I know we’re not supposed to put God to the test, but sometimes it’s OK to do a little experiment. I was in one of my favourite places to anonymously bond with “salt of the earth” citizens in a big cosmopolitan city, namely the Costco cafeteria. It gladdens the heart to see a multitude of mostly boisterous ethnic families there, with English rarely overheard. And to screen out anyone thinking of descending from the Trump Tower, hot dogs previously priced at $2 (including a refillable drink) have since been reduced to $1.50.
It can get crowded at the close congregation of tables, and when I came back from garnishing my hot dog, a grey-haired gaunt looking man was seated directly across from me, turned sideways. He acknowledged my arrival with a perfunctory nod; then returned to staring into the cashier-commotion distance, interrupted with vacant lectio ennui by the light of his silvery cell phone. His face looked as grim and unforgiving as it gets — not the kind of man who invites striking up a conversation. A frown appeared to be permanently etched on his mouth. His demeanour made it difficult to believe in the divine spark, the pilot light within each of us that can dim to default level or flare with passion, but never goes out.
A sidebar on this spiritual exercise: in training and supervising counsellors, we speak of the glare and the gaze. “While the ‘glare’ (of assessment) provides valuable insight into self-defeating attitudes and patterns, the ‘gaze’ is focused squarely on the inherent capacity to overcome, transform, or transcend painful life predicaments” (Yaphe, J. & Speyer, C., 2010).
Without infringing on the man’s “personal space” I began silently practising conscious presence and prayerfully directing the gaze of the heart into his energy field. I did this with the intention of sharing the unconditional love available to both of us by virtue of being made in the image of God. I had no way of knowing what that image of God would be for the man in front of me, yet the kind of enlivening, healing energy I was praying to “send” goes to wherever it is needed, as pure gift, managed by the divine economy. This kind of presence, which Jesus promised to leave with us as his emissaries in the world, dissolves the duality between self and other such that we can simply hold the space for our common humanity. Any needful healing can then unfold in accordance with the mystery of readiness — it has a seed-planting life of its own. Our job is simply to ask God to “Make me a channel of your peace” as per the prayer of St. Francis.
After a while of doing my best to keep the channel open, and then getting ready to leave, the man spontaneously turned toward me, his face transfigured by a big, crinkled smile and said he was waiting for his wife. We joked about how waiting to meet the love of his life in the first place still involved waiting . . . some 40 years later. As we parted, I thanked him for the gourmet dining company and we blessed each other on the rest of our respective life journeys.
Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as an author, subject matter expert for e-therapy, clinical consultant and director of InnerView Guidance International (IGI). He also directs a documentary series entitled GuideLives for the Journey: Ordinary Persons, Extraordinary Pathfinders. http://www.guidelives.ca/ Connect with Cedric on https://www.facebook.com/cms94 or via email@example.com