"And waking as human beings, where the human is finite and the being is infinite, there's always more spirit in us then one life can carry. By our very nature, each of us is challenged to grow out of one self into another. I am not the same person I was ten years ago, nor was that self the same as the one I inhabited twenty years ago- though I am the same spirit. We blossom and outgrow selves the way butterflies emerge from cocoons. Except that being human, we have the chance to emerge from many cocoons. Mysteriously, saying yes is one of the ways we begin to emerge. Saying yes is how the infinite spirit we're born with keeps moving through us into the world, redefining us each time it emerges." -Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo describes well this eternal dance between the infinite and the finite or the absolute and the relative or the universal and the particular. We can easily see how we inhabit many different selves in our life while our essential spirit remains the same. If the spirit in us is the actor then it plays many different parts on the stage of our life. Imaginistically, I perceive the absolute spirit in me and everyone as the background in our specific painting which holds up in bold relief the foreground.
I gained an immediate sense of how the spirit incarnates in my present awareness through regarding the story of the wise men who came to the manger with their gifts. Now I have certainly contemplated this story many times in my life and have written about the symbolism of the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, in regarding the wise men this epiphany, their offerings to the baby Jesus spoke to me in a new way. The gifts remain the same and absolute if you will, but the way they manifested themselves to me was revelatory. I am not the same person I was last year or five years ago, and so my understanding of the gifts was different than before. This is what Nepo means when he says that "the spirit keeps redefining us each time it emerges."
So what is the truth of the gifts? It is neither absolute in a one-dimensional sense or relative to my present interpretation. Truth is not a noun; it is not locked in a static definition. Truth is a verb- it is a meeting of the absolute and the relative. The effective reality of the gold, frankincense, an myrrh meets my personal subjective understanding in the moment. That is the truth I have to tell now. Next year the truth will no doubt have a different flavor. To me this is how God is always speaking a new thing in our lives. In the words of Isaiah: "Behold I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?"
The antique lowboy that was given to me by my mother has sat in the same corner of the living room for sixteen years. This Christmas Eve as I was opening presents I glanced up from my chair and beheld its glory as if for the first time. I saw is unique shape and the glow of its golden oak finish; I saw my mother's hand brushing across its surface. Yes, "we have the chance to emerge from many cocoons" and see anew with a different, vibrant self.
During the Christmas Eve Service I found myself speaking again about the challenge of receiving. Surely I had stood in the same place on other candlelight services addressing the same theme. Yet this year I wanted to feel what it meant to receive as personally as I could. Thus, I began with an injury which happened to me as an adolescent and which caused me to say the word 'help' for the first time in my life. The spirit in me has remained constant and unchanging through a multitude of Christmas Eve Services. This year it became flesh and dwelt in my heart and mind in a startling way.
How is the spirit manifesting in the flesh of your own experience now? How will the old verities of love and peace assume new shape in your life this new year?