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Soul AfireBy Megan Allen
I am a believer in “ask, and you shall receive.” And I also believe that what we receive doesn’t always make sense in that moment, or year, or even decade. But eventually, we are opened wide enough to see the gift that God has granted. My contribution this week is in three parts: an invitation to meditate with the painting Soul Afire, a holy story of my own meditative experience, and a reflection on how meditation can guide our journey towards racial healing.
I invite you to get into a comfortable position and focus on your breath. Begin breathing deeply, focus on your chest as it rises and falls. With each exhalation you can feel your body becoming more relaxed, your mind centered, and your spirit grounded. If your mind wanders, simply notice it and nudge it back by focusing on your breath. When you are ready, focus on the painting and center your mind on its question: What does it mean to be consumed by God? Pay attention to what your spirit sees, hears, and feels as you meditate with this painting.
My Meditative Experience
“What does it mean to be consumed by God,” I asked myself as I pulled out my paints and placed a canvas on the easel. Candles glowing, incense burning; I dipped my brush into the midnight blue. As the brush hit the canvas, I saw a sphere of light exit my chest and as it floated in front of me, I heard, “As you grow, your light is concealed – it is no one’s fault. Rather, those things you believe to be true about yourself are pulled towards the light. This light never dims or goes out; it remains the same from the point of your creation. But your memories are drawn towards the pure goodness and love this light exudes. As your memories turn into a shell of self, you begin to confuse it with the pure goodness and love that exists beneath.”
I could see cracks in the shell and light peering through. God explained, “To be consumed by me is not about letting me in, but rather letting me out of where I already exist. And the only way to be consumed is to surrender yourself, all of those things you believe to be at the core of who you are. Each piece offered until there is nothing left, you are both dead and alive in me and I in you.”
As I grasped the sphere I heard, “You do not have to, if you do not want to.” I slowly peeled back a small piece. And holding it my palm I saw an image, and it slowly began to smolder like a burning coal. Simultaneously I could feel the immense pain of the memory and joy of being freed from it. As I contemplated peeling back more of myself, I was stopped. “You are not quite ready to remove that piece. You will be ready in time and we will be with you on your journey. Do not be afraid, release your fears, you know the way; you were created calibrated to heed my call and feel my love.”
Meditation and Racial Healing
As our friend Derek shared with us in Healing Hymns, contemplative practices are part of the work of racial healing. And although the ways we meditate vary, our focused attention and openness to the Spirit is the same. When we create holy space through meditative practice, we intentionally invite God to speak into us, each of us seeing, hearing, and feeling what we need in order to understand better God’s desire for us. I wonder, what did you spirit see, hear, and feel during our meditation that speaks to God’s desire for you?
So often when we speak of reconciliation and healing, we exclude ourselves from the equation. Afraid of our own brokenness, we focus our attention outward in an attempt to save others from feeling the same pain we feel and often refuse to acknowledge to ourselves. How can we seek to bring true healing to the world if we ourselves are not willing to receive the healing power of Jesus Christ? God’s desire for us is reconciliation and healing, and our meditative practices help us to become more aware of and compassionate towards our own brokenness and need. This is a path towards receiving the healing power of Jesus Christ into our own lives. But healing can also feel like a dangerous experience and can require us to first imagine how our life might be different after an experience of the healing power of Christ.
Notice that I said, an experience. In the same way we understand becoming an anti-racist as a life-long practice, healing is not a one-time deal. Engaging in regular meditative practices allows us to draw deeper and deeper into Christ’s healing power, which not only sustains us but also guides us on our long and difficult journey of spiritual transformation. God is a faithful and generous giver; who will provide what we need, when we need it – if we are willing to ask. Then it is up to us to respond. What do you ask God for, for yourself? And how is the Spirit empowering you to respond?
Like I said, I am a believer in “ask, and you shall receive.” This painting is now two years old. I was not meditating on reconciliation or healing when I painted it. I simply wondered how I could draw closer to God. I’ve learned we do that through the healing of Jesus Christ. True justice and liberation are incomplete without our own healing. As we continue on this long and difficult journey of racial healing together, I pray that we are all ever aware that sometimes the greatest miracles of healing are those that happen within ourselves.
This fall, the Sowing Holy Questions blog will focus on issues of racial healing. Writers will reflect on what has been done, what change ought to happen, and offer visions for healing in our communities.
Megan Allen is a senior Master of Divinity student at Seminary of the Southwest and a candidate for holy orders in the Diocese of Ohio. Megan enjoys singing, painting, and laughing as spiritual practices, and seeking creative ways to experience the Divine. Grounded in her belief that relationships are sacramental, she is passionate about reconciliation and healing. On a beautiful day, she can most likely be found on the motte, surrounded by oak trees, laughing with friends (and their dogs!) and enjoying the grass beneath her feet.
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