This second week of Lent, I am both challenged and encouraged by Richard’s words in Wondrous Encounters. Beginning with his comments on Ash Wednesday asking for the desire to desire, I’ve held longing lightly, peering into it, feeling its edges, following my bliss (as Joseph Campbell calls it), trying to both accept it and let it go without knowing precisely what that desire is. I’m hopeful that, as Richard writes, “It is the Holy Spirit doing the desiring at your deepest level. Therefore you will get nothing less than what you really desire…” (page 13).
The week begins with the Transfiguration, an experience of both light and darkness, knowing and not knowing. As the study guide for Wondrous Encounters suggests, I remember my own intimate encounters with God, the times when God has mirrored me and I’ve touched the tangible quality of my desire, of the large Desire desiring in me.
One of these, a profound unitive experience, came while swimming naked in a secluded, murky lake. Almost audibly, desire had asked me to strip and dive in, and, against my better judgment, I did. As dark water met my pale body, I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s love, a sense of belonging as if this was my baptism and God was saying, “This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.” I saw myself as God sees me.
As with the disciples’ experience, when I clambered onto the dock to drip-dry, it seemed a cloud settled over me. There was no way to fully comprehend the epiphany. But I carried away a sense of being deeply immersed in a flow of love that has no ending or beginning, that is entirely reciprocal and mutual. Richard calls this Trinitarian Love or the “wondrous loop.” I am struck by the generosity of God’s gaze. There is no demand or expectation for return; there is no restraint or withholding. In Richard’s words: “… [One] is never sure who is doing the giving and who is doing the receiving. It is all Flow and Outpouring” (page 47). All I must do is stay inside the flow.
The greatest difficulty for me arises in turning that gracious mirror to another human. Wednesday’s meditation invites me to change myself through embracing my own suffering rather than projecting it onto others or mirroring negativity and violence. Seeing myself in God’s mirror calls me to see others in the same way, through eyes of love.
The story of the “Prodigious Father,” highlighted in Saturday’s Scripture, speaks profoundly to me of that lavish, excessive love. Ah, if I could be as free as that human man in my loving! Tight-fistedness is more familiar than expansive hospitality of heart.
Yet when I am still and listening, I find desire tugging at clenched fingers, daring me to give it all up in wild extravagance. I carry with me throughout the day whispering questions: “Who are You? Who am I?” And the humbling, affectionate answer leads me to squandering love, to not hoarding or rationing grace, compassion, and acceptance. And I begin to live the truth that love is an endless, wondrous loop, large enough to encompass every being in its current.
Joelle Chase invests her energy in care for the Earth as part of the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Sustainability Team, along with her fiancé, Peter Knipper. To read Joelle’s full story of baptism in the lake, see her article, “Eucatastrophe,” in the Fall 2010 edition of Radical Grace, a publication of the Center for Action and Contemplation.