Posts Tagged ‘holy’

The Brea(st/d) of Heaven

August 30, 2014

A group of girlfriends, including our priest, humbly shared Communion around a circle. One mother of three small children handed the consecrated bread to the woman next to her and said accidentally, if appropriately, “The Body of Christ, the Breast of Heaven”. Much laughter ensued. I was moved by the potential meaning held in her unintentional substitution for the word “bread” – it remains an unforgettable Eucharist.

I wonder what it is like to breastfeed from God, to experience mutual need and devotion, intimacy and sustenance unlike any other. Do I already? Could I intentionally?

My son’s favorite part of church is what he calls “God’s Dinner”. It may be because he gets to move his little legs and see lots of people on our way up front, or it could be that he gets a snack. I think, however, he senses something more is happening. He seems in sweet awe as he holds his two-year-old palms up to receive this spiritual food. He has a skip in his step afterwards. Back in our pew, he always asks for more.

I experienced breastfeeding my son as a kind of sacrament, an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” (Book of Common Prayer). In the wee dark hours, more than calories was transmitted. “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you.” (BCP, Eucharistic Prayer II) It wasn’t my grace that flowed; it was the purest of God’s love feeding us both, and a passing of Peace between mother and babe.

It is no small feat to feed a child from your own body multiple times a day and night for weeks, months or years. During the harried moments of raising a baby into a toddler, it was within the calm of nursing that I remembered the profound nature of the mother role and what a privilege it is. A lot transpired in the 12-inch world we created between us in our blue denim rocking chair. It was there that my son rolled toy dump trucks and excavators across my chest, it was there we chanted about Sita and Ram during my yoga teacher training, and it was there we gazed into each other’s souls and fell deeper and deeper in love.

I often wonder, as I look at my son, if God loves me that completely. There were a few days last winter when I found myself saying, “I’m not a good person” because I had been bitchy, ungrateful, impulsive, and negative. These are the moments when I most want to contribute to God’s kingdom rather than take from it, and yet, I need time at the Breast of Heaven in order to right myself. I need to be held, to connect my soul with God, and to feel loved despite my shortcomings, maybe even, inclusive of them. Then I can be nudged towards what could be.

In the Hindu scripture The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the charioteer and teacher, gradually reveals himself to the warrior Arjuna as the Divine and as Arjuna’s immortal Self. Near the end of the story, he tells Arjuna that he loves him, that he is dear to him. I found this so touching. Could God also be this Self within me offering tender love and forgiveness to my imperfect, small “s” self?  

When people say “God loves you,” it feels like fluff to me, until I give credence to God’s love as I experience it – a surrounding presence within which I “live and breathe and have [my] being” (Acts 17:28). It is a healing energy that works its way into the inner reaches of my heart. It is as if I were a nursing baby and whenever I cry for my Mother, or even make a peep, She is there. This there-ness, that’s love to me.

Do we wean from God? As happens in a breastfeeding life cycle, I know that I have received highly personalized-for-each-stage-of-my-growth Divine nourishment. Sometimes I wonder if it is time for me to stop asking God for so much, and give what I already have. I don’t think, however, that I will ever grow out of needing to hear about Jesus’ vision of justice or tap in to his meditative presence. Nor can I imagine being beneficial for my family and the world without continually accessing a power greater than myself.  

I’m heartened that when weaning a child, allowing him to continue becoming his own self, his need for his mother is no less strong, and her love for him is no less fierce and no less present. This, I suspect, is how it is with God.

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How would you love if…

December 14, 2009

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my father’s death. Those who have been through the loss of a loved one (or perhaps a cherished pet) know that in the last few weeks, days and minutes, you feel completely powerless. There is nothing you can do to keep them here and little you can do to ease their suffering… except to love. Unabashedly and for once, unconditionally.
 
It’s of course quite human that it takes death to lead us to that purest and simplest of all acts.
 
Gone are the all the years of trying to get your parent, sibling or dog to do what you want and to be in some way different than how they are. All those “I wish you would…’s” don’t matter anymore. When you realize that the unfathomable is near, love is all that’s left. It’s effortless then.
 
Yet here we are, back on Earth, in the middle of the holidays. Sometimes, even though it’s what this season is about, pure love isn’t so easy when the potential for family dinner table chaos is just around the corner.  We dread being off center, away from our routine and plunged into old dynamics we thought we’d outgrown. It is easy then to begin focusing on the shortcomings of our loved ones. Easy, when we think they’ll be around forever. 
 
This morning in yoga I thought, “How I would love someone if he or she were holy?” As if he were perfect just as he is. As if I were in complete awe of his presence and felt deep respect for what he had come here to be and to do. There would be no expectation. No holding on.  No tweaking.
 
And what would it be like to love as if I were holy. I imagined that I would look upon this person with an open heart, compassion for her soul and genuine yearning for her happiness. I believe it would be a feeling of unconditional love. 
 
The thing is, we are holy. Maybe not saint like and certainly not perfect, but I believe we do have a bit (more than a bit) of the holy inside us. I believe it is possible to love like that. Not consistently or flawlessly mind you, and definitely not without commitment and practice.
 
If you try it – holding someone who really matters to you as if he or she were holy – I bet you will feel it. Even for just a fleeting moment.
 
For me it is most possible to do when I first take time to come home to myself, to the place that is really and deeply me. In this place, I don’t need someone else to be a certain way so that I can feel whole, safe or at peace. I am already whole, already safe and I’ve created my own peace.
 
When the holidays get busy and the party wine starts flowing, feeling grounded in ourselves may take a bit more attention and effort – perhaps a slightly longer workout or a few more minutes of meditation. Our growing ability to love another unconditionally and to be witness to their holiness is worth it. 
 
I invite you to give this gift this year to those you love. You never know how many more chances you’ll have.