I may have mentioned earlier that my CLC community is making the Spiritual Exercises in a communal format this year, and our guides have planned our journey so that the past couple of weeks have been spent contemplating the birth of Jesus and the events leading up to that. In the whole picture, I found myself growing closer to Joseph.
For one thing, it occurs to me that Joseph is not the sophisticated type. After all, there are no quotes in the scripture that are attributed to him. Not the type to draw attention to himself…just a simple down-to-earth man trying to do the right thing. It seems to me that I’m most open to God when I can stop trying to figure out my relationship with God and just live that relationship from the gut. As they say in AA, K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid.)
I also found myself looking to Joseph for conversation about disturbing images and dreams, for dreams seem to play a central role in Joseph’s contribution to the salvation story. And in my own healing, I have a sense that dreams and images are playing a significant role in making me more whole.
Earlier this month, while reflecting on who we are as a Congregation, I had a rather disturbing image come to mind…it was of a pregnant woman who was carrying to term a baby that had died in utero, and she had to go through labor and deliver it, knowing that it had died well before. I shared this with the sisters I was sitting with at our meeting, but was unable to tell them what I thought it meant because I needed some time to reflect on it. After some prayer and reflection, I shared what was on my mind with one of the sisters whose wisdom and insight I trust very much. I found that she shared my concerns about some of what is happening among us, and concluded her e-mail reply with the following invitation: “I think this is one for prayer and fasting – fasting from despair and hopelessness and praying for wisdom.”
Now I know from my own experience that I am often on my worst behavior when I am on the verge of being given a profound grace. So I choose to interpret what I perceive to be crankiness and other fear-based (in my estimation, anyway) reactions among us as resistance to a profound communal grace that God is inviting us to receive. Could it be that the stronger the resistance, the closer God is to breaking through it all? That is my hope, anyway. And that hope, I realize, is a great gift! It’s like the optimistic child who, when given a great pile of manure instead of a more thoughtful gift, gleefully exclaims, “There has to be a pony somewhere!”
So my Christmas wish for you is that you will have the grace to always be able to see the pony behind the manure.