This is kind of a sentimental lesson for me. It was my first, official, serious, put-into-words-so-that-you-will-understand-it lesson.
My childhood visions had been more in the form of a conversation. Albeit, a very one-sided conversation (with me not doing much of the talking). But I did have a lot of questions. And I did like to bend the concepts taught around a lot. A lot.
But after my few-years journey away from God (I’m on my own, now, so don’t bother me, Bubba), and ultimately finding myself smash right up against the wall that is God, a young woman now, able to get around the world on her own now. But at every turn: God.
So I surrendered. I don’t know if I will go so far as to say I completely surrendered. It was more, fine, I’ll deal with you, now. I have to admit that I’ve missed you, God.
But let’s just see how this goes, and I’ll get back to you on signing a contract. Deal?
Instead there was the Lesson Of The Rose.
And I learned a lot from this lesson. But mostly about how God was working with me these days . Not all that much from the lesson itself.
I learned that God, when teaching a lesson, repeated himself about the lesson until I wanted to scream or sing along to rock music, anything to blot out the repetition.
I’m quite an intelligent person. All the repetition was to what end, exactly?
The Lesson Of The Rose: God only gives you his grace (sunshine) as you are able to receive it (stages of rose opening: bud gets less sunlight than a fully-opened rose).
And since I’ve started this blog and challenged myself with writing about me, I’ve wanted to write on this lesson. I figured, it was the first one. Must be, in its own quiet way, a most important lesson.
But, for me, it always seemed just a bit of obviousness. We get what we are capable of receiving.
(Oops, sorry, God.)
But that’s the way I really saw that lesson.
I saw it as a sort of simplistic statement of a formula: mapping the geometry of God. This ratio to that vector. Or whatever.
I still have the headache I got from taking geometry.
A formula. This amount of sunshine to that amount of development.
Later in life, when spiritual development became a regular torture, I mean, spiritual process, yes that’s a better way to express it, sure it is, I liked the taking-off-of-the-layers-of-an-onion analogy better.
It seemed that I was being stripped, thin layer of skin by thin layer of skin. And whenever I had the audaciousness to think, ah, this is it, the last layer, nope, there was always another dunking, another time of having my head forced into the sewage that is my soul. To learn.
Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. To learn.
I guess the sunshine/rose combination gave the formula an element of “us-ness” to it; that is, we are the rose that opens in our own timing. It’s not just God shining down on us going, right, open up, I’m here, it’s your time to get this thing done, so open up and get this thing done.
No. Like my other lessons, there is the statement that God is in relation to us, is responsive to us, is in a dance with us. Partnered. As it were.
But this week, I was doing some reading on the concept of friendship. And I was reading one of my favorite books, The Book Of My Life, by Teresa of Ávila. She has in it a chapter on divine friendship. It’s in the section on visions and voices. Right up my alley.
As I was reading along, I stopped at some of her words and the Lesson Of The Rose sort of bloomed for me. (I like that one, do you?)
Fortunately, I have learned something from every mystical favor the Lord has granted me. With each new vision or revelation, my soul has grown. In some cases, the benefits have been remarkable. The vision of Christ left me with an indelible impression of his supreme beauty. I carry this beauty with me always. If one incident has such a powerful and lasting impact, imagine how much more deeply he imprints himself on my soul when he reveals himself to me again and again.
And so I began to wonder if the Lesson Of The Rose was really, all this time, all about visions, all about mysticism itself. And I know this knowledge was sitting there all this time right in front of me, but it has taken me all this time for this knowledge to get inside of me.
Where it belongs.
Sunshine. Grace. The mystery of God.
Now it takes my breath away.
No wonder, again.
There is sunlight, as in learning what you need to learn to grow spiritually – a sort of dry, external, didactic formula – and then there’s sunshine, as in opening up my soul to let the light of God in to increase understanding.
See the difference?
God’s lessons for us can remain on the outside of us, outside our skin, outside our life, and we can look to them and apply them as we decide we want to; or, they can be like seeds that are planted in our souls, a new form of life that will grow as we are able to bear the growth.
And, really, when I think of how I thought of the relationship between the sun and the rose all these years, I don’t see how I could bring the concept of friendship into it. There was a relationship there, yes. Perhaps I perceived it as more parental than friend.
C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, describes friendship as the experience of two people walking side-by-side.
Side-by-side with God. Not, as I once pictured it, the sun beating down waiting for the rose to open so that he could get his way in. So that spiritual development could happen.
So the pain of spiritual development could happen.
I think that’s where I’ve always been stuck on this lesson.
The distress that comes from growth. The awkwardness perceived, the ignorance revealed.
Instead, the question is, what has the sun blessed the rose with that gives it what it needs to grow?
I think I need to go over this again.