I have begun working through and meditating on a book a colleague of mine recently recommended that I read. The title of the book is "Shaped By The Cross" Meditations on the Suffering of Jesus by Ken Gire. In his book Mr. Gire focuses the meditations on one of the famous sculptures created by Michelangelo called "The Pieta." It is a beautiful sculpture depicting Jesus after His death cradled in the arms of Mary. In the book the reader is shown pictures of the sculpture from various angles with the meditations focused on various aspects of the sculpture such as the "Body of Christ" and the "Wounds of Christ." As I completed the first meditation which was focused on the "Image of God" it served as a powerful reminder of Christ's humanity and how He came down from glory to be with us. I have had a desire to draw closer to God and at times struggle with the reality that Christ is very near to me every day. It is easy to think of Him as very distant or not recognize His presence as I go about my everyday routines. It is also hard sometimes to experience His love for me on a deeper level. The meditation on the "Image of God" brought me to a new awareness of His humanity and vulnerability as Christ's lifeless body is held tenderly and compassionately in the arms of a human being---His mother, Mary. It made me realize how much Christ longs to hold me, compassionately and gently in His loving arms. Moreover, I felt the Lord bidding me to draw closer to Him. That it was O.K. to be in an intimate relationship with Him, to hold Him and touch Him. After I finished journaling my thoughts and reactions to this aspect of the Pieta, the "Image of God", I sat for some time with the image and was able to visualize myself holding the broken body of Christ. However, the Christ I held in my visualization was not the "sanitized" marble sculpture of the Pieta but rather the bloodied and beaten body of Jesus. I felt at first uncomfortable and did not want to think about it. However, the Spirit was impressing upon my heart and encouraging me to hold onto the image I was seeing and rest in it because this is how close the Lord is to me. The compassionate, merciful image of God that we experience as His children gives us permission to express those feelings and actions towards others, even the Lord Himself. The expression "heaven came down" took on more significance than in the past. God reinforced His nearness to me through an encounter with nature the following day. The Lord often speaks to me through nature. One of the powerful symbols He frequently uses is red-tailed hawks. Many times when I need encouragement I will see one perched on a lamp post, in a tree, or soaring high above. This is God's way of reminding me of His strength and power in the words of Isaiah 40:29-31, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." As I was on my way to work I saw a red-tailed hawk but this time he was on the ground in a field. It was as if God was reminding me not to forget how close He is to me. This powerful and majestic bird came down to be among humanity. God's winged messenger serving as an encouragement my heart.
Glory be to God!