Thursday, March 28, 2013
The most frightening thing to me in this life is not whether a person will live or die. The scariest thing I have witnessed, is another human who is past feeling empathy for a friend, a family member, a fellow human being; the person who may see things differently than them.
In speaking to a friend recently, who is facing cancer, I felt it was important to choose my words carefully at a tender time. I spoke to her of the beginning of my own journey that started with a needle biopsy. There was a window, prior to actually hearing my doctor say the words out loud, where I felt confident that I could turn the tables with my own faith.
In my circle of like-minded yogis, to speak of healing hands is a term that is widely accepted (as it also is in my church community). So in-between the needle biopsy and the diagnosis, the first person I called was my Bishop. I asked him for a blessing, the laying on of hands.
I felt certain, as had been the case in previous times in my life, that I would hear words of comfort, not to worry, all will be well, it’s just a misunderstanding...that sort of thing.
So, when I met him, on a sunny summer afternoon at my church, we sat in his office. He ministered to me with consecrated oil that has been set aside for the healing of the sick, and afflicted. He shared with me, that this oil had been consecrated in the Garden of Gethsemane on a recent trip to Jerusalem, and then he and one of his councilors laid their hands on my head.
I felt a well of faith in me rise to hear words of comfort. I know how to open myself to real healing, energetically, and could feel the divine channels of connection broaden through the crown of my head. Yet I knew, somewhere deep in me, that I would not want to hear the first words he was about to say:
“Sister Syl, your body has been prepared for many years to do battle with the challenges you will face. Your Heavenly Father is aware of you, and will be at your side during this time of sanctification.”
I explained this morning to my friend, that over the course of this journey, in facing a variety of dark nights of the soul, I often reflected on the word “Sanctification”. I shared with her, that there were frustrating times during my journey, that I equated this word with almost a sacred punishment. It’s a tough one, cancer is.
Yet as the tough parts of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation were wrapping up, I felt I was now ready to face the recovery from the treatments themselves. I had lived through an invasive cancer diagnosis and was ready for some assurance on the future, so I called my Bishop again.
I was open. Open to God blessing me with no more, no more, no more, when it came to tough challenges. So after a lovely visit, my Bishop laid his hands on my head again, where I was waiting for the assurance which I felt I had earned. Wouldn’t such a desire be fair, given what I’d been through? I wanted someone outside of me to tell me what I wanted to hear, though I knew inside, at the essential level of my soul, that I was asking for something that was not in my power to grant for myself. I heard him say, as we both channeled the Spirit of the Lord, on my behalf:
“Your Father in Heaven knows you by heart. He loves you...and wants you to know that you will be Sanctified for some time yet.”
I wanted a refund, a do over, another way out of facing the rough edges life was offering me.
Sanctified, what does this mean, and how much will it really take?
Through any one of the paths I have come through in this life, whether healing childhood abuse, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or whatever, I want more than anything, to have a happy story, as story of realization and fruition of all my intuitions along my life path. My motivation in seeking this is to be able to bear a witness that our God-Source has worked through me in wonderful ways, happy ways. So like many who know the tough times, when life doesn't seem to be set up the way we think it should be, I would ask: WHY, did I have to face so much? What is that about? Why can’t I bear a witness of how wonderful life is, and most importantly, when will it be enough, so I can be done, and everything made right?
It reached the point that when I knelt to pray, all I could say was: “DUDE”.
Sanctification? Is this circumstance really what you’re thinking, God?
So as treatments wrapped and I gained the strength to take an afternoon walk, each day, it wasn’t long before I sat again in the hospital with a broken leg, facing months of healing; and there was my bishop, who blessed me again with patience in my sanctification. He stayed with me there, with my dear neighbor, Kathy, both doing their best to keep me laughing, while tears streamed down my face, frustrated and at my wits end.
He sat with me there until 3am, and when arriving back to my home, gave me a somewhat sanctified, piggy-back up the stairs (as crutches weren't an option due to the surgeries on my breast and arm, and rheumatoid arthritis in my wrists). He and Kathy got me settled into bed, around a stream of both incredulous laughter, and unanswered tears dropping from my chin.
It was during the quite days of solitude that followed, rolling around in my wheelchair, again relying on family, friends and neighbors continued offerings of care and kindness, that I began to glimpse an understanding of the idea of “Sanctification”.
So as I visited with her today, I told my friend about the last blessing my Bishop offered me, during this time facing an adversity that our culture calls cancer. Once the leg was healed, we met again, and I have to admit, I was down right gun-shy when it came to the ways of “Sanctification”. I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted another blessing, but knew I was being lead on a path.
I sat in his chair, his hands resting on my crown of fuzzy baby hair that had begun to sprout at Easter, and puffy cheeks from steroids, looking ironically like uncle fester. I was surprised, as I heard the voice of my bishop, through the heat of his hands on my head say:
“Sister Syl, today I give you a new name and a blessing”.
A new name? This was unusual, not part of a regular laying on of hands experience, when receiving a blessing. In the moment, I couldn’t help reflecting on the yogic traditions of your Guru renaming you, when through your fervent practice, you evolve to the place of shedding the old self and taking on a new identity, more aligned with your spiritual path.
And then he went on to say that my Heavenly Parents held me deep within their collective heart, that they were flanking me in love through my journey, and would choose this day to give me a new name and a blessing: The name was “HOPE”. Not that life would now be easy and graceful, since my dues were paid, but that regardless of what may come, I was to honor an empathetic and hopeful heart as the essence of who I am.
In being given a new name, I was not just to have hope going forward, but that I was to become Hope itself; that I would not simply find, muster, or plan to hope, but that I would take on the full countenance of Hope, as the essence of who I am; that I would be sanctified in every aspect of my being, in HOPE.
This morning, I explained to her, that what I have learned so far about the concept of being Sanctified, is that it is not just about going through adversity, and then being fully rewarded with what you want. Sanctification is going through something, anything, to the extent that, if you’re lucky, you can emerge with an increased capacity for empathy....
Meaning you can BOTH receive it, when others feel and express empathy for you, which gives you the hope to continue, and you can give it, when others have burdens that need a share of your time, talents and resources; meaning you can give them hope on their path, through an honest expression of an empathetic heart, as well as the actions it prompts you to take, in relation to another.
We don’t have to know the individual circumstances first-hand, but we do need a heart that is reachable. A soul that has been touched in someway through each of our collective vulnerabilities, can more fully put ourselves in another’s shoes, even without having fully walked another's path, because we ourselves, have been sanctified somewhere along the way.
It’s not a matter of: “when will it be enough for God-Source to make the tough stuff stop, or make things right, or how I am certain they should be?”
If I were to surmise, from paths I am doing my best to navigate, a sanctified heart is one that is Sanctioned, or set apart to be receptive, that can be touched, be reached, that can touch, that can reach, that can feel in either the giving, or receiving, equally.
Through my own paths, I have come to understand on a small level, that it really is, more a matter of:
"What will it take within me"
...How much will I be able to let go of, in order to feel worthy of receiving empathy for myself FROM others?
As well as:
...What might I have to give up, in order for me to have the capacity to feel it in behalf of someone else, who may be facing challenges?
When will I be “sanctified”, a word that really means CLEAR; clear enough to be there for someone, who I myself don’t fully understand, who I may not even feel obligated to, for no other reason than because it has become the nature of who I really am, to do so.
For each of us, the task of clearing our prejudice, self-centric motivations, and fear of letting go of the way we see things, will take experiences that are as individually specific to our soul, as the energy of our own name, and what it means for us.
Our hands, hopefully, out stretched, in the gesture of care (either giving or receiving), are both equally necessary; for it may be in this exchange, that we glimpse the connections which bring a lasting sanctity within the certainties of the soul.