Last week I shared with you that when I was invited to become a chalice minister at my church for our contemplative service, I was pretty much over the moon.
I went straight from that invitation to a session with my spiritual director, Elaine. I walked into the room where we meet every month, sat down with a huge smile on my face, and just spilled over in exuberant sharing with her about this opportunity.
(She’s walked with me about four and a half years now — meaning, she was there when the image of the communion cup emerged in my prayer life, and she was there when the phrase “presenting Christ” emerged a year later concerning my vocational calling — so she immediately understood why this invitation would thrill me and feel so right.)
But almost as quickly as I shared this good news with Elaine did my smile fade and I start to become fidgety.
“What is it?” she wanted to know.
I felt overcome with a feeling of darkness. All kinds of accusing voices started to swirl around in my mind:
You’re not allowed to do this. Your church experience is invalid. You don’t belong to the true church. And who are you — a woman?! That’s not allowed, either.
It was such an overwhelming feeling of condemnation. It felt like a pack of wild dogs nipping at my heels, baring their teeth and snarling.
Elaine, my director, was the first person I told about the image of the animal creature that showed up in my prayer life while I was on retreat in June — that image I’ve been sharing with you from time to time the last couple months — as she and I met for a session immediately after that image showed up for me at the retreat.
And so, because she knows I’ve been carrying this image of that animal creature — an image that looks like an overgrown mole with a long lizard’s body that represents me in my current healing journey — she asked where the wild dogs show up when I’m looking at that animal creature that’s been spending time with Jesus.
So I spent some time visiting that image of myself as a rascally mole with dark, wiry hair with Jesus. I saw us traipsing along a trail path. Or rather, I was traipsing. Jesus was just walking along beside me. But I was giddy, running alongside him and smiling up at him and sometimes running circles around him in happiness.
The wild dogs were nowhere to be found.
“Could they show up?” Elaine asked.
Yes. They could. But my sense of Jesus as shepherd in that image was so strong. He had command of the environment. If a pack of wild dogs came upon us, I just knew he’d keep them far from me. They wouldn’t even come close. And they definitely couldn’t touch me. They’d cower in fear before Jesus, staying far away.
There’s no place for wild dogs when I’m with Jesus.
And do you know what happened next? The more I let myself experience and receive the freedom and joy and safety the presence of Jesus offers me in that image, I saw t hat dark, wiry hair of my animal creature burst into soft, clean, healthy brown fur. That animal creature turned into a wholly different kind of animal.
A beautiful animal. Soft and furry … and pretty.
I think this is what healing has the potential to look like: experiencing and receiving complete freedom and joy and safety, and then, because of that, becoming something new.
To say I’m thankful is probably the greatest understatement.
How would you describe what’s happening in your life with God right now? It doesn’t have to be as vivid as what I’ve shared here with you, but what would you say about it, if you said anything?