By Francyl Streano Gawryn
1990 General Conference, Snowmass, Colorado
Let me begin with this reading from "Mary Magdalen":
It was in the month of June when I saw Him for the first time. He was walking in the wheatfield when I passed by with my handmaidens, and He was alone.
The rhythm of His step was different from other men's, and the movement of His body was like naught I had seen before.
Men do not pace the earth in that manner. And even now I do not know whether He walked fast or slow.
My handmaidens pointed their fingers at Him and spoke in shy whispers to one another. And I stayed my steps for a moment, and raised my hand to hail Him. But He did not turn His face, and He did not look at me. And I hated Him. I was swept back into myself, and I was as cold as if I had been in a snow-drift. And I shivered.
That night I beheld Him in my dreaming; and they told me afterward that I screamed in my sleep and was restless upon my bed.
It was in the month of August that I saw Him again, through my window. He was sitting in the shadow of the cypress tree across my garden, and He was as still as if He had been carved out of stone, like the statues in Antioch and other cities of the North Country.
And my slave, the Egyptian, came to me and said, "That man is here again. He is sitting there across your garden."
And I gazed at Him, and my soul quivered within me, for He was beautiful.
His body was single and each part seemed to love every other part.
Then I clothed myself with raiment of Damascus, and I left my house and walked towards Him.
Was it my aloneness, or was it His fragrance, that drew me to Him? Was it a hunger in my eyes that desired comeliness, or was it His beauty that sought the light of my eyes?
Even now I do not know.
I walked to him with my scented garments and my golden sandals, the sandals the Roman captain had given me, even these sandals. And when I reached Him, I said, "Good-morrow to you."
And He said, "Good-morrow to you, Miriam."
And He looked at me, and His night-eyes saw me as no man had seen me. And suddenly I was as if naked, and I was shy.
Yet He had only said, "Good-morrow to you."
And then I said to Him, "Will you not come to my house?"
I did not know what He meant then, but I know now.
And I said, "Will you not have wine and bread with me?"
And He said, "Yes, Miriam, but not now."
Not now, not now, He said. And the voice of the sea was in those two words, and the voice of the wind and the trees. And when He said them unto me, life spoke to death.
For mind you, my friend, I was dead. I was a woman who had divorced her soul. I was living apart from this self which you now see. I belonged to all men, and to none. They called me harlot, and a woman possessed of seven devils. I was cursed, and I was envied.
But when His dawn-eyes looked into my eyes all the stars of my night faded away, and I became Miriam, only Miriam, a woman lost to the earth she had known, and finding herself in new places.
And now again I said to Him, "Come into my house and share bread and wine with me."
And He said, "Why do you bid me to be your guest?"
And I said, "I beg you to come into my house." And it was all that was sod in me, and all that was sky in me calling unto Him.
Then He looked at me, and the noontide of His eyes was upon me, and He said, "You have many lovers, and yet I alone love you. Other men love themselves in your nearness. I love you in your self. Other men see a beauty in you that shall fade away sooner than their own years. But I see in you a beauty that shall not fade away, and in the autumn of your days that beauty shall not be afraid to gaze at itself in the mirror, and it shall not be offended.
"I alone love the unseen in you."
Then He said in a low voice, "Go away now. If this cypress tree is yours and you would not have me sit in its shadow, I will walk my way."
And I cried to Him and I said, "Master, come to my house. I have incense to burn for you, and a silver basin for your feet. You are a stranger and yet not a stranger. I entreat you, come to my house."
Then He stood up and looked at me even as the seasons might look down upon the field, and He smiled. And He said again: "All men love you for themselves. I love you for yourself."
And then He walked away.
But no other man ever walked the way He walked. Was it a breath born in my garden that moved to the east? Or was it a storm that would shake all things to their foundations?
I knew not, but on that day the sunset of His eyes slew the dragon in me, and I became a woman, I became Miriam, Miriam of Mijdel.
--Kahlil Gibran, The Son of Man
* * *
Salvation is spoken of in many, many terms and from many contexts. John Sanford, in his book, Healing and Wholeness, speaks of spiritual growth and its goal in terms of wholeness. He says, "It is impossible to summarize the way a person becomes whole. It is an individual matter, differing with each person. But it can be said that to become whole we must be involved with life. This earthly existence appears to be a crucible in which the forging of the whole person is to take place. Our life must have a story to it if we are to become whole, and this means we must come up against something; otherwise a story can't take place. Some people seem destined to become whole by combating outer life circumstances, some through encountering the inner forces of the unconscious, some through involvement with both. But if we stand on the sidelines of life, wholeness cannot emerge. If we are to become whole, we will have led a life in which darkness has been faced, and an encounter with evil has been risked."
On page 1662-3 of The Urantia Book, Jesus, in talking with John, makes reference to the story of Job, who, having been blessed with money, a beautiful home, lovely family, good health, etc., suddenly finds himself stricken, his family dead, his lands and home ruined. Said Jesus, "While Job did not, through suffering, find the resolution of his intellectual troubles or the solution of his philosophical difficulties, he did achieve great victories; even in the very face of the breakdown of his theological defenses he ascended to those spiritual heights where he could sincerely say, `I abhor myself'; then was there granted him the salvation of a vision of God. So even through misunderstood suffering, Job ascended to the superhuman plane of moral understanding and spiritual insight. When the suffering servant obtains a vision of God, there follows a soul peace which passes all human understanding."
On page 1651, Jesus, in the company of Simon the Pharisee and others, is reclining to eat when a well-known woman of "unsavory reputation" who had recently become a believer in Jesus' gospel and changed her mode of living came in from the street.
This unnamed woman had brought with her a large flask of perfumed anointing lotion and, standing behind Jesus as he reclined at meat, began to anoint his feet while she also wet his feet with her tears of gratitude, wiping them with the hair of her head. And when she had finished this anointing, she continued weeping and kissing his feet.
When Simon saw all this, he said to himself: "This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is who thus touches him; that she is a notorious sinner." And Jesus, knowing what was going on in Simon's mind, spoke up, saying: "Simon, I have something which I would like to say to you." Simon answered, "Teacher, say on." Then said Jesus: "A certain wealthy moneylender had two debtors. The one owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Now, when neither of them had wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them do you think, Simon, would love him most?" Simon answered, "He, I suppose, whom he forgave the most." And Jesus said, "You have rightly judged," and pointing to the woman, he continued: "Simon, take a good look at this woman. I entered your house as an invited guest, yet you gave me no water for my feet. This grateful woman has washed my feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss of friendly greeting, but this woman, ever since she came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil you neglected to anoint, but she has anointed my feet with precious lotions. And what is the meaning of all this? Simply that her many sins have been forgiven, and this has led her to love much. But those who have received but little forgiveness sometimes love but little."
And on page 1838 Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
Said Jesus: "You see, then, that the Father gives salvation to the children of men, and this salvation is a free gift to all who have the faith to receive sonship in the divine family. There is nothing man can do to earn this salvation. Works of self-righteousness cannot buy the favor of God, and much praying in public will not atone for lack of living faith in the heart. Men you may deceive by your outward service, but God looks into your souls. What I am telling you is well illustrated by two men who went into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself: `O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unlearned, unjust, adulterers, or even like this publican. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift his eyes to heaven but smote his breast, saying, `God be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you that the publican went home with God's approval rather than the Pharisee, for every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
The common bond here is the recognition of one's own personal limitations, one's own capacity for evil, one's own fragile and vulnerable state of being, and what the spiritual repercussions are consequent upon the recognition and acknowledgement of those limitations, capacity for evil and fragile and vulnerable state of being. In these stories, the darkness has been faced, the evil has been encountered.
From the section, "Trips about Rome," we read on page 1466 of The Urantia Book that Jesus has just passed by a person and has not engaged that man in a conversation which would naturally lead to questions regarding spirituality. In part, Jesus explains to Ganid, "That man was not ripe for the harvest of salvation; he must be allowed more time for the trials and difficulties of life to prepare him for the reception of wisdom and higher learning. Or, if we could have him live with us, we might by our lives show him the Father in heaven, and thus would he become so attracted by our lives as sons of God that he would be constrained to inquire about your Father."
John Bradshaw uses a term which I personally like--that of healthy shame. Healthy shame brings us to a correct recognition of our human limitations. It gives us the permission to be human. It gives us permission to act and to make mistakes when we act. Reading again from John Sanford's Healing and Wholeness: "This means, of course, that life must be lived with riskThe safe life is not the whole life, and the whole life will have its share of mistakes. Not only will we learn through these mistakes and errors, but they themselves become a part of our mysterious totality. We are our mistakes, as well as our successes. A life without mistakes is impoverished, although, of course, our mistakes and errors must be redeemed by our becoming conscious through them."
I believe that if we do not, on a continual basis, reconsider and accept the fact of our own limitations, reckon with our own healthy shame, the reality of our own capacity for evil, our own smallness, then we cannot accept ourselves for who we really are, and we divorce ourselves from ourselves. We then fail not only to accept our own humanity, but we also fail to accept the humanity of those around us.
The second solution which Jesus offers for spiritual blindness is relatedness--our relationships to those around us whom we love and who love us. It is in relationship that we find another path to spiritual growth. It is in the embrace of real relationship that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others and valuable to others. It is in growing relationships that we discover that we are lovable and that we have the capacity to love, and it is through relationships, the successes and the failures, that we perfect our ability to love. Again, reading from John Sanford:
The development of consciousness is not possible without emotion, and emotion comes to us through the significant relationships in our lives. If we have not loved and hated, been enriched and injured by others, life has not been lived. For this reason, relationships are crucial to our psychological development.
At the conclusion of Sanford's book, he suggests six techniques whereby we may seek to enhance our own personal process of self-healing, our own process of becoming whole. I would add, our own process toward a deeper and more rich understanding of our own story, our own movement toward spiritual completeness. They are:
1. Our relationships.
2. Journal writing. Keeping a journal is not the same as keeping a diary. In a diary, one writes about what one did during the day, outward actions, people seen, etc. In a journal one writes about one's inner life. A journal is a personal account of one's own inner journey toward wholeness.
3. Body work of some sort. Be it yoga, jogging, tennis, swimming, racquet ball, golf, you name it. Try at least three times per week to do some regular activity which honors and exercises the wonderful companion your body is for you.
4. Meditation. Again, pick your own style, but spend some regular time every day if possible in this quieting activity.
5. Active imagination. This will take some explaining if you are not familiar with it. For a more detailed explanation, please do refer to John Sanford's Healing and Wholeness. This is a process of actively engaging in dialogue with some image or feeling which holds special meaning for you, and writing down the dialogue. Use your journal. Writing it down is very important. Take for example a dream you have recently had, or an image from a piece of poetry or art. Ask the image what import it holds for you. The fact that it is an image which you remember with some emotional content guarantees that it holds import for you. Write down your questions and the answers you receive.
6. Dreamwork. Try to put some thought each morning before arising to remember your dreams. Use your journal to record your dreams and your reactions to them. Use active imagination with those images which are intriguing or hold emotional content for you.