I am a militant introvert. For too long we introverts would get a bad reputation as shy, antisocial and so on. Once I learned that we introverts are just fine as we are, I became militant.
As a militant introvert, I would be drawn to introverted spiritual practices — meditation, journal writing, dream analysis and so on — and would avoid any types of more extraverted spiritual practice. And so it comes as a humbling lesson to realize that some of the most profound spiritual learnings in my life have come through relationships. Spiritually, I apparently have an extraverted leaning.
An image that I have developed of these spiritual learnings is that of a photo scrapbook. On each page of this scrapbook is a snapshot of a person or persons. Someone who taught me a powerful spiritual lesson. Some of the lessons have been simple, some quite profound. I want to share two of them with you and encourage you to develop your own collection of spiritual snapshots.
The first is of our neighbors when I was growing up. Dick and Helen Colman. A few days after my mother died, I was back with my Dad in their apartment one evening. We heard some footsteps on the stairway and my father immediately growled that it was probably a particular relative for whom he didn’t care. There was a knock at the door. It was not that relative. It was Mr. and Mrs. Colman, carrying a plate of food.
They came in, sat with us for a while, laughed over a few stories about my Mom. (Mr. Colman was someone who, along with Jack Benny, could always make my mother laugh), then left. They stayed maybe 30 minutes but their visit was a comfort. After they left, I was reminded of that beautiful line at the end of the film To Kill a Mockingbird: “Neighbors bring flowers for sickness, food for death, and little things in between.” The Colmans visit spoke to simple kindness.
The second snapshot is from a deathbed. A girl we’ll call Anne had been coming to me for help as she faced dying from cancer. We became quite close such that I was called to her home as she lay dying. Her breathing was becoming labored. I noticed that the sun was rising and so said to her “Anne, the sun is rising. This is a good time to go to Jesus.” At that, she sat up suddenly, almost a final roar if you will, then slowly lay back down. Over the next 5 minutes her breaths were fewer and fewer until she died. When she took her last breath, I had a profound sense of something leaving her. Not just life but something more. I believe it might have been her spirit leaving and moving on.
Both these snapshots, when I picture them. continue to speak to me. I am very grateful to the people involved, all humble persons who were teaching me without knowing it.
Reflections: Can you think of any spiritual snapshots that have graced your journey?