Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Drawing from the spiritual well, or, being hit over the head with an angelic 2x4

This morning's synchronicities and the trail that followed feel oddly appropriate for the 14th anniversary of my religious conversion. I'm not *quite* sure how to interpret them fully yet, though the overriding message feels like one of reassurance, but there is a hell of a lot in there that needs unpacking.

As per my status comment, after a difficult decision to confront someone on their behaviour and the usual ensuing feeling of being dragged through a wringer b/c, contrary to popular belief, I *hate* performing the INFJ doorslam - it's always a last resort - I received the following quote of the day in my inbox:

"Give it thought, Irim. Consider every angle. And then speak your mind. You've not been drawn into anyone's life just to listen...."

Ok, definitely a sign that it was the right decision, though I may have the odd doubt about the execution and timing - in part for the sake of the person in question, but mostly for those from whom that person is likely to request support.

I carried on cataloguing, working through the feeling that beneath my reasonably together exterior, everything feels...shattered is too strong a word, but something akin to it. Nothing feels whole, I can't see a full picture; instead, it feels like there are loads of sharp pieces. I loved Vera's comment on Skype the other day about it being a mosaic, and until it was whole, I couldn't step into it. 'She's right,' I thought, 'but I want to see more. I feel...lost. Am I completely on the wrong track? I just want to see where the hell I'm going.''

It wasn't the next book, certainly - that would be too much, even for a film. But a few books later, a lovely old-fashioned bookmark fell out, with a picture of a bouquet of flowers at the top and the quote:

"The Lord shall guide thee." Isaiah 58:11

I blinked at it for a few moments, startled. I've almost never received such a direct answer, and something made me feel that though the immediate and total reassurance was meant, there was much more. I needed to see it in context:

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in."

My kind of religion, without question. I've always adored Isaiah, and this so represents the core of what I believe that it feels like a mandate, more than anything - IF thou..., the Lord shall guide thee. There's a lot of unpacking to be done here, but I get the gist. I'll be working on that one for a while, and following the guidelines for the rest of my life. I love the idea of a 'restorer of paths to dwell in', the idea of making barren places fertile once again - be they hearts, lives or land. Hmmm. Bigtime mother imagery there. Hmmm.

As if that weren't enough, not three books after that, the following fell out:

"There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime
with whom the melodies abide
of everlasting chime
who carry music in their heart
through dusky lane and wrangling mart
plying their daily task with busier feet
because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."

HAD to google that - and found it in "All the women of the Bible" in Google Books, under a section called, "Mothers like merchant ships". Since my main archetype is Demeter, my wolf ears stood straight up, as far as they could stretch. The line that struck me in that section was "True mothers are unselfish and sacrificial, whose lives are spent for the enrichment of others and whose lives are spent for the enrichment of others and who never fail to deliver the best of goods to those around them."

Again, that concept of nurturing, of salve for the afflicted soul, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. There are more themes to be drawn out here, but that's the one that hits me first. I'm particularly fond of the merchant ship image, as I love the sea. But 'merchant ship/merchant navy' is ringing a bell that I can't quite place at the moment - and it has NOTHING to do with NCIS, Ell!!! ;-)

Suddenly, I had an image of a page in one of Rachel Remen's books, from a story where she is sitting with a dying friend and they recite "Woman of Valour" together, one of Rachel's favourite parts of the Bible. I can see the lines 'she puts her hands to the distaff', 'her candle goeth not out by night', 'She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet."

I googled it and recognised the Eshet Chayil. It's 22 verses, so I shan't put it here, or this will become far too long, but it's beautiful and is sung on the way home from Shabbat services and to the bride at a Jewish wedding, IIRC. The whole poem struck home, but the particular verses for now were:

Oz v'hadar l'vushah vatischak l'yom acharon
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.

Piha patchah v'chochma v'torat chesed al l'shonah
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.

For the whole text, go here:

It's just...beautiful beyond words.

The last verse was one my eye fell on as I was waiting for grace before lunch. The Bible on the stand was open to Ecclesiastes, and the verse was: "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry." That is obvious enough, and probably a sharp tap on the nose from above about how I executed Monday, as was the 'consider from all angles' in today's first synchronicity.

Lots and lots of food for thought and prayer. What does strike me is that all the verses are from the Hebrew Bible and what I would consider strongly Jewish answers - answers I would have expected from the rabbinim that I worked with. I can't wait to start to unpack them and see how they unfold.

And the final blessing? Taking a moment to talk to Clayton before lunch, who then suggested that we DO lunch in the semnar room, where I told him what had shaken me so this weekend - enough to put my faith in where I was in question. He listened and then we had a brilliant conversation. And it was to him that I finally admitted what I've known for months but have been trying to avoid - for the first time in a long time, my one-to-one relationship with G-d is out of kilter, and THAT is what I need to sort before I do anything else. THAT is the foundation. We talked about the tension between our relationship with G-d and being in the community of G-d in church at length, but he told me - gently but firmly - that I needed to take care of my relationship with God first. Community could wait.

I should have known it would be one of my Southern African friends who would tell me like it is in a way I could hear. (Clayton is Zimbabwean, not Saffa, I hasten to add.)

What an amazing confluence of blessings on my anniversary - almost like being caught in God's safety net. I'm looking forward to taking this all home - except Clayton, of course, who is going home to Rosie and his little guy ;-).

I'm hesitant to do so, but I feel like a confluence of Jewish answers deserves a Jewish prayer of thanks - so I'd ask my Jewish friends reading this not to be offended - the closest appropriate prayer I can find is the Shecheyanu, which is to be recited on the receipt of very good news:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
she-he-chi-a-nu v'ki-y'ma-nu v'hi-gi-a-nu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who hath kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.


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