It is Monday again. The southern heat has arrived and all the windows are shut to allow for the air conditioning.
We got in the pool for the first time this weekend; it was cold and full of pollen. We sat in the patio chairs, still damp from the latest rain storm, while the burgers were grilling.
The new house has a second story now, and a roof. We wandered through it on Saturday morning, in the rain. We could step through the open walls of rooms, closets, bathrooms. The tub was half full of water.
I feel somewhat detached from the house; as if it were merely an experiment in building a house, not the real event. I know that house isn't really ours. It's almost like an interesting past time, a practise run for when we are really settled.
I know the army will move us again, and then again, so I have lost the feeling of permanence that perhaps others live in. Before that, I moved myself around, from state to state, from country to country. I wonder what it will feel like when we have planted ourselves firmly in Colorado, in the house we will grow old in.
Lately, I've been navigating a slow internal curve. I know from previous experience that any time my spiritual life takes on a new reality or meaning or perspective, that at first, this will come with a feeling of wonder and elation.
But eventually, those emotions wear off as I begin to integrate my spiritual life more fully. I don't know how to describe what I mean.
I'll have to use a metaphor. Perhaps it's like this:
When I first became aware of myself, I lived in a house. I never went outside, but I could sometimes see out the windows.
I lived in the house because I was terrified of what lay outside. I lived in a house of fear.
However, I met Someone; it turned out that He lived with me. This Person developed, over a long period of time, a relationship built on trust and authenticity. Because He lived with me, I couldn't pretend with Him and His love never changed.
So when He coaxed me outside the house, I followed Him, even though I was trembling from the fear.
It was very beautiful outside and this filled me with wonder. Eventually, however, I had to learn how to live outside. Sometimes I would go back inside the house, overwhelmed by the outside.
I learned, slowly, to live under the open sky. This became my new normal. Then the Person I loved said that we should travel; that I should walk with Him, and not simply stay in that one place.
So I began to follow Him. The new things I was seeing filled me with wonder and joy, but eventually, that wore off and I had to learn how to live on the road with Him. Sometimes, I would say, no further, and camp in that spot until He coaxed me further.
That's my metaphor, but I feel somewhat like that. I feel like I'm moving from the initial wonder and joy that is always the first response to a deeper understand of Him, and into a working understanding of it- how to live in it, as I am.
I don't know if this makes sense, but I can't explain it any better. I just know that each time my spiritual life opens up deeper, I must at some point let it go, in a way. I must let it go in order to relax into it.
When I first noticed this happening, I interpreted this letting go as failure. I thought to myself, "I am failing to live up to this. I am failing to keep this."
But that was the wrong understanding- I can't live up to it and I can't keep it. It was a gift all along.
Letting go of something- releasing my ownership over the spiritual gift, or letting it die, so to speak, allows it to grow back up into greater understanding and meaning later on. But I must first let it go.
Lately, in my inner life, I am in this time of letting go and letting be. The initial emotions have worn off and now I have the opportunity to be more authentic, to trust Him with more of my self.
Maybe this is like when one first falls in love, there is that heady sensation of being in love- the flood of pheromones that allows one's inner boundaries naturally to fall away. Trust and revealing come naturally.
Then the hormones ebb away and being received and receiving becomes a conscious choice. It feels more emotionally risky. Other emotions naturally come flooding up- irritation, disappointment, frustration, sadness.
It is at that point that the relationship can truly become intimate. In my experience, my spiritual life, my intimate relationship with God, follows this pattern, this ebb and flow, as I grow into Him.
Initially, each time I open my heart to that inner place with God, there is always the first rush of negative and conflicting emotions that were pent up for most of the day.
I often don't know how to naturally express emotion at the time when it is called up from me. What happens instead is that I label the emotion "bad" and then stuff it down, where it lies in wait for the first moment where I am quiet enough for it to pounce on me.
I assume this is why, always the first thing that happens when I find myself in the inner space, is that I feel a rush of emotions coming free and I must spend a long amount of time feeling them, processing them and then letting them go.
In my experience, this is directly linked to how intimate and present the experience becomes- the more honest and authentic I am, the deeper I can rest in Divine Love.
If I'm afraid and cannot or will not process a fear or feelings of shame, or whatever is getting me stuck, the experience of resting in Love is somewhat choppy, distracted.
Eventually, I find that I must be authentic.
The hardest things to process are doubt about the experience itself- how can this be true? how can this be happening? and fear and anger at God- why did this happen to me? why are You this way? why aren't You making me perfect, or perfectly productive?
Sometimes it seems as though doubt is sand that I'm holding in my hands and the sand is spilling out through my fingers and I lift it up to Him with this gesture of full disclosure- as if to say, "Look at this! I'm completely doubting that this could be happening! Look at all this doubt; what am I supposed to do with it?"
He's never once answered me on this, but I feel His overarching compassion. I feel so accepted right where I am that eventually, I cease to worry about it and become simply present in whatever is happening.
Last night, when I became quiet and still, and was there with Him, I lifted my arms from my sides in this gesture of amazement- "How do I find myself here? What is the point of this?"
And He mimicked my gesture with twinkling eyes. I knew He was saying, "What does it matter? Here you are!"
I was filled with love for Him; I want running into His arms and then spun away from Him and went running outside, filled with a restless energy- I didn't want to stay inside and process everything.
We went running across the grass and into the woods, where there was a path of arching trees. I ran through that inner place for a long time, leaving Him behind at one point, so that I seemed to be by myself. This did not worry me; is He ever present.
Eventually, I found my way back to Him. Immediately, as soon as I saw Him, my love for Him filled my entire being. I was filled with delight and recognition; I knew I was His.
He came walking quickly across the room and caught me up into His arms and then He took my hand and began leading me through the rooms.
We went across a suspended footbridge that looked over a courtyard and then into a rotunda with a ceiling of glass. We went down one of the two curved stairs cases and then through the rotunda into what seemed to be a glass and wrought iron garden house- very beautiful, an old fashioned one, with open doors on either side.
We went through the doors, across the courtyard and down two steps into a covered stone corridor that went into the thick foliage and then down two more steps into another arched corridor, but this one was of living bushes- lilac bushes and the floor was mossy.
At the end of this was a round courtyard of golden stone with rooms and an open corridor spanning it. In the center of the courtyard was a still pool and an olive tree. I recognized this place; I had been there the night before, but not by the same route.
We went across the courtyard to one of the rooms; it was sunk down one step and it was cool and shady inside, with thick stone walls of that golden color and a long, narrow window at the back wall. There was no door; it was open to the sunny courtyard.
I flung myself down on the bench built into the wall, having run all my energy out; having been run back home, as it were and finally willing to process my internal angst.
"Forgive me?" I asked, hesitantly- thinking of something earlier in the day.
Immediately, I was lit up inside with perspective- wouldn't you forgive? He asked me gently.
And of course, I would. How much more, then, would He!
So it seemed to me then that forgiveness is not only a private act- it's also a corporate act. When we forgive and are forgiven, we are participating in something which is happening all the time, something which, in one sense, has been given finally and permanently. We are simply grasping hold of one piece of it, or lining up with the larger truth of it.
That is what I am often doing in that inner place; I am forgiving my brokenness, my smallness, my inabilities. I am letting myself be what I am. When I do this, I find that I can move in and express freedom and mutual love at deeper and deeper levels of myself.
Once, He took me down to a different part of the shore. This shore was pebbled and the waters were rough. There was stone house there, with open windows and a roof of wooden beams and thatch.
A man appeared around the corner; he wore a tall feathered headdress and his face and body were painted, decorated with various exotic things and not much else. He was weathered and thin.
As soon as I saw him, I heard, papa new guinea and I thought, well yes, that makes sense. He made a bonfire and we all sat around it and ate sweet roasted fish. When I had finished, my hands were sticky, and he handed me a white linen napkin.
I looked at it in bewilderment, wondering how on earth a linen napkin made sense in that setting, but then I shrugged my shoulders at the whole mystery of everything there and accepted the gift.
Then it was time to go, so we stood together at the open door to the stone house. I looked at the weather beaten face of the man before me and as I did, I was filled with love for him. He seemed like a brother to me or a father. His eyes were filled with gentleness; he was shy and sweet natured, but he looked so old.
I wondered why he decided to look so old- I just assumed that in that place, one could or did look the way that one saw oneself.
"Is this the way you see yourself?" I asked him, "or is there some other reason why you look this age?"
Immediately he lifted both hands and took the headdress off. Underneath, his head was bald and stubbly. He lifted one of his rough, large hands and ran his hand over his head, while looking up shyly at me from his dark twinkling eyes.
I had no idea what he was saying, but I loved him so much. I loved his humility, his good humor, his tenderness.
I was aware that we stood in a small circle there at the edge of the white washed beach, filled with quiet loving, receptive presence. Nothing needed to be said or done; simply being present seemed full of good fellowship.
I wonder why He keeps layering this teaching in, deeper and deeper.
These are my lessons: forgive and be forgiven, which is to fall back into what He is doing and has done.
See and be seen, through the eyes of love, which creates a space- a space of freedom, of grace, of authenticity.
Find the courage to feel everything and this is a dance. The first step forward is full of wonder and joy, then there are two steps backward into brokenness and incompleteness, which is felt and forgiven.
Then there is a step forward into deeper presence, within and without and most of all, with Him.