You need to add your imaginative senses to this photo -- the warmth of early summer sun on your skin, the whir of hummingbird-sized dragonflies, the rush of wind sounding like surf in the leafy branches and blowing your hair in your face.
I spent this past weekend at an Opening to Grace retreat led by Tilda Norberg. She is in the area for two weeks teaching a course on healing liturgies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, with this weekend workshop at the Hermitage in the middle.
Tilda uses and teaches Gestalt Pastoral Care, an approach that is rooted in the Christian ministry of healing, and integrates Gestalt growth work, spiritual companioning and prayer for healing. I just recently completed the Foundational program in GPC, receiving my training from Linda Thomas at Pathways Retreat here in Goshen.
It was an incredibly rich weekend and I can only try to share a few images and moments. I was there as support staff, helping with the cooking and clean up, but we were also able to participate in the sessions, along with six participants who each had an opportunity to work with Tilda in the midst of the gathered ad hoc congregation, four observers/intercessors, and three other support staff.
I connected with two themes that showed up in the work done this weekend. The first dealt with aspects of God's call and gifts of ministry, and how those play out in the dance of relationships with others. The second theme had to do with light.
There was literal light, on leaves and meadows and faces, and metaphorical light, as tears gave way to healing and laughter.
Light played an important role our very first evening and I've received C's permission to tell a little about this. C began her session by speaking out of a gray place of pain and loneliness, and proceeded to work with Tilda's guidance, becoming more aware of and expressing aspects of that pain, and then moving to address it through several Gestalt-style experiments suggested by Tilda.
At a certain point, C was standing, having come to a new awareness of the loving way Jesus looked at her thanks to a faith imagination exercise, and Tilda suggested that she go around the circle, with each of us stepping forward and saying, "I see you, C, and in the name of Christ, I see..." and then adding whatever particulars came to us.
C. started on the other side of the circle from where I was sitting, and one by one someone would step forward, look her in the eyes, and say, "I see you, C, and I see a beautiful child of God." Or whatever affirming truth came to us -- each of us found a different aspect to lift out and speak.
My normal tendency in such situations would be to worry about what I would say and to try to plan something out, but I remained relaxed, unsure of what I'd say, but confident that there would be something. I've been learning to trust this sort of awareness, thanks to my spiritual guidance work and the Gestalt pastoral care training, and I think, in this setting, also thanks to the prayers of the intercessors in our midst.
About two people before me, C had turned so that she was now facing the western windows. It had been a cloudy, drizzly afternoon, but just before sunset the clouds were breaking up and the sunshine came and went, playing across C's face as the wind danced the leafy branches of the trees in the yard.
Then the sun came out fully, and C stood bathed in sunshine. And C noticed. "Look at me! I'm in a spotlight!" She stood for several minutes, soaking it in, her face glowing. From where I was sitting, her face was radiant in the light, her eyes golden, and a line from the psalms kept ringing in my ears: Look to him and be radiant.
It comes in Psalm 34, as I found after searching for it later, and the verses around it fit well:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
I don't remember exactly what I said to C as I stood facing her, but I do know that when I said "I see you, C," I felt I was indeed truly seeing her, seeing deep into her golden soul, full of God's radiance.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"