Letters to Peregrinus #9 – On Receiving a grace Profoundly

Dear Peregrinus (Wednesday afternoon, 12:30 PM):

You gave to all of us in your talk this morning a substantial grace. Thank you. I find myself needing to take the time today, and perhaps for several days, to let have access to me all that you spoke. I have learned that all of us need to learn better that a significant grace may take a long time fully to absorb, and correctly to understand.

What is it about divine grace that puzzles us, causing us to assume when it is richly given us that it must be for someone other than me? People often struggle to accept what God gives them. Perhaps we sense that to receive the grace will mean that we are permanently changed … and that scares us.

We, as does Matthew in the famous painting of him by Caravaggio, his “The Call of Matthew,” assume that the grace must really be meant for someone else. You see Matthew there in the painting, light on him suddenly, Jesus pointing to him, and Matthew pointing his left hand towards the guy behind him, “You mean him, donʼt you?”

It was somewhere down inside of your Talk, through whose movements you led us, word by word, image by image, I began to hear a hymn that I love. It has stayed with me since then, humming itself. Its opening stanza is this:

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
And then its closing stanza:
When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In particular, I am pondering your comments about PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and how they captured something of my own experiences the impact of traumas we were compelled to sustain over many years at the hands of others, whose wounds in us we work with others (at times) to understand, and over time to grasp as the surprising source of our deepest and most credible compassion for the sorrows of others. At other times, such wounds we simply suffer, wondering why they have to remain, and so we may, for a season, lose contact with our hope.

As you spoke this morning about your experience of PTSD, I suddenly saw Christ Himself incandesce in my awareness. I saw Him there before me, filled with Light, but whose wounds were not obscured because the Light came from those wounds. It was the image of Christ as One Who also forever knows, and suffers the bite of, PTSD, through traumas He suffered at our hands. And as you continued to speak, I thought of a Talk that Christ Himself might have given this morning to us, and how He might sound at certain points very much like you did.

I found myself wishing that He would look at you, and that you would notice … and look back. Christ is the truest mirror through which we see ourselves, the truth of ourselves, and how wounds have made us, and unexpectedly, whole.

I think of that lovely line from George Herbertʼs poem, “Love,” III, in whose first stanza (see below) we find this power that Christ Himself had – He who really knew what seeing others meant, and Whose “sweetly questioning” face often was itself that which healed people.

It takes a long time to learn that we must not try to “turn around” on ourselves, so that we might see ourselves, catch ourselves alive in that way. Rather, we train ourselves instead to look to the face of Christ Who loves us, who looks at us with “quick-eyed love.” Christ is the Mirror.

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.

I am your friend today, who has today received much that is good from you.

Yours in Christ the Pilgrim,


No Comments