Welcome to Part 2 of Debby Bellingham's spiritual practice series. If you missed my introduction to her yesterday, find it here.
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In 2001 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously, it was very frightening news. As it happened, I was scheduled to leave for a personal prayer retreat several days after I received the diagnosis. I trusted that God knew the timing of the diagnosis and the retreat, so I went ahead with my plans. During the first day of my time away the Lord gave me a wonderful prayer experience. Often, I will use my imagination when I pray, putting myself in scene I’m reading, letting myself become one of the people with whom Jesus interacts. This is a very powerful and evocative means of praying. On this day I was praying with the events of the last supper from Mark 14.
When the disciples and I got to the upper room, Jesus was there waiting for us. He opened the door to us and invited me alone to join him, leaving the other disciples outside the door. He and I were having a wonderful, intimate meal together, really enjoying each other’s company. I’m sure you know the feeling, the pleasure you have when you’re sharing a dinner with someone you really care about, the atmosphere of closeness and fun, the warmth of the conversation. This was what I was feeling as Jesus and I sat across the table from one another.
In the midst of our meal, Jesus said to me, “Debby, there is a betrayer in our midst.”
“Yes, Lord, I know. It is this cancer that is growing in me.”
“This betrayer is the opposite of me,” Jesus said.
“I know, Lord.”
“This betrayer breeds death.”
During this dialogue the presence of the betrayer began to become substantive, real, taking a form. I felt the pressure of its nearness. Jesus invited me to turn around, look at it and tell him what I saw. I resisted, and Jesus patiently encouraged me to do so. It took a long time, but finally, I obeyed. I turned and behind me was a large red mass, surprisingly, not an ugly thing. Jesus told me I needed to sit with this betrayer for a time. I began to cry.
Jesus asked, “What have you to say to this betrayer?” The words that came out of my mouth surprised me.
I was shocked by this response.
“Why do you see this betrayer of your life as a friend?” he asked.
“Because it will serve me by bringing me closer to you. Anything that moves me closer to you I have to call my friend.”
Jesus smiled and looked deep in my eyes. He gave me a piece of bread dipped in wine and said,“This bread and wine is my body and blood, broken and spilt for you. My body will carry yours. Every time you eat bread (any bread) and drink wine (any wine) remember I died for you and to carry this betrayer away.”
At the end of this prayer time, I knew a complete peace. I knew the worse that cancer could do to me was kill me and then Iʼd be in the unmitigated presence of Jesus, so cancer and death held no fear for me. I could rest in the peace that passes all understanding.
God wants to use everything that enters our life, even cancer, as a means of giving us himself. All things can be instruments in his hand to increase our capacity to hold his love and to recreate us into the people he intended us to be.
In each and every moment God is offering us his very presence. NOW is the moment in which he acts. We only have NOW: no tomorrow, no yesterday. Only NOW.
Godʼs activity is ever present; his love is always coming toward us, but it takes the eyes of faith to receive him in the many and varied activities and circumstances of our lives. Practiced faith allows us to find him hidden in each and every minute of our lives.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade in his book Abandonment to Divine Providence says becoming holy (his word - we might use the phrase to live fully in the Kingdom of God) is to “make a sacrament of the present moment.”
A sacrament is nothing but a common thing made holy by inviting God to be present in it. Common bread and wine are made a sacrament when we use them as reminders of Christʼs sacrifice for us. Water becomes a sacrament when it is used as the means of marking us in baptism. Bread, wine, water, in themselves are not holy. Consecrating them, asking God to use them or to meet us in the use of them is what makes them holy.
Your life may not seem holy, but every moment of your life can become a sacrament when you invite God to be present in it. Such awareness and activity will constantly connect you with the God of your life. Your goal, right? You want and need to live connected with the God who loves you.
Recognize that in each and every moment of your life God is giving you himself. Take this NOW and receive Godʼs love.
Your common, everyday life - work deadlines, feeding your family, conversations with friends, keeping your house -- these are the NOWs in which God wants to meet you. He hides himself in these.
“The reason I speak to them in parables (hides himself in the commonalities of life) is that ʻseeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand...But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” Matthew 13:13,16
You are blessed because you seek God by faith, not by sight.
The blessing of finding God hidden in every moment of your life requires practice. More tomorrow.
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Debby Bellingham, her husband Jack, and Molly the pug make their home in San Francisco, CA. She is a spiritual director, retreat leader, author, licensed psychotherapist and ordained clergy. She blogs at www.thementoredlife.com and her study guide and devotional The Mentored Life are available in hard copy or a kindle edition on Amazon. She enjoys (enjoys?) running, spending time with her grandkids and the adventure of doing home exchanges. She's currently living in NY State for a year and before that two years in Paris.