Our loving God reaches out to us one by one through many different means, but most often through the testimony of those who have experienced His love. In every generation there have been great preachers, writers, and teachers to help us find our way to the Beloved. In every generation too, there have been a few very ordinary people who have been awakened and transformed to an extraordinary degree by a direct and profoundly personal encounter with God. Theirs is a special love affair with the Divine, the goal and heart of all religion. We call them the mystics.
The reason we don’t often meet these people is that prayer, silence, and solitude—often in nature—is the way God has led them into this union. Solitude is the fertile ground from which they occasionally emerge, motivated by the fire of Love, to share life’s most hallowed possibility of passionate love, deep wholeness, and profound healing and joy. Always their messages are variations of God’s all-encompassing love and desire for us, often with the encouragement and hope from their own stories of enormous personal struggles fought and won. They then withdraw again into their private world of God’s love and presence.
Betty Walthour Skinner, whose story we have chronicled in The Hidden Life Awakened, is a 21st century mystic. Her burning quest, her “flaming yes!” to God throughout her ninety-plus years, and her all-consuming love affair with the Beloved is the marvelous thread that runs through her story.
The words below are hers, written in 1998.
God speaks and we, as His people, are called to be still and listen to His Voice. Those who have learned to listen, who are truly drawn into the mystery, also are impelled to give away some of what they have received. They have learned that what is not given freely is lost to them as well as to others.
Now, in the twilight of my years, I feel very pressed to encourage people who are on their spiritual journey to persevere, to trust God, and to not stop short of the goal—the gift of the Giver Himself, divine union. The gates of heaven are everywhere. Our part is to simply embrace and open to the new seasons of our inner and outer journey as preparation to receive this gift of Love. Divine union is for everyone, and the experiential knowledge of this Love and freedom is everything. At last, we are grasped by the hand of the Spirit and led into a wilderness free of distractions and temptations: a wilderness of trackless mystery, beauty, and sound. This is the ultimate food in the feast of our redemption—a foretaste of heaven.
Wondrous Love, ~Betty