by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, October 7, 2018
Sometimes, if we’re truly attentive, our minds can be upended, our imaginations can be broken open, by encountering God with skin. Yes, we have a God enfleshed in the witness of Jesus, who in history inhabited our human condition and embodied the presence of the Holy. Jesus, who showed us what God might look and speak and act like. But in our time and place, we may sometimes also need God with skin, God that we can see and hear and touch.
Recently God with skin showed up in a form I hadn’t considered. I received a text from a friend who lives at a distance and who was unexpectedly going to be in my geographic area. He wondered if I would be around and available for a visit, and happily, I was.
Although we’d stayed in touch over time through social media, we hadn’t actually seen each other in nearly a decade. When my friend arrived, we hugged. And then he burst into tears, a weeping so powerful that he couldn’t speak for several minutes. As the tears continued, I became alarmed and anxious, wondering what terrible, unnamed burden, what devastating news he must be carrying. An unwelcome and unexpected diagnosis for him, his wife, his children? An overwhelming loss? An experience of anguish that cut to the core so deeply that he could find no way to express it except through weeping?
When he was finally able to speak, he told me what had so dramatically opened the floodgates of his soul: he was simply overcome with profound joy and delight at seeing me after so many years. I was stunned by his tender words, words that evoked tears of my own; stunned also by the palpable presence of the Holy One in that room at that moment. It was, for me, an image of the way God must weep with rapture and utter delight on beholding our belovedness.
God weeping for joy. Why do we not notice this more often? Perhaps because if we Google “God weeping for joy,” we come up empty. There are plenty of references to God weeping with us in our pain, our sorrow, our grief. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem or Jesus weeping over the death of his friend, Lazarus, come to mind. There’s a long list of the Divine companioning us in every aspect of loss and heartache but there’s a rather limited list of the Holy One’s ecstatic delight in our attention and our company. There are abundant references to the truth that we’re not alone in our times of darkness and anguish, that joy will come in the morning. But why only in the morning, we might wonder? Is delight meant to be limited and time-sensitive?
One image of a jubilant God can be found in the parable of the ecstatic shepherd sweeping up in his arms the lost, inattentive sheep out on a hillside. Or the joyful parent who has been, minute by minute, scouting the horizon in the hope of sighting the longed for return of the willful, wasteful prodigal child.
But it took my friend to show me in the clearest way possible an image of the Holy One unable to contain divine delight in my presence and letting it all out in a torrent of salt and water. God with skin right in front of me. Until that moment, I think I hadn’t fully imagined the Holy One as so overcome with joy that it bubbled up and out in the only way possible, an overflow of tears.
Since that graced visit, I’ve found myself looking with intention and awareness everywhere, more conscious that opportunities to encounter the Holy One’s unrestrained joy might be just around the corner. God at play, God dancing, God doing a jig in the embrace of a friend, the comfort of community, the midnight sky brilliant with moon and stars, the stillness of prayer, the lines of a cherished poem. Here, there, and everywhere. All we have to do is show up, be present, and pay attention. Who knows when a God bursting with delight might be as near to us as our very own selves?
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a time when you experienced, witnessed, or imagined God’s delight: in you, in a relationship, in an encounter, in the natural world.
Savor the joy of that memory and sit with it.
What does delight look like, feel like, sound like?
Offer deep thanks for knowing yourself as beloved in the eyes of the Holy One.
Ask for the grace to affirm that same belovedness in those you encounter today.
Fotolia, Patrizia Tilly
Please be aware that I may not be posting a new blog for a while because I’m going to have total hip replacement surgery mid-October. I’ll be grateful for your prayer for full healing (Thank you!) and will be back to Mining the Now as soon as possible. And, since a writer can feed on almost anything, I suspect this experience might offer lots to mine for a future post. Stay tuned!
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