I was walking through the retreat house last week, on my way to see Pattie at the front office. As I was passing the dinning area, a man raised his hand to get my attention; so I waited as he came in my direction. He said he needed to take to me for a few minutes if I had the time. I did have the time, so we went into one of the waiting rooms there to talk.
To be seen
He was struggling with some deep seated issues and needed some input. I always get a little nervous when a stranger comes up to me and wants help…. but I have found all I need to do is listen, and sometimes something comes up and I can talk to him a bit. His problem was serious, and included a great deal of anger along with some deep seated sadness, which he has carried with him for years. Though he did say there was some movement forward, but so slow that he was getting discouraged.
At first I really did not know what to say, his journey was like so many others, mine included, that there was nothing to say really. Then the thought came up about what I consider Christianities great gift to the world. I believe that the Spirit of God has been working all through our history and that all religions and philosophies, those that are life giving have been the fruit of the Holy Spirits work in the world. So I asked him about his spiritual practice. He mentioned that he mediated a lot. I then asked him what his beliefs or his understanding of ultimate reality was. He started talking about a force that is responsible for reality, but that it had nothing to do with his life or struggles. Since this is a Christian place, I felt comfortable with sharing some of my ideas about the spiritual life with him, and how I believe it has expedited my healing; slow as that at times seems to be.
I did mention that in Buddhism (well the little that I know and understand), which is said to be atheistic, did have a system wherein compassion played a big part on the journey of each person. The atheism that is said to be part of Buddhism looks nothing like the atheism of the West, which believes in no system wherein growth or eventual libration for the individual is possible. There is only this life, then extinction, and eventually death for everything. The extinction mentioned by the Buddha seems to point to the blowing out of desires that are illusionary and only cause great suffering because they are out of touch with ultimate reality and keep the person back from attaining liberation. In other words, there is an aspect of ‘being seen and known’ in Buddhism. Its ultimate goal seems to be different from that of my own faith; but the more I ponder and study, the less I am sure of that. I swear the more I try to understand the less I do.
Then I went on about Christianity, which has a very personal understanding of God’s relationship with us. In our pain, confusion and struggles we are accompanied by infinite love. The revelation of Jesus Christ points to a personal relationship, like that of a loving parent (a powerful metaphor for sure), that actually takes on our pain as we are journeyed with. All is seen, all dark rooms are in reality filled with light, so when meditating or praying, there is a process of ever deeper revelation about oneself that does not need to be feared. I went on about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, who had a very difficult life, scorned by all and in relationship that were possibly self-destructive. She was ‘seen’ by Jesus, accepted and loved and in that reality came healing. Not only for herself but for her town as well….for they all came to see Jesus and seemed to experience this being ‘seen’ and loved as well.
So I asked to try something. To address ultimate reality as personal, for since our deepest reality is to be seen and loved and that we are made in the image and likeness of God, then our desire for love and our ability to show (even if it is often poorly done) points to a deep truth about God. He seemed intrigued and said he will try to do what I ask. So we parted, not being sure if what I told him was helpful, but he is now in my prayers and a part of my life. Each meeting leaves a seed; we help each other along the way. I believe we need to strive to be present to others, as we desire others to be present to us…..to see as we desire to be seen.