Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Beyond the cross

Watching my feet clip at a fast pace toward my yoga class at the gym, I whisper my new prayer, the one that began my last post:

Dear Spirit, I lay my burdens at the feet of Christ and give the rest of myself unto You.

I find these morning walks meditative and prayerful; a great way to clear my head and heart before I stretch my stiff-from-sleep body. Being outside is spiritually conducive to prayer, for me.

I look up only to cross the street, when I notice the sky – rather the striking design of a multitude of vapor trails forming multiple crosses (interesting as I am "crossing" the street). Such an affirmation that this is the right prayer for me right now. I can hardly take my eyes off of the sky and it's clear message.

After a refreshing yoga class, I saunter by the local thrift store on my way home and something says "Go in." As if I need a prompt, I'm always on the lookout for a treasure. I quickly survey what I write off as a junky day and head toward the door when a lone book catches my attention. For 50 cents I purchased the Rev. Francis MacNutt's 1974 book simply titled "Healing."

I have not been able to put it down. I am riveted at his insistence that the New Testament is all about healing: Jesus' healings, the Apostles' healings and the idea that ordinary people can become tools of healing, when as he says "The extraordinary has become ordinary." He writes about wholeness and healing as God's way of being with us. But what reaches me most out of this almost-40-year-old tome is the wrong idea that illness is a cross to bear, "yet nowhere in the gospel do we see Christ encouraging the sick to live with their illness." He mentions how our feelings of unworthiness prevent us from praying for our own healing or that of others. "Healing is not on the periphery of Christianity; it is central," he writes.

MacNutt is edging me closer to understanding the resurrection and salvation message(s). These are not words I am very comfortable with, especially the latter. They are terms that I felt beat over the head with, words that became worse than rote and meaningless; they signaled a human judgment of me. I have never, ever experienced that in my Quaker faith community, which is one big reason I am there and have stayed 15 years. We so rarely use that language.

But I am ready to ... on my terms, from my personal experience and with God's guidance.

MacNutt suggests that Jesus's life and work were based on two objectives:
• "To give us a new life, a loving relationship of union with the Holy Father and with himself, through the Holy Spirit.
• "... to heal and free us from all those sick elements in the human personality that need to be transformed so that the new life may freely enter in."

He includes weakness of purpose, disoriented emotions and physical sickness. I understand these prevent me from becoming whole, my true self, the one God means for me to be. And, that what I also desire – deeply.

This – traveling toward wholeness, health and Divine union – is my path whatever you call it. One of last week's online Henri Nouwen meditations described it as the narrow door of Christ, which reminded me of a dialogue in a recent episode of Breaking Bad (yes, I have my dark habits, too) about the idiocy, according to one character, of Georgia O'Keefe repeatedly painting to same door. The other person suggested it was something she loved and she wanted to paint it perfectly.

Sunday as I sat in silent worship, I chose a spot in the sun's path and noticed shadows of the window panes clearly made a cross. And then I doodled and got to thinking about that space, where the two beams actually cross. Perhaps that is the narrow door of Christ. What's in that intersection? I asked myself.

What's at the crux? An invitation to go beyond the cross, into it and through it ... away from the symbol and idea of bearing a cross to freedom. The cross was man's constraint, meant for death. God uses it as a metaphor for new life. As I ponder these thoughts in worship, a young woman gets up to speak and mentions times we "cross the line." I wonder, have I? And hope that I have.

• What was I taught the cross meant?
• What does it symbolize for me now?
• What's at the crux of the cross for me at this point in my spiritual life?
• Who is Jesus to me?
• Do I agree that in healing the extraordinary can become ordinary?

avoiding it
for years

the idea of the
cross, the
bloody cross

used to instill
fear, and that
if I didn't
get saved, well
all bets and
were off

now I see it

in the sky,
on the carpet
out my studio

and I smile
because, now
I can claim
it as my own

from pure love

to enter
and be

Listen to this post:

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