Breathing Exercises

Refuge and Prospect

Posts Tagged ‘pain

Will Pierce Your Soul Also

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When Mary said yes to bearing Jesus into the world, she said yes to considerable pain and risk. Who knows how well she comprehended the risks — to her reputation, her relationships, her family — when she heard the invitation to become pregnant by God and submitted her will to the divine. But no matter how prepared she was in the beginning, it must’ve been a little upsetting to hear the words of Simeon 10 months later, who upon seeing the infant Jesus, spoke a prophecy about the turmoil he’d bring to Israel, and then added this: “… a sword will pierce your soul also.” Ouch.

When this project was just a gleam in our eyes, we spent considerable time asking God to speak to us and to our friends before we took any steps forward. Some of the ‘answers’ we heard/saw/perceived were directly related to the choices we were making then, and some were more obscure. But we wrote everything down, and have now begun to work our way back through the list, in order to take seriously the things that came when we chose to ask, seek, knock.

One of the things we recorded was a picture that a praying friend saw in her mind’s eye: a pincushion with pins part-way in, stopped at some hard barrier. The person who saw this, also saw a thumb ready to push and heard a voice say, “They need to go all the way in!” and then heard, “The pins are people.” There were some immediate responses to this, as we asked God to help us understand … that pins just pushed into the outer surface of a pincushion will easily fall out; but not if they are pushed all the way in … that a pincushion is a metaphor for people: our interactions often stay on the ‘soft surface’, and this is one of the reasons we easily “fall out” of each others lives … that there is a kind of hard barrier that stops us from going deep. To go past this hard barrier (with a person’s permission) is to go into the deep mystery of life, into the dark, the unanswered questions, the doubts, the fears. To pass the barrier is to become anchored, more firmly fixed, less likely to fall away when tested.

Today, we’ve been doing some spiritual listening around this word-picture, to hear more about what it means to our community. We heard more in the way of confirmation that this is a story about how we relate. “We’re the pins.” … “The cushion is like my heart: I have to choose to let you in, even knowing it will hurt at first, into the deep parts of me.” … “The hard barrier is important–at least it’s to be expected–and while it is a kind of resistance at first, it becomes necessary to the holding.”

While I was noodling on these things, and trying myself to stay open to what God wants to say, I thought it would be fun to bring it all to life with a little participatory art. I went out and bought us a pincushion and a bunch of pins. The story I shared when I brought it out at a recent gathering, was that I was going to put a pin in the thing for each choice I had made to be honest, transparent, and real with Christ and my community, because when I made those kind of choices, I was also accepting that I was going to be pierced, as it were. During a reading of the story of Simeon’s prophecy (in Luke’s chapter 2) and silent response following, there was a chance for the each of us to press a pin or two into the pincushion. One for our original choice to be in community, and another pin for any other choice to offer ourselves for this kind of ‘piercing’.

It’s risky to let people in, past our hard shells. I let myself be wounded when I choose to let you in to my heart. And that’s also the inevitable piercing that comes from bearing Jesus into the world–he’s not just some fancy pants we put on to impress the photographers. He is the original deep place that calls to our deep places. We can’t bear him into the world without having experienced him in the deep places of our heart. And we can’t very well walk the same road he walks without exposing ourselves to pain. He never shied away from the pain that comes from loving people. And he gave us a heads up: the student never has it easier than the teacher. There is one consolation: when we willingly open our hearts to the piercing, the pain of being known is our choice. That makes it bearable, and more. The pain we willingly choose is part of the way we become more like Jesus.

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Written by dmaddalena

2011/05/22 at 9:12 am