|The painting in my parents' house simply signed "Murphy"|
A man in coat and hat with briefcase and slumped shoulders, hand on the railing, is caught in mid step ascending the staircase. He’s shuttered in darkness, a contrast to the green banker’s light focused on the reception desk, illuminating the cubbies behind. The stark loneliness, maybe even defeat, of the painting captivates me. I’ve had plenty of time to study it on the walls of my parents’ home since the 1970s.
In recent years it has become more than a haunting, though simple, work. For one, it will be mine sooner rather than later. About a year ago, my dad said he had a story of the painting and I listened intently. He’d never shared anything so deep. It’s a tired salesman who’d been on the road paying calls all day, making his way back to his room. My dad knows that story personally and his revelation increases my value of the painting.
The painting also symbolizes my growing relationship with my father, unmitigated by my mother, who died just before Christmas. She and was our go-to as he was usually traveling for work or all-consumed. There’s a family pattern from his side I am attempting to shed and the painting epitomizes the choice of living, defeated or diseased, in the darkness or shining the light on those negative aspects. It’s very Quaker for me as early practitioners engaged in the practice of letting Spirit’s light shine on them internally, “convicting” them of what stood in their way of a deeper spirituality. Awareness – conviction – is the first step. Surrendering, where I am, is quite another.
On my third day of Sandrit rubbing and pounding me from head to toe in specially prepared heated oils during a panchakarma treatment at the combo Ayurveda clinic and orphanage just outside New Delhi, I declared that surrender to Spirit. The soul-descending experience of lying an hour with warm oil encircling my third eye extracted that promise. I traveled far and deep, whispering a big yes and have been prayerful ever since for instruction on how to do that, exactly. Just as I have discovered there is no one, big ah-ha moment, there is no one, big action of surrender – in my experience. Enlightenment and surrender, I believe, happen in micro-stages. Perhaps it’s the same way Spirit has led my small steps into a ministry I am certain I would have balked at had the entire plan been lain at my feet. I constantly pray for clarity, yet Spirit wisely gives me the minute piece I can handle.
So I attempt patience to let the patterns and layers shift and, eventually release. One of those letting-gos includes forgiveness and grief over the relationship I never had with my father. And gratitude for the new one being forged on and off the canvas.
• Do I currently stand in the darkness or under illumination?
• If darkness, what is my prayer of surrender?
• If not, where does the light convict me?
• Can I trace a path of small surrenders?
• Do I express gratitude even when I can’t see the path ahead?