This spring I took a class on inner healing through the Companioning Center. I was drawn to the down to earth teachings of Katie Skurja who compares people to an M & M peanut–with the hard candy coating covering chocolate, covering a peanut. She likens the candy coating to how we cover up our shame, the person we present to the world, and the chocolate to our shame which we try to hide, and the peanut to our Imago Dei, the image of God in us. She calls that image a diamond.
This diamond stuff reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins who ends his poem, “Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”: “I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and// This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, //Is immortal diamond.” I am learning just what that line means: “I am all at once what Christ is/since he was what I am” as far as how deeply human Christ is and how I’m no longer “by nature sinful and unclean” but by nature made in the image of God. But not purely good, but also capable of great evil. As Jordan Peterson says, “We need to recognize our potential for being monsters before we can know our potential for doing good”.
Skurja calls it poo. Though “glory be to God for poop.” It’s a fertilizer, it cleans us out, and horse that doesn’t poop can die suddenly. But there is good news in this as Father John Behr says, “if we didn’t sin, we wouldn’t need Jesus.” It gives us the opportunity to turn to Jesus yet again. Behr told the story of a saint who was on his death bed who felt he needed to say confession because of how aware he was of his lack before God. He made the point that the older a person is in walking with the Lord, the more aware they are of how they fall short of God’s original image when he made them.
During the introductory inner healing workshop, Skurja told us to imagine someone we were glad to see at the door. She asked what does that feel like in our body? I imagined Derick Patterson showing up. I baby sat him when he was ten and he sought me out as an adult. When he visited last summer, I was overjoyed to see him again, amazed our paths crossed again. It was a foretaste of the great reunion in the resurrection of the dead. In my body I felt like a big smile and a big hug. Then we imagined Jesus at the door. She asked us how we felt about him standing outside and our inviting him in. I don’t have much of an image for Jesus, so I thought about Derick standing on our porch. He’s been through some things, but he is grateful for all of it.
Then we imagined someone we weren’t comfortable inviting inside, but we were supposed to imagine Jesus standing between us. What would we say? I realized I was most afraid of what I would say if this person showed up. I wanted to protect her from my words and maybe protect myself by not letting my anger fly. The Lord stood there. She stood there and I bit my lip. I saw how I don’t care to speak my peace to people who have hurt me. Recently she wanted to get in touch but I was no longer terrified. Something powerful about the Psalmist says about preparing a table in the presence of my enemies, I think since we will sit at table with them, we might as well make peace now.
Because I found this introduction so powerful and so safe, I signed up for the Inner Healing for Practitioners class, even though I’m not a spiritual director or counselor. The first exercise they asked us to do was to pick out reflection cards that show what our vision of God was as a child and what it is now. We are being asked to start with God, not our own trauma. I used an image of Eeyore because as a toddler I heard a preacher ask who would be God’s friend? I have read that God is so complete he doesn’t need us, but hey, I was a little girl who wanted to befriend this God, who felt his loneliness, which maybe was my own.
For this exercise we were asked to post our image for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and how we feel about them. My images and relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit is nuanced. These are more places where God has revealed Himself to me personally, or not. He is both knowable and unknowable.
God the Father
I think of God as a consuming fire. There have been times this has terrified me and times where I have been comforted because I can believe that death and hell will be tossed into the Lake of Fire and destroyed. The consuming fire will burn away all that is not love. I have been in a sort of fire from the early 80’s until I retired in 2015. That fire burned away a woman who played the victim, who was a pain in the ass to her friends, and whose friends were compassionate enough to support a person walking a long, hard road through grief and abandonment.
I don’t have a picture of the stars but I wanted to show the vastness and mystery of God the Father. The distance between the stars and time it takes to travel between them makes the idea of living forever frightening. I don’t think about it much.
The imagination in Star Trek, gives me hope that eternity might not be as boring as harps and clouds. There have been times when I thought God might actually make an appearance, full of light brighter than the sun, and so other that I fall on my face. Jesus beloved friend John, fell on his face when he saw Jesus in his glory–legs like burnished bronze, eyes a flame of fire, and sparkling white hair. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is Me, I am a man of unclean lips and come from a people of unclean lips.” A person can’t see God and live. Moses, the humblest man who lived, only got to see God’s backside. But I take deep comfort in a verse like Psalm 147: 3 – 4, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; and gives to all of them names.” The juxtaposition between God’s healing the broken hearted and naming the stars is stunning.
This is a picture of my father. I know it’s not a great picture because it’s old and shows him as a young man. He showed me how God is a giver of gifts and that I could express my desires and they were likely granted. My father loved to bring us toys every Friday night when my brother and I were little. One of my fondest memories was when he went with my trainer, Judy, back and forth to the stables in Esperance to buy my horse Whistper. As a young girl, I learned the truth of “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I’ve often called on God as daddy, and felt his comfort drawing close. I used to walk out our farm road when I was a girl and cry to God as daddy to bring my friends into the Himself.
God the Son
Bruce represents Jesus to me. He has a servant’s heart and loves me as unconditionally as anyone, even when brain fog made me more distracted than helpful around here. This picture shows him beside a ladder which reminds me of Jesus telling Nathaniel he’d see angels ascending and descending on Jesus, and it echoes Jacob seeing angels ascending and descending on a ladder. Here Bruce is hoisting the elevator that we use to bring the bales from the hay wagon to the loft. In the past we’ve needed to find a couple strong men to help us lift it or take it down but Bruce got a pulley that allows him to lift it to the loft. I think about how Jesus often talked about being lifted up on the cross, how some interpret the throne in Revelation as a symbol for the cross, where Jesus conquered death by dying.
I have never been loved this well. Bruce will often do things without my asking. His love is the kind of love St. Paul speaks about as far as men loving their wives as Christ loves the church. But I have experienced deep insecurity and terror of abandonment with Bruce. My teeth have hurt the terror has been so cold. I tried hard not to let this make me controlling and grasping, but I wasn’t always successful. Most men would skedaddle. But he has continued to love me in such a way I have become more beautiful, and have settled into my body as a woman who is loved well.
My second image of Christ came from a trip to England in 1975. We were traveling through Yorkshire looking at the moors the Brontes wrote about. I’d whipsawed between a deep sense of peace when we stopped at a church to terrifying anxiety. I locked up in fear. After supper at the hostel I walked down to the river, and watched the water break. In the letter to the Hebrews the writer says that Jesus died so we didn’t have to be afraid of death, a fear that keeps us wrapped up in twine, bound and trapped. At any rate, here’s the poem I wrote about the experience.
Another will be in me who will suffer
For me as I shall suffer for him.
–Charles Williams, Descent of the Dove
While I stood in the bookstore, I looked
at the vet’s picture book of Yorkshire.
The owner’s voice creaked underfoot.
She told me, You’ve had a hard time here.
When I leafed through the book, she said,
Go to people who care.
I saw Welsh ponies dusted with snow
and bulldozers clearing the roads.
I’d be bitter if I were you.
I never saw this—I went in August.
The book showed the hostel I stayed in,
and the church with the red stained glass.
Go where they’ll tell you
Do what you know you have to do.
But a waterfall in York.
A picture of water strung—
Glass smoothly broken over stone
Windblown, I couldn’t shatter so well.
Don’t let people drain you.
I stuck my hand in the falls
And let the water break.
I also think of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Lamb who was slain who was worthy to open the scroll in Revelation. And also I think of him as the shepherd seeking the lost sheep, and for years I’ve felt that I was lost. I wrote out a vision in my novel The River Caught Sunlight of what it would be like to be trapped on a ledge, and it was my dad who rappelled down to me, showed me how to wrap the ropes around me, so I could climb out. (He was in the ski troops.) I also think of my dad who grieved terribly after my mother died, but he did not call me to come home to keep him company. He was proud of my job in publishing, a thousand miles away. He did. Not. Call. Me. Home. And that act of love gave me life because returning to my family then, staying there, knowing how my aunts responded to me after my father and later my brother, died, would have killed me. His love was a cruciform love.
God the Holy Spirit
I look for light that flashes into the house or barn. Sure it’s from the sun, but I also think that light itself washes these places, washes our sight. I think of the Holy Spirit dancing with tongues of fire over the apostles on Pentecost and the sound of loud rushing wind. I think of the blessing written in my first Bible, “may you always be on fire for the Lord.
I think about how Spirit, and breath are the same words, how grateful I am for breath. Jesus talked about the Spirit like wind whirling where it would go, hither and yon.
But the wind can be brutal, roaring, hurling trees, throwing down ice. It can be so strong we are swept into the air.
I was leery of this inner healing stuff because I’ve had bad experiences where people told me their vision for me–a rainbow wrapped in chains, a giant dark thing behind me, you’re like the house that has been swept clean from the demons. Their words felt like a violation. One thing I have loved about the inner healing class is how very gentle it has been. Katie Skjura believes in bringing a person to God, away from their struggles and asking God what he thinks. I’ve been amazed how answers sometimes in the form of images come. And there has been quiet healing.
When I know the Spirit is moving in me, is when I have a thirst for the scriptures, to read them, to sit inside the words. Jesus said the Spirit would lead us into all truth. I’ve learned that it’s by the Spirit that the scriptures make sense. Some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had are sitting with my Bible and beginning to see what something like “There remaineth therefore a rest of the people of God” means. Or standing by my mother’s casket and knowing her death was not the last word, that death itself was dead, something that sprang up inside me–a gift borne of years sitting with my Bible and listening, and just plain a gift. In college, a young man with shining eyes said, “Oh yeah, you’re charismatic.” I looked at him with a face that said, “Huh?” “The way you share from the Bible. That’s a gift of the Spirit.”
In an Open Table Class on Revelation, Brad Jersak said that Andrew Murray stated that the chief sign of being baptized with the Spirit is a constant awareness of the presence of God. He said that’s what the Orthodox believers believe, That a sign of the Holy Spirit is this sense of presence.
My grandmother used to talk about the paradoxes of scripture–doctrines such as free will–and how they were like parallel lines that meet in eternity. In doing this, I’ve noticed how much fear threads through these images but also comfort and confidence. I have been afraid of love–my father’s, my husband’s, my audiences, my horses–God’s. Part of me wants to hold onto that fear because each of these “people” are mysterious. There is a fear in loving people that can die but it’s love that casts out fear. It’s Jesus defeating the fear of death, defeating death that can remove this. Being raised in a faith that emphasized original sin, the phrase we say in our Lutheran confession–we are by nature sinful and unclean–has not helped, though as a child I had a deep, emotional sense of what Christ’s death on the cross meant for me. But I’ve been walking toward that rest, that abiding in how I’m God’s beloved child since I was a teenager. These days I feel His presence, his peace and am recognizing the voice of fear as not His, as a voice I can reject or simply say be gone, or say the Jesus Prayer–Lord be merciful to me a sinner–to ask for help.
Well, that’s all I know for now. I wrote this early this summer and never got back to it until now. Let me know what you think.
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