In exploring her sense of Spirit, Rose reflexively used the term ‘Him’ to refer to God. As we talked further, she realized she had accepted, without question, the idea of God as a father figure. Rose’s own father was a violent and neglectful alcoholic, and her husband of many years is emotionally distant and, when pressed, emotionally abusive as well. Suddenly, Rose’s difficulty relating to a God she envisioned in male form became quite clear!
However, Rose had a close relationship with her mother. She regularly experienced her mother’s love and concern, and still grieves her death several years later. Rose also has an absolute certainty that her mother is in heaven; this was, in fact, the only reason she had for her belief in God--if her mother’s spirit lives on and is ‘someplace else’, there must be a God.
And so, Rose began to open to the idea of imagining God in a different form--this God who is far beyond any conceptualization of the human mind. Sitting across from her that day, with the room aglow in lamplight, Rose gave me several gifts.
To be sure, she gave me that dazzling gift of witnessing transformation, a topic worthy of an in-the-works future essay! (see Angels Sing) But she also gave me a metaphor and a deeper understanding of our spiritual process. On that chilly January evening, I felt a doorway come into existence. That doorway appeared as Rose’s experience of nurturing and connection joined with her willingness to expand her image of God.
This metaphor has deepened for me these last few weeks. I’ve become clear that we do best to look for our doorway within the stuff of our own lives. The door we seek cannot easily be found by doing what works for others, or by following rules stemming from another time and culture. The stories of others and the many rich spiritual traditions can certainly act as guideposts, but if we want an immediacy to our spiritual experience--a vibrancy, an aliveness--then surely our doorway cannot be an abstraction. It must arise from what we know, from who we are. It must fit our lives.
As this metaphor enticed me further, I realized it likely that this doorway had not ‘come into existence’, as I had first imagined, but had simply been recognized. It seemed that various factors in Rose’s experience had aligned in such a way at that particular moment that she--and I--could perceive a doorway that had been there all along.
I also saw that we each have, not one, but several doorways that are ours, that appear to us at important junctures in our lives or arise from the stuff of our daily humdrum existence, doorways that are just waiting for us to step through. While the opportunities that appear in times of strife may certainly be more flashy, I suspect it’s the smaller, more commonplace doorways that are both more plentiful and most often missed--the chance to be kind or to act with grace, the choice to work with an inconvenience rather than fight it. There have been times in my meditations when I have chosen, finally, to welcome Spirit into a particular emotion or a continuously nagging thought rather than continue to stubbornly return to my technique--and through that portal I slip into a sweetness or depth of experience I nearly missed.
Now as I thought further, I realized this metaphor has some limitations, as do most creations of the mind. Doorway implies a wall, does it not? A partition that separates ‘here’ from ‘there’? My reading of spiritual texts and commentaries, as well as my own meager personal experience, remind me that such a separation is illusory, that the stuff of Spirit is everywhere and that our task on earth is simply (hah!) to recognize it, to live within it.
But what metaphor might work better? I can’t find one yet, though I’ll keep ya posted! For now, I’ll stick with the image of the doorway Rose highlighted for me that day, recognizing that such doorways are my path to realizing there is no path, that ‘here’ and ‘there’ are just constructs of my earth-bound brain. With that caveat, I nestle into the metaphor. I like it. I trust it.
Rose came back the next week with her feet firmly beneath her once more. The depression that had been weighing her down for weeks had begun to lift. She was taking action again, doing simply what was hers to do and trusting more fully that that, indeed, was enough.
Rose had regularly read the books of daily affirmations tailored to folks in recovery. She shared, though, that she had now chosen one comprised of reflections by and specifically for women. And while she was not yet talking to God, Rose was conversing with her mother who was with God. “And that’s a good start!” she declared. A good start, indeed!
For Rose, a male image of God had simply not worked. The current doorway provides Rose an opportunity to refine her conceptualization of the Sacred and explore its connection to her heart, her soul, her life. A path has appeared and Rose has taken her first tentative steps along it. I do not know where this trail will lead her. However, I feel certain that as she senses her way forward, moment by moment, Rose will walk into a richness of experience that is there waiting, whispering her name.
There are doorways aplenty, throughout our days and our nights, especially, it would seem, in our nights. If I can remember this metaphor, I will be more likely to reach out amid my own darkness, fingers sensing that slight give that hints of a path forward--and take it. And I will trust even more deeply than I do now the wisdom and inevitable success of a client’s search for her or his own doorways.
May we each listen and find amid the substance of our own lives the doorways that are waiting for us, those that whisper our name.
*In this and all my blog entries, whenever I refer to an experience with a specific person, know that the individual has been consulted and has given written permission for me to publish my thoughts about their journey. Know, too, that I have changed identifying information, given the person the opportunity to review my entry before posting, and offered the individual the pleasure of choosing her or his very own blog name.