“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath.” Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life the Diaries, 1942-1943 and Letters from Westerbork, Picador 1996, Daily Quote, Inwardoutward.org, Church of the Saviour, June 28, 2018.
Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman studying law in the Netherlands in the 1940’s who lived down the street from Anne Frank. She died at the age of 29 in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. She kept a diary of her inner life as well as describing the severe persecution of the Jews in Holland during those days. Which was published after her death. Her transformation out of fear and hate to love and care and kindness and compassion for those suffering around her makes her an icon especially for us today. Through the help of her psychotherapist, she learned to see the God hole in people and situations during those amazingly difficult times and fill that God hole with the love she had known.
This is indeed our ministry as spiritual friends. Each of us has a hole in our mind, our heart, our body that only God can fill. Instead we try to fill it with relationships, food, alcohol, drugs, shopping work, sports, work, power, even family, writing, reading, and patriotism. We can also fill it with hate, persecution, bigotry, self-centeredness, intimidation, cruelty, negativity, pessimism, hopelessness, despair, apathy, and indifference.
As spiritual friends we are called to help each other find that God hole and fill it with the best unconditional love we can muster up. It begins with our presence with each other and listening.
I remember a dear friend who came into my office at the hospital early one morning about a relationship that had just broken up. He was depressed, sad, broken-hearted, in tears. We talked for some time. Mostly I listened and tried to let him know how much I cared about him. Late in the conversation, I happened to mention the God hole. Somehow, he intuitively realized that this relationship had completely filled his God hole. I only had to say a few words. A light bulb went on. I usually do not mention the God hole when someone is in so much suffering, but something told me to bring it up that early morning. Hopefully we both were being guided by the Holy Spirit in our own God hole.