1. Can Wounds Become Windows?
Seeing more clearly
We now approach the companioning encounter between Amy and Sandra. We will enter that encounter via the gospel account of the healing of a blind man. We will then look at the transcript of Sandra’s session.
What might we bring from our ongoing formation as guides and companions?
- If we are able to gently fold the wings of our overly analytical mind, and invite them to descend into the spaciousness of our heart—the place of our integrated conscious awareness—we can bring more of our person, including our inner resonance, to be impacted by this encounter.
- If we come with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we will be more attuned to this pilgrim’s unfolding story thread and to the invisible strands of grace which the Spirit weaves through and around it.
- If we can open a space of welcome and rest in which our prayerful attentiveness can be given to the full texture of Sandra’s distress, we might become more aware of how the “messengers” (which can be envoys of the Spirit) that travel along the intricate labyrinth of her “soul web,” can guide her to sites of wounding that cry out for Jesus’ transforming touch.
- If we can hold in our active and believing imagination the alternative imagination of Jesus’ kingdom of God, we may be able to discern in Sandra’s distress and in her closing herself off from others, a potential place of transition; of invitation and transition into a deepening relationship with God and towards a more abundant and fruitful life.
If you have Reflected Love, you might begin by reading Chapter 7, “Transforming wounds in to windows” (optional).
As we commence this session there is the opportunity to bring Sandra’s experience (including as we might encounter her in Chapter 7 of Reflected Love), along with our own, into reflective dialogue with Jesus’ restoring sight to a blind pilgrim. Jesus touches this man’s eyes twice; the second touch brings full sight. Is the touch of Jesus on the eyes of Sandra’s heart akin to his second touch on the eyes of this man? In touching the deep wound of her soul, does it become a window into the love of God the Father? What would it mean if Jesus was to offer a second touch to the eyes of your heart?
Reflective Reading – Mark 8:22-26, NRSV.
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."
Follow your first reading by an unhurried time of indwelling—entering into this encounter as a participant, firstly standing in the blind man’s shoes and then in Jesus.
|During your second reading, gently fold the wings of your ordinary, everyday awareness. Invite the Holy Spirit to draw you deeper into your spiritual awareness. What are you noticing about your inner resonance with this story? What stirs within you?||During your third reading, invite Jesus to touch the eyes of your heart. Allow time for this. If you are distracted, simply come back to the blind man as Jesus places saliva on his eyes. This is you. Then notice what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is inviting you to look at—to look at with the eyes of your heart!|
Jesus, through the Spirit touches the eyes of your heart. You might like to make a response in your journal, maybe using a poem or a simple drawing.
Jesus touches the eyes of my heart and invites me to look at . . .
Amy is a companion in the way of Jesus. She has much in common with Andrea. Like Andrea she does not try to problem-solve Sandra’s situation, directly affirm her, give her advice or try to educate her concerning the transition she might be going through. Amy does seek to be in cooperation with the stirrings of the Spirit and encourages Sandra to be attentive to exactly what is stirring within her and emerging right in front of her. Amy does trust that God is ever ready to speak peace to troubled and distressed pilgrims, like Sandra, who acknowledge their poverty of spirit and who turn to him in their hearts. Her hope for Sandra is that she experiences Jesus’ touch on the eyes of her heart and so finds rest for her soul.
Searching for treasure
We come to a fuller transcript of the conversation between Amy and Sandra. There is a lot of reflective work that we can always do with such a transcript. It offers an opportunity to come back to a detailed review of an encounter in the absence of the pilgrim. Whenever we move beneath the surface level of a pilgrim’s story there is always rich treasure to be discovered; gifts for both pilgrim and companion. We need to take time with such a transcript. Each time we read through it we will be looking for even deeper treasure.
Your first reading is an invitation to come with an open heart even closer to Sandra, just as you did with the story of the blind man. This is an unhurried reading and a time of indwelling Sandra’s story; seeking to stand in Sandra’s shoes.
Amy: Sandra, what is it that is important to attend to in our time together?
Sandra: It might be good to give you a little background. I have been working as a counselor in a Christian context for about five years. Up until about ten months ago I know I had tremendous enthusiasm for my work. I loved the opportunity to work with people in a faith-based context. I had had a real conversion experience and felt my particular calling was to be active in love, extending Jesus love to the many troubled and searching pilgrims who came to our centre. I loved the way Jesus related to similar people, and the desire of my heart was to be in tune with him; even to imitate him. I had some great supportive colleagues who affirmed my capacity to nourish the hearts of troubled people. They often said I was on fire for Jesus. (Sandra paused in her account and reached for a tissue. Tears brimmed in her eyes. When she looked up at Amy there was a pleading look in her now tear-stained face). You know Amy, even now as I think back on those times, I’m really, really scared that the fire has gone out. (Sandra began to sob).
Amy: Sandra you say that up until about ten months ago you loved your companioning work and that you had a real calling, affirmed by your colleagues, to be like Jesus and to nourish the hearts of troubled people. You were on fire for Jesus, but now as you recall those four plus years, you are scared that the fire has gone out. What is it like for you right now as you say, “I’m really, really scared that the fire has gone out.”
Sandra: (Still sobbing. There is desperation in her voice). It’s like I’ve fallen in to a dark black hole and I just can’t find the way out!
Amy: It is like you have fallen into a dark black hole and you say you can’t find the way out. Can you say something about the dark black hole?
Sandra: (Sandra is silent for some time. She has dropped her head and closed her eyes. The sobbing is quieter, though the tears are still flowing). It’s a very lonely place. (Sandra shivered). I just feel so alone . . . and it’s so cold here!
Amy: It’s a lonely place. You are feeling so alone, and it is very cold. What else do you notice about the person of yourself in that dark black hole where she is feeling so alone and so cold.
Sandra: She is hunched up in the darkest corner. And she is sobbing. She is very sad.
Amy: You notice she is hunched-up and very sad. As you notice her sadness what begins to happen to you?
Sandra: (Shifted in her chair as though very uncomfortable. She was still looking down with her eyes closed). There is so much sadness and what I am beginning to notice now is that she also has much anger inside of her. I don’t like to acknowledge that because I don’t like to think of myself as an angry person. But now, the more I stay with the anger, the more it begins to bubble through.
Amy: You don’t like to acknowledge the anger, and yet you are noticing it beginning to bubble through.
Sandra: (Again shifts in her chair). I know that I was surprised at how angry I was when some of the pilgrims I was journeying with became somewhat hostile towards me and unappreciative for all the extra time I had made available to them. I had really walked the extra mile for them. I know there was a little anger with my colleagues when they would suggest I needed better personal boundaries. When one of my colleagues suggested that I was starting to withdraw from the staff at work and from people in my church, I was inwardly furious. But I tried my best not to let her see it. My family began to express their concern for me, saying that I had dark rings under my eyes and my sister even said she was worried I was putting on weight. I know that inside I was becoming more anxious, probably irritable, not sleeping well. I became really scared that I was slipping into depression. I just hated what was happening to me, and I think all the energy I was putting into denying it has just exhausted me! It was like living on the edge of a silent rage and I hated it! (Sandra became silent and slumped dejectedly in her chair as though bringing this commentary into language had, in itself, been exhausting. Both she and Amy sat in silence for some minutes. Amy waited until Sandra looked up).
Amy: There was so much that you sought to contain within you that it was like living on the edge of rage. Sandra, I wonder if you might go back to when you spoke of how your anger was beginning to bubble through. What was it like for you when you noticed it “bubble through”?
Sandra: It’s like I can no longer contain it inside of me. I can’t deny it any longer. It’s hard to keep from those close to you that you are living on the edge of a silent rage. They know something is happening. It is me who has fought so hard against acknowledging it.
Amy: And what do you notice happens as it bubbles through and you have acknowledged it?
Sandra: The first thing I notice is that the slumped-up me in that corner of the dark black hole has just relaxed a tiny bit. But she is still very angry.
Amy: As you notice her relax and that she is still very angry, what do you notice happens to her next?
Sandra: She is clenching her fist.
Amy: As you notice her clenching her fist, what is happening within her?
Sandra: (Sandra head dropped). I know that I am feeling rather ashamed, but I can’t contain what is bubbling through. She . . . I . . . we are angry with God. I didn’t ever think I would hear myself saying that aloud. But I’m so angry with God!
Amy: Both you and the person of yourself you are observing in the dark black hole are angry with God.
Sandra: It’s like you can give up everything to serve him and then people who you thought were on the same page don’t support you.
Amy: As you give this expression, what do you notice happens to the person of yourself in the corner of that dark black hole?
Sandra: I can see that the hand that was clenched has opened just a little.
Amy: And as you see her hand begin to open what do you notice happens next?
Sandra: As I look at the hand I can see that it has been holding something very tightly, almost as if to release it would be destructive. It might sound strange—and it is even strange to me—but it is almost as if to release whatever it is would be to destroy me.
Amy: As you bring your attention to the hand, you notice it is holding so tightly to something that to open the hand fully and release it would be destructive; destructive enough to destroy you.
Sandra: Yes! It is like the same feeling I noticed earlier when my anger began to bubble through, but it is far more intense. Even though it is dark in that corner of the whole, I have just noticed an even darker shadow that has almost enveloped this person of me. And as it does, she clenches her hand and makes a fist of it.
Amy: There is a great intensity of feeling. A darker shape is almost enveloping the person of you whom you are observing. And her hand tightens and forms into a fist. Sandra, I wonder what it would be like to move your gaze from the fist, to the dark shape and back to the fist.
Sandra: Yes I think I can, even though the dark shape has a sinister angle to it. It is quite hard to stay looking directly at it.
Amy: What do you notice stands in the way of looking directly at that dark shape?
Sandra: It doesn’t like me doing that. It is as if it has a secret it doesn’t wish me to discover.
Amy: And as you say it has a secret it doesn’t wish you to discover, what do you notice the dark shape does?
Sandra: It shrinks back a little.
Amy: And as it shrinks back, what do you notice happens next?
Sandra: If it had a face, I think it would be trying to hide it. (Sandra dropped her gaze as if to ponder what she had just said). I think it’s a bit ashamed.
Amy: If you were to slow that last bit down a little, almost as if to notice “ashamed” entering into this scene. I wonder what you would notice.
Sandra: Yes I can! And almost as you asked that question, I saw “ashamed” come from the side as though looking for its place. When the person of me didn’t acknowledgement it, it just merged in with the dark shape.
Amy: And as it merged with the dark shape what did you notice happen next?
Sandra: The dark shape expanded a little and the person of me hung her head.
Amy: As the dark shape merges with the dark shape, the shape expands and the person of you hangs her head. As you observe that, Sandra, what happens for you as the observer?
Sandra: (Silent for a few moments). I think I’ve become a bit distracted. Trying to work it out in my head, I suppose!
Amy: And in the working that out, what do you notice?
Sandra: My thoughts seem to focus on the words: “What if!”
Amy: What if!
Sandra: (Sighs deeply). There are so many “what ifs!” What if this; what if that!
Amy: I wonder if you could just observe the “what ifs” when they come now. Don’t try to answer them or sort them out. Just observe them as they come.
Sandra: (With an embarrassed laugh). There are so many of them. They all start competing as if trying to get my attention. But as I do what you say, to just observe them, they slow down. As they slow I notice how familiar they all are.
Sandra: Yes it is like an ever running, endless commentary.
Amy: And now as you observe that endless, though familiar, commentary, what part is now stepping forward and drawing your attention most.
Sandra: That is easy! “Don’t let anyone see me!”
Amy: “Don’t let anyone see me!” I wonder if, rather than trying to respond to it and to join in its commentary, if you could just lay the words “Don’t let anyone see me!” down on the ground in front of you and just observe it.
Sandra: Just as you said that, Amy, I saw the words laid out in front of the me who is in the dark black hole. The dark shape seemed to reach around to her clenched hand as if urging her to gather them up. (Sandra paused as though noticing more). Oh! That’s how it happens! The dark shape is “fear”—it’s my “fear!” And both “fear” and “ashamed” are urging her to hide parts of herself away. (Again Sandra paused). Because it’s dark she can’t see the words clearly. And just as she reaches out with her clenched left hand she notices a tiny flickering lamp which she picks up in her right hand. The dark shape of “fear,” with urging from “ashamed,” is trying to blow out the little flame. It flickers, but then seems to grow stronger. She is now reading the words in front of her, and as she does so they are joined by others. By the light of that lamp I can also see what she is reading. “Don’t let anyone see me! If they ever see what you are like inside, they will withdraw their love. In fact, they will hate you and reject you!”
Amy: “Don’t let anyone see me! If they ever see what you are like inside, they will withdraw their love. In fact, they will hate you and reject you!” What do you notice happens next?
Sandra: I start to feel very angry.
Amy: And if you slowed that down and notice “anger” as it comes, what would you notice about it?
Sandra: This is very strange. There is a bit of a tussle going on. “Fear” and “ashamed” tried to grab “anger” before it could flare up, and force it back inside of the person of me. In doing so, “anger” upset the lamp, and some oil spilled out over the words and they have caught fire. It’s becoming quite a bonfire! It’s lighting up the hole which is no longer dark. “Fear” and “ashamed” are cowering and are actually starting to shrink. And the person of me has opened her left hand and is warming herself by the fire. “Anger” is sitting beside her as if content with its work. “Anger” is not really big at all.
Amy: You have witnessed the actions of “fear,” “ashamed” and “anger.” You have seen the words about hiding parts of yourself, about withdrawing love, about hate and rejection, all burnt up in the flames. You have noticed “fear” and “ashamed” cower and shrink in size. You have recognized “anger’s” contentment with its work, and as it sits with you, you acknowledge it is not very big at all.
Sandra: Yes! And I’m just feeling relieved, just as if I have shed a great burden. It’s like the commentaries that have plagued me for so long have just gone up in smoke. As I see “fear” and “ashamed” in their greatly reduced size, and “anger” even being helpful, I feel as though I can engage with them, even find out something of their purpose, rather than having to battle with them each day. And you know, Amy, there was something sacred about both the lamp and the flame. There is something healing in burning those commentaries. I would love to just throw all of those negative tapes that run in my head onto those flames. In fact, as I look again, that fire is still burning. I think I’m being invited to do just that. (Sandra paused). Maybe even little-by-little, just as I observe each commentary and each tape as it runs. There is something holy in that fire and I can feel the warmth of it.
Amy: As you feel the warmth of that holy fire, what begins to happen to the person of you?
Sandra: As I bring my gaze back to her there is something strange. I thought she would be happy, but . . . (Sandra’s voiced trailed off, just as if she was chewing over the word “but”. When she began to speak again her voice was soft and even childlike). She is certainly sitting more comfortably. Her hands are open and resting in her lap. She is not in the dark hole anymore though the fire is still warming her, though it’s now burning in a fireplace and she is sitting close to the hearth.
Amy: As she sits there by the fire, what begins to draw your attention?
Sandra: (Sandra is silent for a few moments. When she looks up to Amy there are tears in her eyes). She is incredibly sad. But there is more! (Sandra’s voice drops to a whisper). She is beginning to shrink in size.
Amy: And as you gently watch over her as she shrinks in size, what do you notice about her next?
Sandra: She is a very young child. She is not sitting by the fire anymore. She is lying on her bed trying to bury her head in her pillow.
Amy: The little girl is lying on her bed trying to bury her head in her pillow. As you gently watch over her as her observer, what do you notice happening to her on the inside?
Sandra: (Sandra began to sob—deep heart-felt sobs that came as if they would never end. Finally, when she found the words to speak, they were whispered and interspersed with sobs). She is so . . . little. And her heart . . . her little heart . . . is just breaking! (It seemed that Sandra was so taken with the plight of this child, she could say no more).
Amy: (Waiting for the sobs to begin to subside). She is so tiny and her little heart is just breaking.
Sandra: Such a little girl and she has tried so very, very hard.
Amy: Just as you continue to watch over this little girl who has tried so very hard, what more do you notice about her?
Sandra: (Taking time to daub her eyes with a tissue, though her now quieter weeping does not cease). The little girl seems to know that I am there. She has sat up on her bed and is trying to quickly dry her face on her sleeve so I don’t notice that she has been crying. I think she has noticed my tears and so stops trying to hide her tears. She is climbing out of bed and holding out her hand as if to invite me to follow her. There is something she wants to show me.
Amy: (Very quietly). There is something the little girl wants to show you!
Sandra: Yes! I remember the kitchen. But as I follow her in she lets go of my hand. She is busy getting a cup of tea. She can hardly reach the bench and I am afraid that she will scald herself with water from the kettle. She gets up on a chair to get cake from the cupboard and then sets up a tray on the table. She then gets milk from the fridge. You know, Amy, she is getting afternoon tea for her mother and the two younger children. She calls the children and now is taking the tray into her mother. She puts the tray on a side table and then steps lightly across to her mother who seems to be asleep. (Sandra pauses becomes visibly distressed and tearful).
Amy: What do you notice as the little girl goes across to her mother?
Sandra: When I connect with what is on the inside of her, and with what is now happening within me, I realize that she is scared—in fact scared stiff—that her mother is dying. She is so frightened. (Sandra seemed to be holding her breath. She then suddenly exhaled). Her mother has just moved and I can feel the relief. The little girl helps to hold up her mother’s head so she can sip her tea. She doesn’t want the cake. The little girl smoothes the pillow and settles her mother’s head back on it and then tucks in the bedclothes around her. Her mother whispers her thanks, and then closes her eyes. The little girl picks up the tray, returns to the kitchen, and starts to wash up the cups, saucers, glasses and plates. She then sits at the table with her hands supporting her head.
Amy: As she sits at the table with her head in her hands, what do you notice is happening for her?
Sandra: She is trying to figure out what she could do to start preparing dinner. But she doesn’t quite know how. So she begins to cry. She is interrupted by one of the younger children who wants her to play. She quickly dries her eyes so that her brother can’t see that she has been crying. She looks so tired and alone. (For the next few minutes Sandra seems to have disappeared within. She is weeping).
Amy: (Waiting until Sandra looks up). The little girl is so tired and alone.
Sandra: It is now night, and the little girl has done her best to help her father with the dinner and with putting the younger children to bed. I can see her father is worried and distressed and performs the chores as if on automatic pilot. When the little girl drops a plate she was wiping he is cross. You know Amy, you catch sight of the distress in that little girl’s eyes and it could break your heart. He’s noticed it too, but the poor man doesn’t know what to do. He mumbles an apology and then turns away from her. He tells her to go to bed. I’m sure that he plans to go in later and speak with her, but events simply take over. The little girl hears him making phone calls and then shortly after an ambulance arrives. She hears her father talking to a neighbor who has come to baby sit. When he looks in to check before leaving, the little girl has her face in the pillow. He is telling the neighbor that the three children are asleep. The ambulance leaves with her mother with her father following it in his car.
Amy: And the little girl?
Sandra: (Is weeping softly). She just sobs and sobs until she is so exhausted that she falls to sleep.
Amy: What would it be like to continue to watch over as she sleeps?
Sandra: It would be like two broken hearts beating together. But yes, I can do that! (For the next three minutes Sandra sits quietly weeping. When she looked up at Amy, her face spoke of deep distress and pain, and her voice was that of a child). How could they even ask that of her? Who was caring for little Sandra?
Amy: (Very gently and quietly). Who could care for little Sandra?
Sandra: Not her mother; she was too sick. Not her father, because though he was a kind man, he had been very busy and preoccupied at the time. (Sandra paused. Then she spoke in a whisper). Perhaps only God!
Amy: Could you invite God to care for little Sandra?
Sandra: (Sandra’s voice could barely be heard). Yes!
Amy: What do you notice God is doing?
Sandra: I have just had a glimpse of Jesus.
Amy: Sandra, what did you notice happening to you as you caught that glimpse of Jesus?
Sandra: That he is with me right in the very midst of what is happening to me.
Amy: As you notice he is right in the very midst of what is happening to you, can you notice what happens when you bring the gaze of your grief-filled eyes along with your broken heart into his presence.
Sandra: (Silent for a few moments). As I do that it’s like experiencing the warmth from that sacred fire; it’s like the warmth of compassion. (Sandra pauses as though her attention is being drawn to something significant). This seems strange, Amy. But you know when I said earlier that I was angry with God.
Sandra: Well I think the little girl is still angry with Him. It is Jesus, and the little girl does not seem all that pleased to see him.
Amy: She is not pleased to see him. Is there something that she might need to say to Jesus?
Sandra: Little Sandra needs to ask him where he was when she was having to care for all those people.
Amy: Could she do that?
Sandra: Yes! She does. (It was a few moments before Sandra spoke). Jesus has knelt down and is telling the little girl that he was there for her and always has been. The little girl has climbed onto his lap and is resting her tired head on his chest. I think she has gone to sleep.
Amy: Now that the child is settled, what would the adult Sandra like to ask of Jesus?
Sandra: I am asking Jesus what I need to do to rekindle the love for other people that I seem to have lost.
Amy: What do you notice about his reply?
Sandra: It is very strange. He seems to be saying, just put all your energy into loving me. Do you think that is strange? He doesn’t seem to be saying any more. (A long silence followed).
Amy: I wonder what it would be like to inwardly acknowledge the little girl and Jesus.
Sandra: Yes! I would love to do that! (Sandra closed her eyes and was silent for almost a minute). I can see there will be more visits—more meetings—with Jesus and the little girl. There are also more of those tapes and commentaries that need to be thrown on that fire! Jesus seems to be inviting me to that. And to reengage with my home group and with scripture!
Amy: Just as we finish, I wonder if Jesus has prompted you towards a particular scripture.
Sandra: (A beautiful smile lights up on Sandra’s face). “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Now I get it. I have been trying to do the second without the first—all in my own strength, just like that little girl. Thank you Amy! Thank you so much!
Amy: Thanks be to God!
Take some time for some prayerful breathing out before moving on to the next section for a second reading.
 Matthew 5: 3; Ephesians 1: 18.
 Such “messengers” could include feelings, emotions, body responses, and tears, can become wonderful guides under the tutelage of the Spirit.
 “Soul’s web” is a title coined by Andrea. Encountering a spider web with dewdrops mirrored back to her the intricate inner “labyrinths of the soul”—hence “soul’s web”.
4] Psalm 85: 8.
 Luke 10:27.
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