Thursday, December 8, 2011

"My night with Mary..."

"Be it unto me,
according to Thy will..."

Our study of Scripture this week included the story of Queen Esther, a courageous spiritual matriarch, who, like Mary Baker Eddy...the subject of the following post...turned to God in her darkest hour, and found divine guidance. I love these women...Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Elisabeth, Mary, Mary, Mary...I find courage, and encouragement, in their journeys of grace.

These are women of substance, women of character, women who faced darkness head on, women who accepted their spiritual calling - with some version of Mary's "be it unto me according to Thy will." They are daughters, mothers, sisters, girls, widows, wives, who leapt from the edge of their own personal abyss, and into the depths of their divine purpose...with eyes fixed on God's face, and His hand at their back, waiting for the "
Breath of Heaven" to lift them above a crashing sea - the ebbing tides of "what if" and "not me Lord...please, not me."

Each of these women, in her own right, is a story of Christmas, the birth of the Christ in the heart of a woman. Each of them, my hero, my mentor, my mother, midwife, my friend in the dark of night. This, repost from last Christmas, is just one of those stories, about one of those remarkable Marys...19th century spiritual thought-leader, Mary Baker Eddy. In so many ways, I owe her...and her life.

"On a Night in December, 1910..."

"I can't stand to fly.
I'm not that naive.
I'm just out to find
the better part of me.

I'm more than a bird.
I'm more than a plane.
More than some pretty face,
beside a train.
It's not easy to be, me..."

I weep each time I hear Five for Fighting's song, "Superman."  It makes me think of spiritual luminaries like Jesus, Mother Teresa, Moses, and yes, Mary Baker Eddy.  These were men and women who were never trying to "fly."  I believe that they were only trying to find the better part of themselves, and that once they'd discovered some significant spiritual milestones along the way, felt share those insights with humanity. 

One hundred years ago, tonight, Mary Baker Eddy quietly passed away at her home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, with her dearest friends close by.  Her last written words, in her own hand were, "God is my life."  I think she discovered, not only the better part of herself, but the best.  A sense of "self" that understood exactly why God identified Himself to Moses as "I AM."

This is my story about how that night, 100 years ago, had an impact on my life, 87 years later. 

It was early December of 1997.  My husband, daughters, and I were living in the carriage house, on the property of Mary Baker Eddy's Chestnut Hill home.  At the time, I was immersed in projects related to the life and contributions of this extraordinary thought leader.  To be surrounded by the contextual setting of her life was a remarkable gift of grace.

In exchange for our housing, our we made daily security check's on what our daughter called, "the big house," Mary Baker Eddy's former home.  It is a large stone mansion set on a hill in a nearby suburb of Boston. And at regular intervals during the day, we would walk through the house to make sure that pipes had not burst, doors were secure, and the proper lights were on/off. 

That December night I was feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances.  I was facing down some pretty aggressive demons and was feeling quite alone.  At midnight, I offered to make the walk up the long drive to the "big house" and do the security check myself. 

It was a bone chilling night.  The kind of cold that didn't slowly creep through layers of clothing, but penetrated immediately like a steely claw that wouldn't let go.  The night sky was a star-peppered navy velvet, and a full moon rose over the slate roof of the mansion like the face of a benevolent luminary.   But all I felt was the weight of our plight.  Health concerns, financial uncertainty, looming homelessness...seemed to have actual mass that night, as they sat heavily on my heart.

I walked into the house by way of the back door, large flaslight in hand, and made my way through the arches and hallways of the first floor, before ascending the flight of stairs leading to the landing just outside of Eddy's former bedroom.  

[It's important to note here, for readers who are not familiar with this property, that her home had been kept intact ...each room appointed and furnished exactly as it had been the night she passed...for 87 years.  It served as a museum of sorts.  Tours were offered on which visitors could see exactly as Eddy and her household had lived at the turn of the century.] 

As I stood on the landing, it was not lost on me (steeped as I had been in the history of her life) that it was close to the anniversary of her passing.  I thought about that night.  How her household workers had supported her, but how this must have been a very private part of her spiritual journey...a threshold that she alone could cross.

I felt that way myself that night.  I was facing my darkest fears.  Being without housing as a wife and mother...with no seeming resources at hand to secure a home for my family...was my worst nightmare.  And it was a dark corridor that loomed just beyond the dawning of the New Year.  With one child in grade school, and infant twins, I couldn't imagine how we would find our way out of the situation without divine intervention. 

My husband was doing everything he could, but options seemed non-existent, and our prospects for housing, bleak.  Besides that, we were in the middle of the early stages of adopting our twins and we needed to be in a home for the adoption agency to sign off on our compliance to state requirements and for the judge to finalize us as our daughters' permanent family.

Standing on the landing, just outside of Eddy's bedroom door.  I longed to have her tell me what to do...or at least how to pray about such a hopeless situation.  Then it occurred to me that she had faced many dark nights in that room.  I wanted to know what it felt like to be her.  What did she surround herself with? 

I stepped over the satin rope that kept visitors just outside the threshold of the room during tours, and sat on the floor right next to the head of her bed.  I turned off the flashlight,  closed my eyes for a few moments, and prayed to really see what she saw. 

When I opened my eyes, there were three things that immediately caught my attention. 

When Eddy first moved into that house she was disappointed with it size and opulence. So she'd had her quarters reconfigured so that she had a small bedroom and an adjoining office. She'd also had a skylight put in above the landing just outside her bedroom door, which let in natural light.  That night in the darkness of winter, the moonlight that poured through the skylight, and filtered into her bedroom through the open door, was as "soft as a moonbeam mantling the earth" and it fell on the other two images that had immediately caught my attention.

One was a portrait of Jesus.  Simply framed, a bit to the right, and just above eye-level on the wall directly in front of her as sat in her bed.  This made me cry.  To be reminded of the savior who as she herself said was, "waiting and watching in voiceless agony" during his night of "gloom and glory" in the garden of Gethsemane,  humbled me greatly.  I could see how his portrait served to galvanize her courage.

The other image was an already familiar etching of Daniel in the lions den.  In this depiction, Daniel has his back to the lions, his hand are gently folded behind him, and he has his face upturned towards the light that is pouring through a small barred window.  He is facing the light...not the lions.  He is peaceful, not defensive.  He is focused and calm, not distracted and distressed.  Its message was clear to me.

This piece was also simply framed and hung almost at eye-level on the same wall as Jesus' portrait, just opposite her headboard.  The moonlight fell on these two images with such gentleness that I felt as if they had been kept exactly as they had been, for all those years, just so I could sit with them that night and be comforted, encouraged, and healed.

I will never forget that night sitting on the floor next to her bed.  It was as if I'd been given a holy land tour of the garden of Gethsemane and nothing had changed.  It was almost as if, Jesus' tears had never dried that night, and still lay in salty pools on the rocks.  As if I could hear the song of the those first century nightingales, the cooing pair of doves that had nestled beside him as he prayed, and the scent of jasmine that perfumed the velvety air while his disciples slept. 

But my holy land was a worn carpet, a narrow bed, a moonbeam, the face of the Savior, the posture of a peacemaker...and the prayers of a woman.

It seems like such a small part of this story to say that during those next months of ceaseless prayer, we were shown...step-by-step...exactly what we needed to do to continue the work we loved, and find just the right home for our family. 

The larger story for me is about a woman...who was just that, a woman.  A woman who never sought to be great..only good.  Who never sought fame or fortune, but to understand, for herself, that the better part of "me" is, the "I AM." 

I believe, that when she wrote, "God is my life," two days before her passing, on December 1st, she did just that.

I don't remember the cold as I walked back from "the big house" to our cottage that night.  I only remember the moon, the stars, and the simple room where a woman prayed one December night in 1910.

Thank you for your courage, and your example...

Kate Robertson, CS

If you would like to read the comments on the original posting, click on this link,
"One day in December, 1910," and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    I love this blog. It speaks to me. I am inspired by the courage and example of people like Jesus, Mary Baker Eddy, Esther, Daniel, etc who turned to God and trusted Him so readily with their lives. Reading their stories and your stories gives me sense of fellowship. I feel a sense of awe, hope, peace, etc. It is hard for me to put into words... Thank you for sharing this again. ♥