There was an extended period of time, fairly close to the beginning of my induction into The Serious Work Of Being A Mystic – serious, in spite of having visions (working visions) throughout my childhood – that will perhaps be difficult for anyone else to understand.
In the visions, I was standing in the wings of a stage. Down at the edge of the stage stood Jesus. All the spotlights were on him, and he stood there, in every single vision, with his arms open wide to the vast audience before him. He looked down at them. He knew every single one of them. And he addressed them as they addressed him.
And for each and every different person who petitioned him, he answered the person with a unique answer. Sometimes he was smiling, sometimes he was cooing. There were times he was singing. Other times when he was scolding. It’s hard to describe, but it was as though for each individual there, he was a different man. A different Jesus. It wasn’t as if he was the same man changing positions to fit the situation. It was as though he became a different person for each person he touched. He wasn’t motherly, he was a mother. He wasn’t a concerned friend, he was The Judge.
And it wasn’t like watching an actor take on different roles. I was watching instantaneous transformations in the person before me. Like some kind of cartoon character who has the ability to snap its finger and change into another character altogether.
It profoundly changed my way of feeling about Jesus. He wasn’t the same man to every person. He belongs to each and every person in the way they need him. He becomes what they pray for. What their heart longs for.
God, on the other hand, acted as the stage manager. He was constantly moving. Pulling on ropes. Positioning the lights. Making sure everything ran just right.
And as I watched him, I saw the definition of his hand in the lives of the people. And yet, they weren’t aware of him. They couldn’t see that the ropes he was pulling were tied directly to them, to their lives, to their problems. As he adjusted and fiddled and swooped around, the difficulties that the person was bringing to Jesus were being shaped, handled, and ultimately settled. Resolution came into the person’s life without them realizing the work that went into it by God.
Not by Jesus. By God, the Father.
Jesus held their attention. He kept them engaged. He addressed their thoughts. He provided them with a new perspective on the situation.
He was the salesman.
God was the manufacturer.
Except no one knew that He was there. Making the moves. Creating the solutions.
All they saw was Jesus standing in the light. Smiling. Loving.
Bending over them to give them a sense that he was in the crowd with them. One of them.
I had these visions for such a long time – years, really – that I became saturated with the understanding that life is a give-and-take between man and God that is constantly active. Not just a time-from-time I’ll-pray-now-will-you-hear-me occasional relationship. Constant. Ongoing.
I watched an infinite number of visions in which for a petitioner, everything fell into place. Like a remodeling of a room. Sofa here. New curtains. Put the books in the bookcase. Organized. Neat.
So many visions of this nature, that I couldn’t see life any other way.
It’s not the way we experience life, generally. It appears to us as chaotic and random. And, yet, as I watched and watched, I could see the patterns. The cohesion. The sense in it all.
And, then, when the visions ended, just like going through childbirth, the experience was gone.
Completely and utterly gone.
I could no longer “see” the inner workings of mankind. Life became, once again, an endless journey down a path of mystery and surprises.
The whole time that I was on the stage with Jesus and God, the Father, I was in the shadows.
I was nothing.
I didn’t help out in any way.
I just watched.
And that, strangely, is the one thing I kept with me after the visions stopped.
It was as though I adopted the role in the vision completely and brought it with me into “real” life.
I took on a preference for watching quietly, waiting to see those before me chase and fly, bounce and fall. Everything was beautiful to me.
With some exception.
When the pain didn’t smooth out.
When I found myself locked in a room full of bathtubs containing mad women.
But in general, after those visions, I found life breathtaking.
But then came the training for spiritual warfare. (I think that I will never get over the word, training.) And while I could see the working of the mechanisms of God again and was once again awe-filled, the experience was excruciating. Having to deal with feeling profoundly angry for years on end took its toll. A very real toll.
Feeling humanly limited in life, bound by my humanity, in a situation when grace would have soothed out so much, made me question seeing life as beautiful.
Remarkably, though, I stayed true to myself. I don’t really know how I did it. Why I just didn’t chuck it all in, slam the spiritual door on God, curse, and walk away.
At some point, I did turn my back on God.
And yet, even then, I remained in the shadows. I remained the watcher. The one who found understanding in the dance before her.
The one who followed God even though I wasn’t actually speaking to him at the time.
I was who I was. And the extreme conditions didn’t change me.
But this way of life has a cost.
If you are happy to dance your own single dance in the shadows, it’s uncomfortable when someone sees you.
And talks to you.
And asks you to come out of the shadows and dance with him.
In a way, I have come to believe that dancing in the shadows isn’t a way to live in this world.
Photographers understand this way of life, I think. Always behind something. Never participating. Watching the joy and sorrow. Keeping track of the race and the wave.
But never being a part of what is before them.
But, for me, beyond everything else that there is in life, dancing in the shadows is the way I get to see the majesty of God.