by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt —
Much of the Christian walk is about learning to see with new eyes. After many years of prayer, the Lord impressed upon me a new way of looking at myself, too, as a mystic. I had been receiving what dear Julian of Norwich might call, “shewings,” words and pictures, understandings, even stories and the occasional vision or locution from my time spent with him and in contemplative prayer. This caused me some angst. I wanted guidance, so I asked lots of fellow believers about it, vicars and pastors and those in pastoral care or prayer ministry, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about.
It was not until I read Teresa of Avila’s life story that I found a kindred spirit and realised that in a much smaller way, I was becoming a mystic too. That new perspective and new word was deeply liberating and affirming. It helped me go from thinking I was going a bit strange to being sure I was! But strange in the world’s eyes, not in God’s.
One lazy summer’s day a few years back I found a dozy toad on our garden path. We have a cat, so I decided it would be best to move him or her to some safer undergrowth. Picking it up gently, I was so struck by its beauty and so moved to be holding one of God’s creatures in my hand that I kissed it. Perhaps with a holy perspective gifted to us we can learn to love the dozy, knobbly, less conventionally lovely parts of ourselves and others. Maybe that is the “warts and all” unconditional love of God.
Nowadays I savour all I am given in prayer and trust the Giver implicitly. He has gifted me with a number of new ways to look at myself over the years, and now instead of labelling myself only as sick, unemployable, and functionally disabled, I can also call myself a writer, an artist, a contemplative, a Christian mystic and I think I am also becoming a Franciscan. God sees so much more than our outer shell, and what the world deems “useful,” and is always leading us into seeing through new lenses.
Being a Christ follower means plucking out so much of our own sight that we begin to see with God’s eyes. And like everyone else travelling that narrow path, it means shovelling out ego as fast as we can lift it, and watching the embers of our old self die out over and over again until we are licked to life in Christ by the holy flame of Grace.
Always when you think you are arriving you are shown a new level of seeing and have to begin again. Faith is a fascinating journey of cleaning the lens of perspective over and over. Sometimes it takes us to unexpected places, as this piece just received in prayer may help us see…..
I sit at the bottom of the well, with God.
We crouch in the gloopy mud like old toads. This friendship finds the strangest places to dwell. Few will find us here, and when they do, they will look down on us, shake their heads and walk away. We are free to speak and ponder, to love and laugh, to gaze at the sky.
If anyone speaks to us, they address only me and say, “Why would you choose to be a toad?” and I say,
“Because it is not below God to live as a toad, no more is it beneath me.” Or they say,
“Why would you choose to sit in mud at the bottom of a well?” and I croak back,
“Because this is where I found God sitting.”
“How did you even end up like this?” they counter in disgust.
“I found him, I climbed down, and he kissed me, so that I too could be a toad and understand toadish things.” And like the others, they shake their heads and knit their brows and walk away.
God and I smile at one another.
“Ribbit,” says God, and nods.