“I will not hide my face from them any longer, for I will have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 39:29)
The way I see it, a mystic takes a peek at God and then does her best to show the rest of us what she saw. She’ll use image-language, not discourse. Giving an image is the giving of gold, the biggest thing she’s got. Mysticism suggests direct union, divine revelation, taking a stab at the Unknown with images, cryptic or plain, sensible or sensory. A mystic casts out for an image in whatever is at her disposal and within reach, like a practiced cook who can concoct a stew from the remaining carrots and a bruised potato, or like a musician improvising with buckets and wooden spoons. She does not circumvent; she hammers a line drive. A mystic is a kid finding a kingdom in ash heap…
I gather with a group of women in Philadelphia, all of us assembling around Jesus, perked for evangel like girls hovering around a radio. But as you hover in a circle, you brush arms with each other. Liz Lopez was a woman among us whose husband was incarcerated, and she had three boys and a tiny frame; she looked like she could blow away. And still, she beautifully braced herself under her heavy beam of a dadless series of days that bore down with the weight of her boys’ birthdays, street hockey games, piss-the-bed nights. Nobody skirted around her; we entered in as best we could, catching her insides as she spilled out, ready, at any moment, to spill ourselves.
We met at Susan’s house in Hunting Park. We ate and then sang a few choruses and discussed sermons. One night the sermon was on James’s epistle in the New Testament: Count it all joy, he says, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. We cried onto our plates of Spanish rice and chicken that Blanca had brought, because the trials were various: Wendy’s husband left her and the kids, another husband had cancer, Celeste and her girls lost their row house…
Here’s my image: a gathering on a porch stoop, maybe some of the women smoking, maybe some just watching the door to the neighbourhood convenience store, but a group surely bound to each other. The image goes as follows: a girl alone, hugging her knees on the stoop – she’s missed a period, or she’s lost her baby, or her husband’s left, or she simply couldn’t get out of bed till two in the afternoon – the fire hydrant shooting out streams in the July heat and kids galloping this way and that, and she suffers, and the others come around, from other porches. They bring Spanish rice and chicken, boiled milk for coffee. And the gathered women stay there, through the early fall, into November. They are entering winter together out there, pointing, Look: how gentle the snow. Ω
Take a peek at God: What image do you see? Can you draw it? Write about it? Share it?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of intense reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent.
From Jessie Harriman,‘This Soul has Six Wings’. Found in The Best American Spiritual Writing 2006. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006, pp 117-123. #Lent2021. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent, from Sanctuary, 2021. Image credit: Rachel Coyne on Unsplash.
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