When my friend’s granddaughter “Amy” was diagnosed with high functioning autism, she and her family felt like they’d cracked a code. They finally understood why Amy interacts with the world the way she does. With these insights, she could make adjustments that support her and help her enjoy life and accomplish goals.
Insights help us all manage our behaviour. When I notice myself overreacting to something, I wonder if I could be reacting to an unresolved hurt from the past. Knowing this frees me to engage with both the present and the past in a healthier way.
However, insights only take us so far. I know why I overeat, but it doesn’t stop me from overeating.
Once again I recalled Father Richard Soo, SJ’s statement: “Insights are a dime a dozen. What we really need is encounter.”
“Get up close and personal with God,” says Father Soo.
As we explore with God the thoughts, feelings and desires that come to our awareness, we can experience God’s loving response. We get a sense of how God sees us and our situation.
In “I Wonder What’s Under,” I described how God was with me—lovingly present as each awareness emerged. God didn’t fix me or tell me to do anything. Instead, God invited me to hold all that was true about myself on various levels the way God does—with compassion. And then I was invited to hear a deeper truth that is so often drowned out by my fears.
Deep truths emerge as we encounter God: we’re made to connect with God and others; we’re never separated from God; we’re unconditionally loved, and so on. These insights are not new. We read them in scripture, hear them in church, and remind ourselves of them in prayer.
But here’s the difference. When we encounter God face to face and hear these words from God’s lips, in God’s embrace, and through God’s touch, we know it in our bodies. We know it the way we knew it before we were born—without question.
And that changes everything.
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“Michael Ableman is a lifelong farmer and founder of the Vancouver social enterprise Sole Food, a five-acre farm in the city’s grittiest neighbourhood that employs people who have been abandoned by society,” writes Randy Shore in the Vancouver Sun. Shore quotes Ableman, “When we started Sole Food, we had two primary goals: We wanted to provide meaningful training and employment to people with challenges like mental illness and addiction, but also to do something on a scale that was truly agricultural . . . We produce 50,000 pounds of food every year. ” He goes on to say, “There’s something physiological that happens when you work with living soil. . . I always noticed how much better I felt psychologically after a day of playing in the dirt. Studies demonstrate that the change is real when one is intimately working with soil. When people have a reason to get out of bed each day—and that takes courage and perseverance for some of the folks we work with—a change takes place that is pretty profound. When they know there is a team of people depending on them when living things rely on them and they know that those plants produce food for the community, they come out of themselves, they move forward.” Isn’t that incredible? You can read more about it here or in Ableman’s book, Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs and Hope on the Urban Frontier.