The Knowing

Saint Mary (the Blessed Virgin) with the Christ Child. Engra Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Saint Mary (the Blessed Virgin) with the Christ Child. Engra
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

I have had three mystical experiences in my life. The first experience, or encounter, led to a spiritual conversion as it occurred in the midst of an alter call when I was 16. The second occurred as I was being frantically rushed back into the operating room after barely surviving an earlier c-section and emergency hysterectomy. I was hemorrhaging once again and my life hung in the balance. It was clear that my mother understood the severity of the circumstances as her last words to me were to fight like I’d never fought before and she pleaded with the nurses to find my husband so he could say goodbye. I am convinced that the details to both of these encounters with the Divine will haunt me (or inspire me) for the rest of my life. But they aren’t the details I’ve been considering most in this Advent season.

Instead, I keep returning to the third and most unexpected and unpredictable of the encounters. I was in the middle of making my bed (a rare occasion on any day other than Saturday cleaning day) after getting all of the big kids off to school when I heard that little ding on my phone. Briella was occupied with some toys in her room across the hall (also a rare occasion when she was a young toddler). The incoming text was from my sister-in-law sharing news of a mutual friend who went into a fast a furious labor that morning, unable to get to the hospital or even await the arrival of the paramedics, giving birth to her second healthy and beautiful daughter on the wood floors of her own master bedroom with her husband by her side.

Initially I was shocked at the details of this unconventional birth story. And then I was elated that both mama and baby were totally healthy and all would be just fine. And THEN I began weeping tears of joy…or at least I think that’s what they should be called. Immediately after my brain processed the news I had received, I was overcome with a wave of emotion the felt like some strange conglomeration of immense joy, deep sorrow and overwhelming terror. It brought me first to my knees. No joke. I felt like an unexplainable weight came out of thin air and rested on my shoulders, lowering me to the ground. After a few seconds on my knees, it became clear that even this position could not bear the weight of what was leveling upon me. And so I got lower. I laid flat on my stomach for only a moment when I realized this was not right. And so I rolled over onto my back facing the ceiling of my room, palms up and open to receiving what was to come.

Let me be clear – this is not a typical experience, nor familiar posture. I don’t believe there is a single soul who has come to know me in any way, shape or form that would ever describe me as anywhere close to charismatic. I am more of a skeptic than a believer in most things in life. I walk and stand and sit and sleep with more of a guarded and protective posture than an a posture open and willing to receive. But on that particular morning I surrendered to lying flat and letting the conglomeration of feelings fall upon me in a surge unlike any I had experienced before. And as I did, there was a knowing that came into me. You see, in each of the 3 mystical encounters I have had, that is what happens – some kind of knowing enters in. It’s a knowing that was not there before. It’s a knowing that I don’t believe can be explained by complex human emotions or neuroscience. But I keep searching for research that could indicate otherwise. I am still a skeptic most days after all.

On that morning, in that position, in that moment, I knew that women and their powerful and beautiful and strong bodies mattered. I laid there weeping as images of my own recent traumatic and near death birth experience danced across my mind. I laid there weeping as I recalled the birth narratives of each of my girls. I laid there weeping as I remembered all the ways my body had been broken, used and others…by myself. I laid there weeping as I began to know in a new way that the female body, that my body and being, was and would always be in collaboration with the Divine. It was the first time I knew the power of the Divine Feminine in my own body.

It’s hard to know what to do with this knowing in a world that works so hard to disprove it. But this season of Advent, the witness of Mary has given space to contemplate this knowing with intentionality. The notion that God collaborated with a young girl whom the world granted little (if any) power, to usher forth good news that would mark humanity in the most profound way aligns with the knowing that came over my body, mind and soul that one day.

Here are a few of the reflections that have guided this season for me:

The Allender Center Podcast with Dr. Angela Parker 

The Christmas Message we need by Brian McLaren

God Needs Women by Rachel Held Evans

“What if, instead of doing something, we were to be something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.” ~Loretta Ross-Gotta


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