This was the message that I received this morning from http://www.gratefulness.org/. It was so interesting to read that I stopped and really listened deeply to what it might be saying. The part I liked best was the phrase, "throw in the teeth of despair." What a great image. But I didn't quite agree with the "throwing away everything." There is much to be learned and gained from the wisdom and experience of the past - from others, and from my own journey.
Instead of throwing it all away, I keep thinking of the word alchemy. I spent a little time looking it up this morning, and learned some fascinating things. First, a brief version of the definition:
"Alchemy, derived from the Arabic word al-kimia (الكيمياء, ALA-LC: al-kīmiyā’), is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties."
Second, the way the process is viewed in four (or three) steps in the creation of a magnum opus, or great work:
"Magnum opus...The Great Work; mystic interpretation of its four stages:I could draw parallels between some of those four stages and what has happened to me in the past few years.
nigredo (-putrefactio), blackening (-putrefaction): corruption, dissolution, individuation...
albedo, whitening: purification, burnout of impurity; the moon, female
citrinitas, yellowing: spiritualization, enlightenment; the sun, male;
rubedo, reddening: unification of man with God, unification of the limited with the unlimited.
After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages."
The third thing of significance: "Carl Jung reexamined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to show the inner meaning of alchemical work as a spiritual path." This sounds like the action of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with our spirit: grace and transformation.
And fourth, the use of alchemy in literature, including the Arthurian legends and even in Harry Potter. The one I recall best is Grimm's Rumpelstiltskin, with the words "spinning straw into gold." And that is how I feel about the experiences of the past four years. The aftermath has left me with a lot of straw, and I am trying to spin it into gold, with God's help and direction. Not literal gold, but something more precious. Katie's Endowment for Cancer Research, Katie's Comforters Guild, speaking, writing, various creative endeavors all have an element of alchemy in them. The alchemy is taking the difficult experiences, and the scars they have left, and allowing the transforming power of God - the Holy Spirit, grace - to turn that "straw into gold," burn the dross away, and leave something of lasting value and beauty.
Alchemy. I like that.