"But what is it to realize that you are unbearably beautiful in the intimacy of the broken places, and you breathe that in and walk with it. You join God in being one with the endlessly precious nature of yourself. You can be one with the world in that way."
- James Finley
For the Sanctuary album, which explores the healing path, James Finley and I used the well-known form from the mystical lineage of Christianity: Purgation, Illumination and Union.
In each of these sections, the inner child shows up to give voice to the inner workings of hurt and of trauma, but also to give voice to how "precious as children" each of us are.
I don't always speak anecdotally in my writing, but for today, I would like to tell you a story. Hopefully it can be told in a universal way, connected to your story, and to all story.
Back in the early winter of 2010, I found myself in the throes of a pretty significant descent. A darkness had clouded every aspect of my personal and professional life and what would unfold over that time, would be a great letting go. The mythic flames that burned away most of what I thought was me, burned very hot, and there was much suffering. But through that journey, which was a journey all mixed up, of healing, of further trauma, of confusion, and discovery of imperishable clarity, the flame began to do something altogether different. One evening, after months of this great Unravelling, there was a fleeting moment in which the flame no longer burned me, because the flame was me.
During those initial gruelling months, I spent a week in silence at St Joseph Monastery, a silent, cloistered community of Passionist Nuns, in Kentucky. While there, I would go for walks outside and would find myself drawn toward the Stations of the Cross, but unable to bring myself to actually enter in to walk them. It wasn't because I was fighting some battle of unwillingness to follow the footsteps of Jesus. And it wasn't some "stubborn sinner's" resistance to surrender at the foot of the cross, but it was more because I was bruised, and tired of carrying the heavy burden that the death of Jesus was my fault. That I had killed him. I simply didn't want to walk the Stations because the whole reason I was at the monastery was to work through mountains of shame, and to release it, and open to transformation. I was not there to load shame back into the tender places by walking some half-sincere guilt trip, where I went through the motions of offering up quasi-confessional platitudes, in an attempt to flog the deadened sincerity I could barely feel about the whole business.
Then, nearing the last day of my stay at St. Joseph Monastery, I was standing at the entrance to the Stations, after ten considerations and ten turnabouts on my heal, walking away, utterly pissed off at just about everything, I saw one of the sisters on the lawn in the cloistered area, jumping with a jump rope. Two others were playing catch with gloves and a baseball. I heard laughter although all was still silent. Something about the maturity of these women (who no doubt have seen more than we might assume), engaged in childlike play, enabled the child in me, to take a few steps forward to gingerly attempt to walk the Stations.
I walked all 14 Stations that day and, what was shed, ironically, was the internal message that it was my fault that Jesus died. This led quite naturally into the extraordinary mystical epiphany that I had lived my whole life believing I needed to be protected from God. And by the time I reached the foot of the cross, I heard a palpable voice, which was a whisper, that I believe was the voice of God (but may very well have been my own adult voice):
"I love you as much as I love __________ and ________."
This Voice was speaking the names of my niece and nephew, who at the time, were 2 years old and newborn.
This encounter with the voice of the Mystery, was a small but integral baby step toward growing up enough, to come alongside my inner child and speak narratives of wholeness into her burdened heart, and begin a long spiritual journey, that I am still on.
Today my little girl says "I believe you."
Some days she still gets too close, and I turn into her. Lord, have mercy.
It is a work in progress.
But it is all precious in its fragility. The whole nine yards. The full measure. The works.
In Encountering the Inner Child, (the first track on the album where the children's choir enters), James Finley says:
"I see something precious in you, that you are not yet able to see. Where we are right now, is you discovering with God's grace, the adult in you, that can join me in seeing that preciousness in you. Because the child inside right now, is waiting for you to see her. This is always risky, because she still holds power, and when she gets too close, you turn into her. And this is where you head back to shallow water again, to get your bearings, so that you can come back and be there for her."
Tender is this topic and much gentle care to you.
In the great Peace,
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.