Tonight seven contemplatives gathered for 20 minutes of centering prayer and then an hour of exploring our personal ways of learning to literally bless our enemies. I’m telling you, this is not some group of superficial religious types saying “Isn’t that nice” in response to the call to grow deep. These people are transforming before my eyes!
Alisha led the group through another step of our own conversion by inviting us to read some quotes from Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr. and others on loving or blessing our enemies. We responded to the phrases which spoke to us in the group sharing. Then it got really real. She pulled out note cards from her house and invited us to take one, or several, with which to write an actual blessing of someone who had hurt us. We were free to choose whether or not to send the cards once written since the purpose was our own growth. We were not trying to get an expected or desired response from another person.
Amazingly, no one balked. No one started philosophizing about the topic in some random, defensive way. No one got on a soapbox about how wrong someone else’s behavior had been. No one preached, or made a speech. In fact, group members began to share their vulnerability about who they needed to bless before they even began. People could have kept the whole thing a secret, but the level of trust was high. So letting our stories unfold was natural. What a gift to be in such company.
After we had a few minutes to begin our own writing of blessings, (an idea drawn from John O’Donohue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us), the group was offered the opportunity to share their writing. No pressure to speak, just a gentle invitation. No need to perfect the writing since personal transformation is always an ongoing process.
With apparent ease we each shared what we had written. One by one we spoke the blessings we intended for those who hurt each of us. There was some discussion of forgiveness and wherever different people were along that journey. But again there was no impression that anyone should be at any certain place on that path. Each participant was completely accepted as they were.
Major issues were addressed. For some, lifelong wounds were being touched. For others, new wounds were converting into the healing process. The opening line of a blessing learned from the Celtic poet, John O’Donohue is: “May you….” So that is how we wrote to the people who had brought harm. One beautiful example said this: “May you find flowers blooming in the place of a hardened heart.”
When our time of sharing had drawn to a close, we affirmed each other for the courage to express such truth and allow such changes to begin. Then we took hands in the center of the circle and released our spirits out into the world.
My God, is this what you have always hoped for your creatures of the human type, little beings of flesh and blood on a spinning rock in space as we are, that our hearts/minds/spirits can become united in the pursuit of deep wholeness? Have you always longed for us to become still in each other’s company so that You can find us and fill us and form us anew? It sure did seem like You were in on the sacred gathering. How else could I get to see vulnerable human beings transforming before my eyes?
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.