Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Visitation

I spent some time last week praying with and reflecting about the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth.  It is found in the book of Luke:

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.1When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 
And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 
For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

It is a familiar and favorite text and I have used it over the years in preaching, retreats and writing to describe  "spiritual friendship." It is the picture of two women of different generations who are each expecting a baby that is surprising, unexpected and holy.   Their pregnancies set them apart from others and they find in each other not only companionship but affirmations of their own journeys.

It was in spiritual direction this past week week that I recognized the gift of so many "visitations" in my life.  Spiritual friends are so different from just friends or family members.  For example, last spring I saw a friend from North Carolina who stopped by for one night after visiting her dying mother in  Bowling Green. We spent a couple of hours in conversation about life and all that was happening in her mother's past year.   It was a rich conversation. .  And as she left I told her how much I appreciated her presence in my life as a "kindred spirit."  We may not see each other again for years, but I know we share a similar awareness about exploring the depths of life that means there is always a connection when we come back together again.

The women's retreat last Saturday was a similar sort of "visitation" for me as I gathered in a holy place with other women who valued the spiritual life.  And it is in community with each other that we know that we are each "giving birth" in some way that is mysterious and scary and awesome and real.
God is doing something new with us if only we would pay attention.

Two days ago I had lunch with an old friend from Bowling Green and again, the conversation went way beyond the cursory events of our lives into the wonderings of God's presence, love and work in every moment.  And she said  that so much of what we talked about other people in her life would not have understood.  It was a visitation for both of us.

And so, today I just feel blessed to find that at this time in my life I realize the gift of those who come to be my companions along the way.  What is interesting with Mary and Elizabeth is that it is a visit - for a short time - and then they leave each other to each give birth to their own baby and face their own future. 

I continue to be blessed with people who show up when I need them as "Kindred spirits."  We may not know each other's history, we may come from a very different background, or generation - but we share a faith in God and a trust in God's work in our lives.  And so we receive the gift for a day or a weekend of a "visitiation" that gives us strength and hope and peace to continue on our way.

May the BIRTHING God bless you.
May you find hope and promise in the pains of your labor
and may you know life ever new in each grace that comes to you.
May God be birthed in you with every prayer
and may compassion flower in your every relationship.
May the BIRTHING God be with you.
(Maxine Shonk)

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