If Jesus were my spiritual director and had read Becoming What I Eat and Drink, he wouldn’t ask me about my desire to be Mr. Rogers. He would ask me about the agitation I felt watching that scene from Jesus Christ Superstar.
“There’s a scream inside you,” he repeats softly as I sit in silence one morning.
My shoulders tighten and the energy in my belly is like a trapped cat. I sense pressure in my throat and tension in my thighs.
Jesus listens deeply to what I’m feeling in my body and waits.
Gradually the energy in my belly becomes still and heavy; my shoulders and legs relax. It’s just there, this wishing there weren’t so many demands.
Now I picture Jesus’ hand on the still animal of desire, stroking its head, feeling its fur, speaking kindly: “This is so hard.”
“Yes,” I reply to his compassionate presence. “Demands come from people I want to love, who deserve to be loved, but it’s all too much.”
He continues to stroke the animal’s head and furry cheek. My entire body is relaxed except for a pressure in my belly and throat. Perhaps it’s the scream still poised.
But I don’t feel like screaming now. I feel like reaching up from my belly through my throat and out to the person who wants something. I see their face. I imagine myself touching their cheek and looking into their eyes. I realize, in that moment, I can be present to them.
Now I feel a tenderness in my throat. The animal of my body is purring. It loves to love.
The next day I was preparing a talk about Tonglen prayer for Living from the Heart. Tonglen is the practice of breathing in the suffering of another and breathing out comfort, peace, and well-being. These words were in my notes.
All it really takes is the courage to believe that suffering cannot hold a candle to love. We give evil power through fear. When we trust that the Spirit within us has the power to transform the negative energy of suffering into the creative energy of peace and well-being, we can let go of fear and embrace our power–a power we have in Christ.
The following morning, as I sat again in silence, I understood that I had been afraid that an avalanche of suffering would come in if I opened the door to any more people. My agitation wanted to protect me from that possibility.
Now that this fear has been revealed, I can thank it and let it go.
Only one moment at a time can come through the door of my life. At each moment, I can take a calming breath and welcome the one before me and listen. Whatever suffering I let in me can be transformed into love.
I have told you these things,
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world, you will have trouble.
But take courage!
I have overcome the world.
—John 16:33 (NIV, adapted)
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What love-mischief might God be doing in Covid-19? Might it lead to a great realization? Probably Tomfoolery tells us about it in this “simple poem in complicated times.” On his Facebook page he writes, “In the bad, we find the good.”