_ Yesterday our Gestalt Pastoral Care training group gathered again at Pathways Retreat Center, which was lovingly decorated for Advent. Our times together are a mixture of presentations and practice, as we take turns learning how to minister to each other and being the one doing Gestalt work.
This means that in a given session, most of us are participating as witnesses, learning as we watch, sometimes having a role to play or a response to make, and praying for those actively working.
During one session yesterday, I was one of the witnesses and the song that Adam Tice wrote for Assembly, Will You Hold me in the Light, kept going through my head. Or more accurately, two phrases – the title and “Hold me in the light of God.” I kept hearing them sing in my head, inviting me to hold the one who was doing the work that session in the light of God.
“Holding someone in the Light” is the way I often visualize intercessory prayer, and I usually think of the light of God as illuminating and healing, cradling the person I am praying for.
During this time of prayer, I had a sense of the light of God as healing, yes, but that sometimes the healing comes through the burning away of dross. The light of God can be painful in its healing and illuminating.
I kept thinking of the fire of roses in George Mac Donald’s The Princess and Curdie. In this fairy tale by the Scotch pastor and writer who influenced C.S.Lewis, Curdie encounters the princess’ great-great-great-ever-so-many-great-grandmother, a mysterious lady who lives in a garret at the top of the tallest tower, spins moonlight into thread, watches over the kingdom, and appears sometimes as an old crone and at others as a beautiful woman. As we learn to know her, it becomes clear that mysterious as she is, she is goodness and grace. MacDonald doesn’t use the words holy or divine, but this royal lady is one of the faces of God for me.
In her room, Curdie finds a hearth where “a great fire was burning, and the fire was a huge heap of roses, and yet it was fire.” The royal lady has a task for him, telling him it needs only trust and obedience, and promising, “It will hurt you terribly, Curdie, but that will be all; no real hurt but much good will come to you from it.”
Curdie is willing, and the lady tells him to thrust both hands into the fire.
Curdie does, painfully, with the end result that his hands are as white and smooth as the lady’s, and with the gift of discernment that as the story progresses helps him to know good from indifferent or evil. We also learn that the lady felt Curdie’s pain every bit as much as he did.
Near the end of the book, the fire of roses appears again, bringing health to one character near death and transformation to another.
As one of the characters in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books warns about Aslan, the great lion who plays a Christ-like role in the books: “He’s not a tame lion, you know.”
The light of God is not a tame light, you know. Sometimes it burns like a refiner’s fire, burning away dross, purifying the silver and gold.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"