‘Anam cara’ is a Celtic term meaning ‘soul friend’. I have been tremendously blessed in the last decade or so. Slowly, slowly, I have come to know the blessing to such encounters.
Some have an inherent gentle rhythm, some have a brief intensity. But all retain a deep, soulful resonance which overcome both distance and time.
It is always a grace, always unexpected, and always healing. This time I have no words to describe the encounter, except to say that in one beautiful exchange it was almost sacramental.
There is something so moving when two souls resonate. It doesn’t happen by accident. It is a choice. A willingness to engage with vulnerability.
It is a tremendous gift, and each time I am granted the privilege of encountering this space anew, it has a different flavour, a different feel. And I am led further into the mystery of relationship which we call God.
I have been so tremendously blessed in recent months. My brother and sister-in-law bought a holiday house in Hermanus (a town which is nestled between the mountains and the sea on the southern Cape coast). The house is close enough to the cliff paths that I can walk down from the house. And the Fernkloof nature reserve, which has paths into the mountains, is just a few minutes drive away.
I’m not quite sure why but the place is deeply restorative for me. My whole being breaths a sigh of relief when I get there. This has been a very busy semester for me for all sorts of reasons, and it has been my place of sanity.
I’ve known for a long time that walking in nature is an activity which somehow settles something deep in my being. It almost as though the rhythm of my gait combined with the gentle sensory stimulation of being in nature provides a calibration of my soul. It somehow reorients itself and settles.
The juxtaposition of the stressful semester and the happy escape has made me far more conscious of the need to take time in nature even when I am not in Hermanus. Overall, I think I am better balanced.
It has been a significant lesson. I sit with tremendous gratitude for having access to this precious space.
Ignatius of Loyola so wisely reminds us in the opening of the Spiritual Exercises that we should try to put the best possible construction on what a person is saying.
I confess that today, I failed miserably in that endeavour. All I could hear was the shaming language being used. I couldn’t get past that to the intent. And then my friend Michelle, who shares my passions for chemistry, Ignatian spirituality and blogging unintentionally came to my rescue (You can read her blog post http://quantumtheology.blogspot.co.za/2016/06/full-conscious-and-active-participation.html)
Some weeks ago I attended an event where one of the participants responded at some point in the proceedings by saying ‘I no longer use that language but…’. In this particular case the respondent had gone out of her way to attempt to engage with the image of God presented and had in fact had a good experience (inasmuch as I could gleen).
Too often though we resort to language as a kind of theological shibboleth. If you use the ‘right’ language which is somehow deemed to be more ‘evolved’ it makes you more worthy. This cannot be the truth.
Whilst I know that my image of God has evolved and the language that I use is also not what it would have been twenty years ago. There are those who still gain tremendous comfort from those images. The thing we all need to remember, is that whatever image we hold now is also limited and temporary. And that God shakes us all up sooner or later.
It is my deepest desire that I will never knowingly shame someone else for the image of God that they carry. To that end, if I ever inadvertently do so, I trust that those close to me will call me out when I fall into that particular error.