“I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you're around…”
- Carole King
It’s good to be home. Spring Break was amazing. Jeff and I loved every moment of our road trip to Colorado with Emma and Clara. But, as much fun as we had, I love the every day rhythm of our "regular" weekdays. Getting the girls’ backpacks ready for the school week ahead on Sunday night. Making sure that gym clothes are laundered, after school snacks are plentiful, and homework folders have been reviewed, are some of the small tasks that give me great pleasure.
After the girls leave with their brother for school on Monday mornings, I am off to a local college where I have office hours. Today I had a wonderful conversation with a couple of college age women about the nature of “feelings”. One of my young friends had been feeling unsettled that first morning back from the two weeks of Spring Break. She was concerned that the “anxiety attack” she was experiencing was the unraveling of her spiritual confidence. She had spent much of her break in quiet prayer-filled moments seeking freedom from feelings of depression.
As we talked I remembered how feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, self-doubt can sometimes be so assertive that we feel controlled by them and what they are trying to tell us about our state of being. It reminded me of an experience I'd had almost two decades ago that has given me such a sense of dominion when dealing with creeping or illusive feelings that would try to drown me in despair or keep me in ruminative holding patterns in my life .
I was working in Boston as part of a two-person (with administrative support staffing when our budget would allow) office responsible for the publishing of the Bible and the Writings of Mary Baker Eddy. We launched new print, audio and digital publications in 17 languages and over 50 formats throughout the year and our days were full of opportunities for prayer and healing.
One late Wednesday afternoon our secretary popped her head into my office on her way out at the end of a long workday. She reminded me that it was Wednesday, that she was looking forward to seeing me at the evening testimony meeting, and that she couldn’t wait to hear me share a healing insight from that week. I chuckled and assured her that the chance of that happening was very, very slight indeed. In fact I think I said something like “You will never see me standing up to give a testimony in that church” followed by a chortle of sarcasm.
You see this was the world-wide headquarters of our church and the edifice where services were held was enormous. Hundreds of people worshipped there on Sundays and Wednesdays. There is a massive main floor as well as two tiers of balconies that circle the auditorium. On Wednesday evening after hymns were sung, readings were shared and announcements were delivered, the congregation was invited to stand and share experiences of healing and remarks related to their practice of Christian Science. Often as soon as the invitation was made, a number of people would stand at once and the person conducting the service would somehow have to keep track of who stood up when so that he (or she) could nod to the next person in "line" to speak. Many evening there would be ten or twelve testifiers standing at once waiting to be nodded at and encouraged to share next.
This process was terrifying to me. To have to stand in front of all those people while other, "quicker to their feet" testifiers shared their remarks made my tummy do flip flops and my underarms prickle. In my opinion, these feelings were a sure sign that I was not ready to take my place standing with other braver congregants.
But after my sarcastic response, when our secretary shot me a perplexed look and headed out the door with a gentle “see you later”, I couldn’t let it go. Her invitation or my response. I quickrealized that I had been dismissive. Her expectation that I would have something meaningful to share about my study and practice of Christian Science healing was genuine. I loved the practice of healing and I was always looking for ways to apply the science of Christianity to every problem or situation I faced…at work, at home, in my relationship with other. It was fun to explore its practicality as I hungered for self-realization, salvation and health. She and I often traded spiritual insights from our study and prayer. These exchanges were rich with ideas that had been helpful to each of us during the day and I loved those moments of sharing. Why wouldn’t she expect that I would be as eager to share with fellow congregants at the service that evening. I decided to open my heart to the possibility of this happening.
But later, as the readings, hymns, and announcements drew to a close and the invitation to share was extended I sat there with the same horrible nausea and paralyzing fear. I was, quite obviously, NOT ready to share anything that night. However this time, rather than just sitting back and taking my place as relieved listener, I continued to pray. And as I sat there, the story of Jesus joining his disciples on their walk to Emmaus... following the crucifixion and resurrection... came to mind.
"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. …And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared...."
I thought about their statement, “Did not our heart burn within us…” And it came to me, with a mental giggle, why didn’t they interpret that feeling as heartburn and ask “Boy, what did we have for dinner?” or “Do you think those figs were fresh?” No, they interpreted that feeling as a result of the presence of the Christ in their experience. They redeemed that feeling for God’s use. They claimed that "feeling" as a divine presence in their lives and let it impel them to return and bear witness to the risen Christ walking with them on their own spiritual journey.
With that realization, I too reclaimed my feelings… of butterflies in the tummy and prickly underarms… for God. I decided there and then that those feelings were a message to me that the Christ had been present with me on my walk that week and that I too could return and say “The Lord is risen and hath appeared…to me.”
I immediately stood up and….oops, there I was standing in front of hundreds of people waiting to be called upon to share…and I had no idea what I was going to say.
But that too became clear and and a simple, lovely healing moment from the week before flooded my heart. I not only shared without hesitation, but didn’t get the least flustered when the ultimate reason for my “I will never give a testimony in that edifice…” happened.
As you can see from the length of my posts I have a tendency to be a story weaver. I love to paint the scene…but that takes time, and words…and it did that night as well But when the gentleman conducting the service tenderly said, “I will have to ask you to please bring your remarks to a close so that others may share.” I smiled and silently reclaimed that feeling of embarrassment...the one that tried to make me shrink down into the pew...for God. I decided it could only mean that my gratitude had been fully and completely expressed...like a full tummy... and that I felt satisfied and content and could end my remarks…with joy…not embarrassment.
From that moment on, whenever I experience any formerly yucky, uncomfortable, unsettled, or fearful feelings that would try to paralyze my expression of good... feelings that first suggest nervousness, anxiety, embarassment, sorrow... I try to find a way to redefine them as “of God”. Since God, Soul is the only source, or Creator, of anything, including my feelings…my feelings, no matter what they are, can only be of God…or good. For me it's become a wonderful exercise in translation and redemption.
Or as John says in Revelation:
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ;
and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
I will continue this on Thursday…because my college girlfriends and I had even more fun exploring this further…
(missing Jeff's amazing editing skills while he is in Colorado)