In our worship service this past Sunday, Rev. Jan Grossman spoke of the difference between the personal love of emotion and the universal love of devotion that extends out to embrace all. I have found in my experience, again and again, that it is my surrender into trust that lands me most often in the love of devotion. It is not something I can make happen. Rather, it seems only possible to allow.
Surrender is a loaded word in our culture. But, as usual on the spiritual path where paradox is the rule, it is surrender that actually predisposes us to receiving that which is infinitely sweeter than anything we could have imagined. Surrender is where the mystery unfolds.
And, opening to the inner space of sweet surrender can happen on the bus home, in the grocery store, waiting in line at the bank. I have found that the most beautiful surrender, what I have come to describe as dancing with God, can occur when I don’t even know the steps, when I have no sense of control to intrude. Several years ago I had such an experience, this time involving the actual act of dancing, in a course I was taking in Sacred and Liturgical Dance at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
There were some students in our class who had Cerebral Palsy and were in wheelchairs. Each had a helper to assist. One afternoon, our teacher, Fr. Robert VerEecke, announced that we would be put in pairs and given a Psalm to dance over a period of about two minutes. We would only have five minutes to talk with our partner and decide on an approach. He purposefully did not give us a lot of time to plan it all out.
I was paired with one of the men with Cerebral Palsy. As I approached him, I remember feeling uneasy for there was nothing in my experience from which I could draw. Literally, I was blank. There was no possibility for discussion or collaboration, not even the possibility of eye contact which might offer some confirmation that we were in sync. His helper remained silent. I don’t know how long I stood motionless as I tried not to stare at his frail and twisted body nor respond to his moaning sounds. Somewhere in the background, I heard Fr. VerEecke say, “Just dance and only punctuate with key words as the spirit moves.” “Just dance” I thought. There was, literally, nothing else to do.
Still, I paused feeling uncertain and unclear. Then, from somewhere beyond my growing anxiety, I remembered, “What’s the same in all of us…” And, something lifted. Suddenly, I could see this beautiful Soul before me. I took a breath and stepped, not knowing where it was going or leading. His helper responded and soon we were moving out across the floor. As we moved forward, back, turned, paused, went fast, slow, I heard my voice, words, and my partner’s sounds mingle in and out, in and out, as we were carried, spiraling, into a kind of void where all stood perfectly still – where we were Danced.
For me, this is the essence of devotional love. It cuts through all external circumstances to penetrate into what’s the same in all of us. It is the awe-mazing Grace of surrender where, though blind we see, and though lost, we are found.
Happy Valentines’ Day!!