Last week I spoke of an inner sacred core that is deeper than all wrongness, even if that core is not unrecognized or is denied or even betrayed in ourselves or another. That inner core may be considered an expression of the universe and of the energy that fuels its unfolding. In that sense, our inner core, our unique self, pushes toward its authentic unfolding. That unfolding, in my perspective, flows not towards ignorance and hostility, but toward understanding and wisdom; toward compassion, love, and justice.
If we look at the unfolding of life within a human being, we see that it unfolds in stages: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, and old age. Birth is the emergence of life from inside the womb to life outside the womb. It is a passage from one form of life to another. It is the ending of one form of life and the beginning of another, which may even itself be described as a death and rebirth.
The word, infancy, comes from the Latin, and means literally non-speaking. It is the time of life before language, which is another crucial stage in development. There is a certain excitement and even freedom when a child begins to understand and express him/ herself in language. A new world opens up to the child.
I like to say that, as our life develops, more and more of who we are and of our life comes into our own hands, within a relational and social context. As we gather our life into our hands, we long to place it somewhere where we sense that we belong and that seems worthy of the gift of our self.
I mentioned before that when the child asks, “Where did I come from,?” the child is not looking for a lab report or a biological lecture. He or she wants a story, a story in which they are the main character and welcomed into the group. They want their life story to unfold in a way that provides a sense of worth and belonging. From the beginning, they want a meaningful life story, as do we all.
I said last week, as well, that something is wrong if it puts something to death in one another, and it is right if it brings something to life in one another. This process goes beyond the ending of one stage of life and the beginning of another. Negatively, it is a wounding or taking of life. As a result, the renewing, growing, and healing process is the emergence of new life out of that death. A clear example of bringing to life is to procreate, give birth to, and raise a child with intelligent love. An equally clear example of putting to death is to batter, abuse, or neglect a child. Yet there is a third possibility: to bring the injured child to life, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, artistically, ethically, spiritually. This is to bring to life, even out of the many smaller deaths in the midst of life.
The emergence of new life may be experienced as an awakening, whether to a new day, a new awareness, a new strength, or a renewed hope. It is usually accompanied by a sense of gratitude. A friend from a distant country in which he felt unsafe once said that when he retired at night he was grateful to have seen another day. When he awoke in the morning he was grateful to be able to see a new day. He commented as well that he would not let anyone take away his joy.
In an article on joy in a Homemakers magazine many years ago, its author, Carroll Allen tells how after a long period of inner conflict, she was able “to let go of a negative attitude of mind that seemed stubbornly embedded.” As a result, “slowly a sense of deep relief, then freedom, then joy, began to swell in my heart. I felt delight, awe, wonder, jubilation and an overwhelming thankfulness.”
If we think of the seasons of our life, this new life is like the emergence of spring out of winter. It can be exhilarating to witness a crocus or a snowdrop rise out of the snow. In the ancient Greek story of Narcissus, he sees a reflection of himself as lovable. We might say that he comes to an awareness of his sacred worth. The resulting transformation is expressed by the narcissus flower, which emerges in the spring. With its yellow centre, like the sun, it is a symbol of new light and life, out of the preceding darkness and dormancy.
The experience can be described as a trust in light out of darkness, spring out of winter, life out of death. Theologian Gregory Baum, who directed my dissertation, has written that experiences such as failures, sickness, disappointments, accidents, all remain part of life on this earth. “It is possible,” Baum says,” to fall into situations where life is destroyed. It is possible to have one’s life shattered like a precious vase and despair over ever being able to rebuild it.” Yet, he adds, while these deaths in the midst of life are what we are most afraid of, they contain the gift and call that, out of the fragments left to us after the storm, there remain the conditions for becoming more fully human.
The underlying sense expressed here is that no matter how long the winters, how dark the nights, there remains the gift of our enduring sacred worth. And with that gift comes the thrust to a lasting hope, and the call to new and renewed life and light.
May you always hold on to the conviction of your own sacredness, even when you cannot feel it. May you always uncover an enduring sense of hope, a movement towards light, and a dawning glimpse of new life, no matter your circumstances at the present time.
Norman King, April 17, 2023
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