leaving the staircase

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks – I’ve started my new job which I love but which has also taken up a lot of my time. It’s also taken my mind off of God for a while, which is probably a good thing. It’s tiring to think about something that heavy all the time. I’m not sure how ministers and priests to do that full time.

I had an opportunity at the last Quaker meeting to continue my reflections on the staircase. This past Sunday was very odd indeed. I closed my eyes and did my usual visualization. I was feeling quite impatient for some reason. I saw myself on the stark white stairs again with the blinding white light. I was just standing there not moving – sort of thinking what to do. And then I just sprinted up the stairs and flew open the door at the top.

It was a dark, empty room. No light, no whatever I was expecting to see by charging up there. I sat down in the room, feeling very frustrated. I became aware of another presence on the staircase – someone had been following me. Before I looked I knew who it was – Jesus.

Great. Just great. The one guy I can’t get my head around at all is following me. I was annoyed and told him so. I started ranting at him basically – telling him I didn’t know who he was, what to make of him, I just wanted to find God, etc….

He, of course, just smiled and said nothing. But he did motion that I follow him and he started walking back down the staircase. Reluctantly I followed. I didn’t really want to leave the room, like if I hung around God would be right back from the grocery store or something. But I also knew how ridiculous that was and that this Jesus representation was not leading me in the wrong direction. He knew best.

So we go to the bottom of what was really a very short staircase and he opened the door. Outside it was a sunny, beautiful day. It opened out into a sort of park with beautiful green grass and trees and birds. People were walking around. It’s where I was supposed to be. Not off by myself pursing a God that I had no idea how to find.

What the Jesus figure was showing me is what I knew to be true, that I would only find it by re-engaging in the world with people and making myself open and vulnerable to them not just to God where I perceived it to be “safe”.

When I turned back around he was gone. And so is my staircase for now.

Ironically the two people who spoke at the meeting that day (after my staircase vision) spoke of the importance of being part of a community and giving back to people in the community of not isolating yourself. I got the message loud and clear!

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4 thoughts on “leaving the staircase

  1. Ken says:

    I know I have recommended a lot of books, but I have another one in mind that seems to explain a lot of what you are experiencing. It is “Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology” (1970) by Mary Douglas, a British anthropologist. She explains through anthropology what David Noel Freedman explained by reference to our religious history – our guilt and the feeling that we need to give back that is so common in the upper middle class or professional class in America and Europe. In her writing, these feelings are partly created by a “personal family control system” and by “elaborated speech code.” Those technical terms take lengthy explanation, but an example may give you the general idea. Imagine a case in which a mother tells her child “don’t do that” and the child asks “why.” In a “positional family control system” with a “socially restricted speech code” the mother might say, “Because I am your mother and you are a child and children must do what their mothers say.” In a “personal family control system” with an “elaborated speech code” the mother might say, “Because I am afraid that you may get hurt and I would feel so bad if you got hurt.” Her book explains how these speech patterns and types of relationships with others affect the way we see the world and ourselves. We learn these from our culture as well as from our families. Those of us who have a lot of education, who work in professions, who solve unstructured problems, and who communicate with a diverse group of people depend on having a high level of ability to use elaborated speech code. That ability enables us to succeed, but at the same time leaves us with a need to justify our “existence outside the performance of set rules.” She explains how living in a culture, subculture or family that uses a personal control system and elaborated speech code leads us to seek justification of our existence in “good works on behalf of humanity in general or in personal success, or both.” She says we seek “purely ethical religion.” She also explains how this is connected with feeling “generalized guilt, individually and collectively” and with not wanting to feel that.

    This book is hard reading, but I found it worth the effort. In addition to the topic I described above, the book describes how living with and without common symbols affects us.

  2. Ben says:

    AWESOME! What a wonderful encounter with a loving God.

  3. E! says:

    I’ve had this quote bouncing around my head since I heard it in an interview on SOF:
    “I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  4. Jodi says:

    What a great quote! I’ve totally come to believe that too.

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