It’s been a really busy Summer but I did manage to get 10 days in the sun on the island of Mallorca. My favourite thing when I’m holiday is to spend hours in the sea. I don’t so much swim as just sort of float about. But for me, this is actually a spiritual experience! I feel really close to God when I am far out at sea, distant from everyone else, allowing the waves to carry me where they will. As I am buoyed up by the salt water, rising and falling with the tide, I feel held. Yet at the same time I am totally free to go where I want and to explore the limits of the distant horizon, as well as of my own strength and tenacity.
As I reflected, I began to realise that all good and healthy relationships are like this. They hold us and affirm us as we are, while at the same time making the space for us to change, develop and try new things. I find this insight a real challenge.
One of the things that I have become aware of through my counselling is a debilitating fear of disconnection. When it gets triggered, I observe how I shut off from relationship before either I irreparably hurt those I care about or they reject me. It leads to depression. I work incredibly hard both to contain all potentially destructive emotions and simultaneously push everyone away. I go into the pit. It feels as though I am totally alone and have nothing worth living for. I imagine myself like Job sitting amongst the ruins of his life, scraping away at his sores. But I have done it to myself! I have isolated from everything I love and all that gives me meaning and purpose. Everything I feared has come upon me. Yet from the outside nothing whatsoever has changed!
So I am practicing staying connected even when I’m not in physical contact. I visualise my friends and remember what I enjoy about them when they come into my mind. I wonder what they’re doing and acknowledge to myself how much I miss them. I think of all the things I’m looking forward to sharing with them when I see them next. I’m also endeavouring to risk expressing negative emotions and trusting those I love to help me work through them rather than choosing to isolate for fear of rejection. It’s really hard and I make mistakes. But then it’s been 42 years relying on these destructive defence mechanisms so it’s going to take some time to create and reinforce new and better ones.
As God holds me through this process, I’m reminded She created us for relationship and exists to be in relationship. We love because God first loved us. So as I give myself to the sea, I give myself afresh to know Her love that I, in turn, might share what I have received. I will seek to model what it is to hold on to what is good, while allowing the freedom for each of us to become more authentically the unique creation we’ve been fashioned into. That is what spiritual experiences give us – fresh revelation of the divine, new insight into how much we’re loved and greater wisdom as to how to live well. Isn’t it wonderful that they can happen anywhere and at anytime? Even in the midst of the holiday season, when floating somewhere just off the coast of Mallorca!