"But you, mortal, hear what I say to you.... open your mouth and eat what I give you. I looked and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. ... He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey." -- Ezekiel 2:8 - 3:3
The other day, I was talking to my pastor about a multitude of things over a nice, long lunch. Our conversation began with the topic of prayer, continuing a conversation we had begun earlier, as we tried to put into words our understanding of how God answers prayer. We both acknowledged that sometimes God does not answer our prayers as we would like. Sometimes we ask God to change things for us, and nothing changes. But then we had also both experienced times when we felt God was very close to us, very present in our lives.
My pastor said that perhaps prayer is really a way for us to stay connected with God. And I agreed. That is how I experience prayer. It is for me, more like a conversation, in which my thoughts and concerns are heard, and I am given information, usually in the books I read, that addresses those specific thoughts and concerns, but takes me further, and which guides me to a better understanding of myself, my world, and what I should be doing. "I can't explain it." I said. The connections between my thoughts and the words I find in the books I read happens too often for me to think it is mere coincidence. It's not as if I go looking for answers either, I explained. I wander through a bookstore, usually looking for one specific kind of book, and something else catches my eye, which addresses other, deeper concerns. I have, however, learned to trust these uncanny coincidences, and allow them to guide me.
Our conversation turned to talking about personality types, since I had started reading about it and found the topic immensely intriguing. My husband and I are opposites in many ways, and my hope is that by understanding personality types, I will be able to see the differences between us in a more positive light, as more of a necessary balance than as a battleground. Surprisingly, in a rather circuitous way, this topic led us back to prayer, because I have felt God's continual guidance throughout my marriage, keeping me and my husband committed to loving one another, despite our differences.
My pastor was reminded of a recently-watched movie, "Fools Rush In," in which the main character leaves his bride, who is so different from him, and then experiences a pile of coincidences which continually remind him of his bride and causes him to return to her. I, too, had recently watched a movie, "Deja Vu," in which the main characters experience a series of coincidences that creates a turning point in their lives. And I shared the fact that I believe God brought my husband and I together in a somewhat similar way.
A year before I even met my future husband, I had a dream in which I was handed a picture of a dark-haired young man in a blue suit and tie. In my dream I felt that I was being told that this was the man I was meant to be with, not the one I was engaged to at the time. The dream provided a answer to a hounding question, and I ended my engagement shortly afterward. Towards the end of my freshman year in college, I met the man I would marry. After we had been dating for a few weeks, and before we headed in different directions for the summer, he handed me a copy of his high school senior portrait, taken two years earlier. It was the picture in my dream. Only then did I make the connection, and experience a feeling of deja vu.
After the lunch and great conversation with my pastor, I went to my favorite used bookstore to look in the psychology section for more information about personality types. As I browsed the shelves, I saw a book with an intriguing title: "The Tao of Psychology." On the back cover I read, "Who hasn't experienced that eerie coincidence, that sudden, baffling insight, that occasional flash of extrasensory perception that astonishes? Can these events be dismissed as mere chance, or do they have some deeper significance for us?" And I discovered upon reading a little more that C. G. Jung coined the word "synchronicity" for the unexplained coincidences between thoughts, feelings, visions, or dreams, and external events. The author of this book, Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., draws connections between Jung's theory of synchronicity and Taoism, between right-brain and left-brain personality types, and between the individual and the eternal world.
Dr. Bolen writes, "In the experience of a synchronistic event, instead of feeling ourselves to be separated and isolated entities in a vast world, we feel the connection to others, and the universe at a deep and meaningful level. ... Synchronistic events are the clues that point to the existence of an underlying connecting principle." (pg 23, 36) Jung called that underlying connection the collective unconscious. Dr. Bolen calls it the eternal Tao, and includes within her understanding other names for the eternal Tao, such as Source, the Infinite, the Ineffable, the One, and God, as well as The Way, Meaning, and logos. (pg.3)
Although these synchronistic events are thought to happen quite frequently, our awareness of them varies from person to person. Dr. Bolen supposes that differences between peoples' awareness has to do with personality characteristics, with whether we are more right-brained or left brained. Dr. Bolen also states that such awareness is in large part due to whether you believe such things are possible or not. I wonder if maybe that, too, has to do with personality characteristics.
Despite these different ways of seeing the world, Dr. Bolen states that relying on only one way creates 'blindspots' for each group. We should neither abdicate logical reasoning nor the spiritual dimension. "Because thinking and the five sense perceptions are processed in one cerebral hemisphere and because symbolic, intuitive functions seem to be located in the other, when we consider input from both logical and symbolic sources we can see the whole picture." (pg 48). I was happy to read that logical reasoning, which is my husband's strength, and intuitive understanding, which is mine, provide a necessary balance to one another.
Making one final connection to my thoughts, near the end of her book Dr. Bolen writes, "Prayer evokes the same psychological state of hopeful expectancy. ... The hopeful expectancy that there is 'something' beyond the ego ... that 'something greater' is directly experienced in an intuitively felt way: one then 'knows' the answer, or 'knows' God, or experiences the Tao. ... 'Divine intervention' can take many forms.... A creative solution may emerge from within our minds, or an amazing synchronicity may occur that solves the situation, or a dream may provide direction or the answer may come in meditation (all forms of 'divine intervention'). Depending on the metaphor for this process, an individual may experience this 'divine intervention' either within a religious context or totally without religious reference." However it is perceived, the resulting discovery creates within the individual a profound feeling of joy, or a feeling of grace. (pg 80)
As I read this book, and found so many connections to my earlier conversation with my pastor and my thoughts, I was continually astonished. How else to explain it, but as some sort of divine intervention? What else could lead me to find this particular book? The only way for me to explain it is that some entity beyond me, which I call God, is interested in me, and is taking care of me every step of the way.
Whenever we find such wonder, we must share it. And in that way, the connection continues.
Dear God, thank you once again for showing me how I am connected to you and the world around me. Your word comes to me from many sources and enriches my life beyond measure. It fills me with gratitude and love which must be shared with others to be complete. Love always, Pam