Thursday, April 3, 2014

Light, Refuge and Strength

I'm finding the practice of yoga two or three times a week to be highly therapeutic, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Practicing more often might be better yet, but I'm a beginner, and this is where I begin.

Yoga is helping me to recognize my less-than-gentle thought patterns. It doesn't stop them altogether, but helps me notice them, and once recognized, I can choose whether or not to continue thinking that way.

At Rancho La Puerta, I heard afresh how unkind my inner-critic is, about my body and about all of the mistakes I make in daily living. The harshness of that voice stood out loudly, because I was in a space where everyone treated me with gentleness, kindness and encouragement. I began to wonder: maybe God isn't a taskmaster.

For someone who believes that "God is Love" - who has heard and believed those words since childhood - I realized that I don't always live as if I truly know it. Unconditional love is a wonderful concept, but at times, I have a functionally different image of God: God as an irritable, impatient parent. Intellectually, that doesn't make sense, but emotionally, there it is.

Recently, I saw this in action, when a friend shared her story of a family crisis. I listened with deep compassion and concern, but felt powerless to help. That powerless feeling was extremely uncomfortable. It was hard to bear, knowing that I could not make this better for her.

After more than seven years of walking in the world of cancer and grief, I found myself as lost for words as the most clueless novice imaginable. I stumbled over my words, and later, silently raked myself over the coals.

It's important to be aware of this, because there were times when I was unhappy to be on the receiving end of the things that people said to us when Katie was ill, and after her passing. Though well-meaning, some said banal, inappropriate or unhelpful things. Listening to my friend's difficulty, I felt just like one of those people.

Eventually, I noticed how savage I was being about my ineptness, and thought, "This conversation is not the most important thing in her day; let it go." I prayed for her and her family. I prayed over my clumsy words - prayed that God would communicate to her my loving intention, and allow only blessing to come from those words. I remembered yoga, and mindfulness, and made an effort to be gentle and kind to myself.

And then, this happened: a periwinkle blue (lavender) butterfly appeared.
I kid you not. 
I have never seen a butterfly of this color in my life. 
It flew right in front of me and landed on a branch. I tried to just be present to it, but I had to take a photo - the color was so rare! Then I looked deeply at this gentle creature, and knew that it was a message of love from God (and Katie), that "the Light shines in darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it."
"At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out." - John 1:1-5, J.B. Phillips New Testament
My personal ineptness - my humanity-  cannot muffle or put out the Light that is in this world, in each one of us. That Light is Life, and it is Love. God made us human, including love AND awkwardness.

The next morning, reading devotionals, I decided to look for all of the qualities of God that were listed in the texts of the day. Here is what I found:
  • Love
  • gracious
  • merciful
  • slow to anger (patient)
  • kind
  • good to all
  • compassionate toward all
  • faithful in all His words
  • holy in all His works
  • lifts up the falling
  • raises up the bowed
  • just in all His ways
  • near to all who call on Him
  • all-sufficient
  • generous giver
  • healer
  • restorer
  • Life
  • Spirit
  • seeker
  • finder
  • forgiving
That doesn't sound like a taskmaster to me; it sounds like a loving, understanding parent - one whose promises we can trust.
"God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble." Ps. 46


Anonymous said...

*tears* The butterfly. Amazing.

I find myself too frustrated with my responses as well. As if we should know better.

Much love,

Kim Andersen said...

Thank you Karen - you just said exactly what I needed to hear

Ann said...

Thank you Karen. xo

Busy Bee Suz said...

I usually feel clumsy with my words when responding to something I have not lived. Sometimes I just say nothing in fear of hurting someone.
Love this post Karen.
That butterfly? A spectacular message.

Karen said...

What a beautiful post. It resonated in a dozen different ways. I have had so many of those same thoughts and bumbling experiences. It makes me feel better about myself that classy, sensitive, aware you would too! That transparency is one of the best gifts a person can give. Love you and thank you.