I have only started reading some of the writings of Bede Griffiths recently, and I am already struck by how deeply blessed of the Holy Spirit this man was. He appears to have been the kind of man that when you looked into his eyes, you could see the spirit and the fact that he truly found joy in the praise of the Lord. One theme in particular can be found in much of his thought, and it relates to the importance of leaving behind the “self” or “ego”. I recall an interview I saw of him discussing a near death experience he had when he suffered a stroke. He mentioned how he reached a point where he embraced death, and at that moment where he completely surrendered his life he felt an overwhelming sense of love.
The following quote relates to this idea:
“I suddenly saw that all the time it was not I who had been seeking God, but God who had been seeking me. I had made myself the centre of my own existence and had my back turned to God.” – Bede Griffiths
His realisation here is that as long as he focused on himself and made himself the centre of his own existence, his back was turned to God and so he could not see Him despite believing himself to be searching. And is this not in fact something that we all do? Perhaps it is out of fear. Perhaps we think that to surrender ourselves we make ourselves vulnerable, and we are afraid of this. Even in human relationships, it is common to hear the story of the individual who never takes a chance on love out of a fear of making themselves vulnerable and getting hurt – and as a consequence they never experience the wondrous thing that is love.
It is in fact a condition of love that one must give up a part of themselves. When you love completely, you surrender a part of yourself and replace it with a part of your loved one. This is something that we often recognise in human affairs, but forget that God gave us the ultimate example of this in the sacrifice of His only son (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” – John 3:16). God gave His only Son – and His Son, once made flesh, surrendered His life. And for us, we can only hope to experience God once we are able to surrender our own selves.
See Mark 8:34-36:
Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Jesus Himself talks about precisely this matter; this life, the ego, the self – these are of the flesh. The whole world is of the flesh. And here Jesus is explicit: in order for anybody to truly follow Him, that person must deny himself. We are commanded to leave ourselves behind, to surrender our lives. We are called to this, that we might know the love of Jesus and of the Father.