Thomas Merton talking about John of the Cross says:
"We are open to God and his mercy in the inscrutable future
and our trust is entirely on his grace
which will support our liberty in the emptiness
where we will confront unforeseen decisions."
This quote is a good indicator of what this seven year period would hold.
I was still fully involved in the spiritual formation courses at BCNZ and continuing to write regularly for Reality magazine and for Scripture Union materials.
|Me as Spanish dancer, Marie as Santa, Bev, Margaret and Barb...?|
|Lee as Sheriff|
Behind the scenes I was feeling a a lot of self doubt about where I was heading, a kind of "dark night" of "unknowing". I wrote in my journal that I sensed that "the pillar of fire had moved" but I wasn't sure where it was leading me. Certainly it felt like "an inscrutable future".
|Me standing on the edge of an unknown future.|
|Anthea, Chris, Sheila, David, Julie, Margaret one Christmas at my Waimumu Rd house.|
Anthea and I were tossing around the idea of pooling resources and setting up some kind of small retreat place where we would live onsite and offer spiritual direction and retreats. We used to meet each Wednesday evening for prayer and some focus for sharing. On June 12th our discussion/exercise had been: "What would you like people to say at your funeral?" I still have what I wrote. The next day I collapsed at BCNZ with a brain aneurysm. The funeral could have been sooner than we expected!
I was in hospital for three weeks and the aneurysm was successfully "clipped" which was the best outcome. But the uncertain ten days before it was decided if surgery was possible, were testing. It was a time to "trust entirely on his grace". The Bible College community, the Ponsonby Baptist community and dozens of other friends and acquaintances prayed and sent cards and messages of support. I was overwhelmed with love and prayer and mostly felt quite calm. The night before surgery was the time I felt most vulnerable as I looked straight at the reality that I might not survive the surgery or could come out with a stroke or other brain damage. I remember feeling I was staring down a totally black tunnel with no sense of any light at the end. Wonderfully (as of November 2019) I have lived 23 years since then with no ongoing after effects.
With rather amazing timing I was due for three months study leave over the next academic term so I could recover at home with no disruption to my BCNZ classes as that had already been arranged.
During those three months I wrote two TEE (Theological Education by Extension) courses on spiritual formation.
The highlight of Christmas 1996 was that I could start driving again! Six months without driving after my surgery was a lesson in itself. I saw women with young children struggling onto buses, older people carrying bags of groceries a long way home. I had to learn to carry my own groceries home on the bus! I saw my privileged life with new eyes. (And of course I had several friends who drove me to places I needed to go!)
In 1997 I began working only 50% at BCNZ to allow my spiritual direction and retreat work to grow. Most people (understandably) thought this was because of my aneurysm but actually it was a decision based on my gradual transition away from working full-time at the college to see if I could sustain self-employment.
In 1998 and 1999 I completed two years of Psychosynthesis training. This was very helpful personally and professionally. Ongoing personal therapy was required as part of the training and this was very helpful as my "dark night" continued. My spiritual director at the time was "just right" for me too. I was, and am, grateful for a lot of support and help during these quite difficult years.
Anthea and I had continued to explore the joint retreat centre idea but so far with no success. We had several disappointments in terms of both possible financial support and finding a suitable property. We moderated our vision to simply look for a house with a flat where we could accommodate one person on retreat at a time. But even that was harder than we expected. I put my Waimumu Rd house on the market while we were house hunting. The market seemed very slow and there were many weeks of not much interest. My stress levels were high! Eventually I sold it below the GV to the only person who put in an offer.
After months of looking for a property in West Auckland we decided to try the North Shore although we expected that to be out of our range. The house we bought in Torbay had no flat and didn't "tick all the boxes" for our vision. But somehow it felt amazingly "right" and we moved in in June 1999.
|42a Toroa St, Torbay. "The Lighthouse"|
|Anthea on a street below our house. Ours is the grey house above the green roof.|
At the end of 1999 I finally left my faculty role at BCNZ. One farewell from students and another from faculty and staff marked the completion of 20 very significant years for me - and for the college.
|A huge card with many wonderful messages written inside. |
(Where did they get all those photos!)
So 2000 - a new millennium, a new house, my first time owning and sharing a house with someone, my first year fully self-employed. There was much joy and many challenges. My spiritual direction and supervision work grew. I offered retreats and programmes via the Spiritual Growth Ministry programme. Our house had a suitable downstairs room where I could see clients and walking distance away was Arjay House, a small retreat centre we could use! So God's "mercy in the inscrutable future" was evident. Anthea had her own private practice in a separate location and we were (and are) very grateful for our compatibility and shared sense of God as the "Divine Third" in our relationship and in our home. (A quote from the little book God Calling: "...when those who visit you will know that I am the Divine Third in your friendship".)
2001 was, of course, the year of the Twin Towers destruction. It happened while I was at the Spiritual Directors' Conference in Waikanae. We all stared in unbelieving horror as did so many people around the world. Together at the conference we prayed for those directly affected and for wisdom in whatever part we individually and collectively might play in the world that seemed to change that day.
My own journey continued with a lot of reading and exploring an increasingly more inclusive framework than the "conservative evangelical" one I had been brought up in. I'm not sure when I began using the term Concentric Circles as a very helpful paradigm. If you click "About this Blog" the top of this post you will see why I chose this name. I am grateful for every part of my upbringing and my Christian development. I don't reject or dismiss any of it. The Ken Wilber phrase "include and transcend" continues to express my evolving journey.
This quote from my journal on 31st December 2001 is not only my summary of that year but could stand as a summary of these seven years:
“I have taken you by the hand and kept you” Isa 42:6. That sums up my year with so many shades and colours. Overall a year I feel has been happy and for which I am so grateful. Yet as I read my journal I remember that there have been many weeks and months of difficult things... yet through all this you have taken me by the hand and kept me. ... Thank you that day by day my overall feeling has been one of gratitude and trust – even when tested. ”