Be still and know that I am God” is a much deeper concept than I realized–not simply self control in quieting myself, but learning to patiently accept God’s time-outs for my soul, letting something work which I cannot see or measure and over which I have no control.  Who knew being out of control was a sign of spiritual progress?

boy and teddy


Posted February 1, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

Tagged with , , , ,

14 responses to “Spiritual Virtigo

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What an encouragement the last paragraph was to me, as I find myself “stuck in the mud”-physically, emotionally, spiritually-a great reminder to trust God, sending me back to Psalm 46:11. May God be exalted among the nations, as I, having squirmed and wriggled, and managing to drive myself deeper in the mud by my very anxiety, am called to cease striving, and to recognize the great “I AM”.

    • Doris, may you find the rich grace of God enough to calm your anxieties. Letting go is such a hard thing for many of us. I told Kimberly tonight that all my life I have assumed that clearer understanding and living out that truth is the way to growth. Mystery has not been an active part of this faith process until very recently. I now realize that not only do I not have it all figured out, but I may be obstructing God’s work by trying too hard to figure it out and having the “right” response.

  2. You asked… ” What the heck do I do with this?”…and you made something beautiful with it…this blog and your journey of knowing and trusting Him and loving others in “the meantime.

  3. Hi Janathan…This morning I woke up and started searching the internet for answers to figure out why something so hard has found it’s way into my life. And over and over and over again I was reminded to trust God. And then I found this post and it sealed the deal. I may NEVER understand…so instead of understanding the “why”, maybe I’m supposed to learn the lessons in it, and maybe one of those lessons is to give up control and trust. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

  4. Good Morning –

    Hebrews 4:14 – So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firm to what we believe.
    Eph 6:13 – Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

    I love the end of Eph 6:13 – after you have done everything, to stand. That is all, stand, not run a race, not jump for joy, simply stand. Our God only asks that we stand.So at the end of each day if you can still stand, then count it a victory.

    In His Grace – Bev

  5. “the dark night of the soul” Read about that in Brennan Manning’s book and it struck such a chord with me. It is been a long, long night and I’m exhausted by it. But, like you, where would I go? God is all I have.
    May God bring us both through our dark nights stronger, more faithful, and grateful that He never left us even though it seemed He had.

  6. Love this- `Being out of control is a sign of spiritual progress…´ I believe this is often true. God exists in a realm outside of human control. To be out of control and out of our earthly depth is to progress to that place of `decreasing as He increases´. That can only be a good thing.

  7. Wow! Talk about a posting knoncikg my socks off!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: