I have a plaque in my room that says, “When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step into the darkness, faith is knowing one of two things. There will be something to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”*
I had tears in my eyes as I read it at an artisan’s booth in one of the merchandise buildings at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, in September 2013. I know the date because the bluegrass Festival is held every 3rd weekend in September, and my husband, David, had just died the previous March. I was intentionally looking for something that would “speak to me” at that time in my life. I looked at pottery, I look at scarves, I looked at CDs, I looked at wood carvings. I had looked at many beautiful and inspiring items before seeing this plaque. As soon as I read it, I knew it was what I was looking for. It has inspired me, and it has reminded me that even in the darkest times, I have something to stand on; my faith in a God who loves me and who loves all of creation; my faith in a God whose Spirit is at work for Shalom in this world.
For two years and seven months, I stood—often in the darkness—on my faith. And standing was enough. It was all I had energy for. I constantly thanked God for being with me, for bringing joy and sunshine and butterflies into the very center of my experience. God’s comforting presence in so many ways has been (and I’m sure will continue to be) more than I could ever hope for. As Rich Mullins, and many others, has said, “Our God is an Awesome God!”
At about two years and six months after David’s death, I read that quote and prayed, “God, I want to fly.” I wasn’t even sure what that meant. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I had prayed it, and I knew I meant it.
It just so happens (I love how God thinks ahead!) that I had registered for a conference at the American Baptist Assembly at Green Lake, WI. The conference was titled, “Rhythms of the Spirit.” Obviously, its emphasis was an extended opportunity for spiritual experience and growth. Here are a few details about that week (Monday night through Thursday night, actually): every day we shared in Morning, Noon, and Evening prayers, extremely similar to Taize services, usually with eight minutes of silence; three times of Lectio Divina; teachings on Discernment, Circles of Trust, and Pilgrimage; and experiences after each of the three teaching times.
These days were filled with input, yes, but more importantly, they were filled with space for God to work. They were days when I was available to God in ways that are extremely difficult in the “work, eat, and sleep” world I usually live in.
At the end of those days, on the very last night, I walked a Labyrinth for the second time. (The first time was amazing, too, but another whole story!) In the middle of the Labyrinth, what is sometimes referred to as the “heart of God,” I simply stood still and prayed.
It happened gradually, but it was like all at once I realized that my arms were crossing in front of me, moving from side to side. I was flying.
I can’t explain any more than that. Something happened to me in those few days. I will never forget that experience, and I will not forget the leaders who allowed time for space for me to meet God anew.
There’s one more word on the plaque. It’s down the left side. It says “Gratitude.”
* I found similar quotes attributed to at least three people. There is no name on the plaque.