Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Open Heart, Open Hands and the Holy

Yesterday I saw Linda. She was standing and smiling and holding my hands.

Two weeks ago my spiritual director had emergency open heart surgery. A large tumor was found in her chest threatening her heart. This is a heart which is precious to me. This was alarming news.

It was two years ago I approached Linda to be my spiritual director and it was two years ago, while walking a labyrinth, the Lord lifted my burden of self. The dark tunnels of confusion where I had been journeying suddenly opened into an expansive place of freedom. God delivered me. It wasn’t anything I had done special that day or that month. It was simply my time. I had learned all I needed to learn in this season and I soon found myself in a place of freedom and peace with an ever-increasing clarity of sight.

It was here Linda joined me on my journey. My monthly times with her became indispensable to me and to my spiritual life. Spiritual direction can mean different things to different people. Some people understand it to be the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. It is when a person is trained to be a competent spiritual guide who companions with another person, listening to that person's life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.

These past two years have been a watershed of blessing. I came to Linda almost as a newborn bird. The shell had been cracked. I had been set free, but I was scared and lonely and I wasn’t really sure where to go or what to do. My old attachments didn’t work for me anymore and I wasn’t sure who to trust or even how to figure that out.

Linda and Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love, were constant companions to me as I was healing.

Henri writes, “You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to you interior life. For years you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires. Thus you were no longer master in your own house.

It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others.”

Linda consistently extends a pure, open heart to me and in return she is one of the few to whom I lower my drawbridge for entry. Her generosity and grace have been a profound model and guide of how to have a whole, healthy and open heart which can then share real joy and peace with others. In a word, she has been Christ to me--utterly safe and on my side.

Yesterday I brought her tulips. I heard she was released from the hospital but I did not expect to see her. My plan was to leave them on her front porch and slip away, but the door was open and I was pleasantly surprised to see her seated at her kitchen table.

Linda rose when she saw me. She looked beautiful and it was hard to imagine everything she had just been through. She smiled broadly and gesturing toward her heart said, “Of course, I can’t hug you.” She grabbed both my hands instead.

Involuntary tears came to my eyes and she simply said with her characteristic depth and intensity, “Bless you.”

To bless. In the scriptures this is an imparting of the holy. It is used as either words of praise to God or words to make someone or something holy. This truth was apparently too much for my spirit and I deflected the blessing.

I said almost incredulously, “No. Bless you.” Humbled in her condition and situation she would minister to me. I did not feel worthy of her blessing and I certainly did not feel holy.

Still holding my hands, Linda looked into my eyes, smiled at my tears and persisted with her blessing despite my resistance. She said nothing more but she raised my right hand, and bringing it to her lips, she kissed it.

I stumbled back to my car with tears streaming down my face feeling unworthy, thankful, blessed and knowing I had just experienced the Holy.

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