” As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind — “
Before I start this personal account of my very limited experience of the divine, I want to state clearly that I am not a theologian. I have read a good amount of theology, but this is not about head knowledge and I do not believe that theology is my gift. I am a member of the eastern Orthodox Christian Church, but I feel that some of my experiences are universal. A blog post does not have the space to write all that I would wish to share but perhaps some of what I say can be helpful to someone. If so, I am grateful.
I have had a winding journey in religion and spirituality as I know many have. Additionally I have had struggles with depression and anxiety for several decades. While I am doing much better in that regard, it is not completely eradicated and it does sometimes feel like three steps forward, two steps back. My faith does provide a good deal of comfort, but not always. This is not the fault of the church, it is just a need of continued healing. In fact, there have been issues directly related to religion and God that I have had to confront in my quest for internal health.
It was in the midst of such a fairly recent struggle that I had a very moving experience. It was not at church, as one might expect. In fact, I had left liturgy discouraged due to a comment that a visiting priest made. The remark struck a raw nerve, which I am sure was not his intention but it still did damage. For years I have been trying to shed an angry God image, and I feel that my filter is much healthier due to the grace of the eucharist, the rhythm of liturgical life, and lots of inner work. I think when we have wounding in the area of belief, offhand comments can feel like arrows to us while they may not affect the person next to us at all. So this Sunday I was asking God: please show me what you are really like because I CANNOT go back to being afraid of you.
But I believe that we can encounter the divine ANYWHERE, and I do mean anywhere. The following day, I had an appointment for a consultation with an out of town dentist. I have had a lot of oral difficulties and several surgeries over the past couple of years and my doctor referred me to her dentist for a second opinion. I drove an hour and a half to his office, fought morning traffic all the way, and I got there just in time for my appointment.
When I was led back to the office by the very kind dental assistant, I was offered a fleece blanket. Such a small gesture, but I cannot tell you how warm it made me feel and not just externally. When the dentist walked in, I was immediately put at ease by his incredibly gentle manner. The way he spoke to me was so respectful, it enabled me to completely relax. Now I hate dental appointments as much and possibly more than most people, and have not had great experiences in the past.
With every considerate question and non-judgmental explanation he gave, I overflowed with this thought: “THIS is what God is like, THIS is what God is like!” And that feeling continued throughout the appointment. I got some answers about my dental situation to be sure, but so much more was happening underneath the surface.
On the long drive home in the car, I cried tears of release and gratitude. It is hard to put into words the profundity of this one occurrence which is why it has taken me a few months to write about. Another thought that occurred to me that day was that that unconditional love and acceptance was what might give folks the strength to undergo very difficult circumstances, whatever their creed.
So let me just end with this. We cannot as humans handle the divine radiance in all of its brightness. But we can be gentle lights to one another on our long walk home.
Peace and love,