Romancing The Divine - One Chapter at a Time!
Well, two chapters this time, as they are rather short . My recent sharing of a chapter from this devotional memoir received lots of encouragement, so I will be sharing a chapter or two at a time. The book was self-published a few years ago, and I've not promoted it, but am feeling prompted to now. For those drawn to the devotional path, you will find stories of saints and miracles - and lessons learned along the way. Enjoy!
(copyright, Michael Henry Dunn, 2021, all rights reserved)
Chapter One – The Elusive Lover
My heart broke quite badly once, and I almost became a monk. I'd walked out on a treacherous limb for the wrong woman, and after it snapped cruelly, that mysterious longing emerged again, whispering of healing and hope. A family friend had a brother who was the abbot of a Trappist monastery in Iowa, and I almost surrendered my unfettered existence as a young actor for a life of silence, prayer, and hard work.
But I wanted to believe that I could assuage that unignorable spiritual longing, and still love a woman. I wanted to believe that the thrills of the body and the joys of the heart could still leave room for the bliss of the soul. Though the lovely delusion of a soul mate had been shattered (for a time), the hope of union with the one I still hesitated to call "God" would not go away.
In later years, the once unthinkable names of ‚Goddess‛ and "Beloved‛ would fill my heart’s prayers, but those days were a long way off.
An elderly nun laughed at me once, when I told her I couldn’t make this hope for union with Source go away, and couldn’t understand where it came from. But her laughter was light and sympathetic, and then she sighed, "Yes, there is no understanding it."
Now I am past the half-century mark, and I no longer try to understand or explain away this need to be in love with the Goddess who is God. Now She is as real to me as the desk at which I write. And though I would hover at the edge of monastic life for the better part of two decades, and though I would walk with saints and experience miracles, still I'm a man in the world, and I couldn't help loving Her in the human forms in which She came to me, in those two long marriages which I treasure and regret.
When these pages began to appear, a friend warned me that if words of divine love start to pour through you to share with others, you must look to be severely tested, and soon, on those themes of which you presume to speak. While the warning soon proved true, I didn't imagine that it would feel like a death, that I would experience cruelty, and also be called cruel, all in the name of loving Her in truth.
But at least I can now speak of the soul's dark night in something more than an academic sense. And at least now no one will mistake me for a saint. Or, if I become one through Her grace some day, I can serve as an encouragement to flawed and ardent lovers, an example for clucking tongues to say, "See! Even that fellow turned out well enough in the end!"
So I make no claim to a special grace or dispensation that qualifies me to share these stories. But neither am I an especially spectacular sinner. For reasons that remain mysterious to me, I have been blessed with a terrible thirst to know Her, and with years in the company of some few great souls who knew Her intimately.
And I’ve been blessed (or cursed) with that storytelling compulsion of which Lincoln said, "I must tell these stories<or go mad."
Chapter Two – A Simple Practice of Love
I heard a monk say once that he wanted to learn to listen well to others. His duties called for much counseling, and he found his attention wandering as hearts were poured out to him, found judgments creeping in as confessions were made to him. And so he came upon a simple practice which he shared with us. While looking into their eyes as they spoke, he mentally, silently, sincerely, and continuously affirmed the words, "I love you."
Silently. Sincerely. While listening.
And he found that everything changed. The beauty in their faces became clear to him, the air in the room subtly tingled with a higher vibration, their irritating quirks faded from his view (or became endearing foibles) and he could see a faint anxiety gradually vanish from their expressions - anxiety that had sprung from the half-conscious awareness that he hadn't really been listening to them. Now they felt heard, listened to, cared for. And the simple experience of talking with him suddenly had a healing dynamic of its own, unrelated to any counsel he offered or breakthroughs they achieved. All due to the silent power of those unspoken but deeply affirmed words.
I found it to be so as well. I began to experiment. At a restaurant, I turned to a middle-aged waitress, my eyes no doubt shining with the love I had been silently affirming to her, and she gave a visible start upon seeing the love in my eyes - not used to such expressions from her customers! And I found that my experience of that love was sincere - it was not a technique or a trick. By the sincere and deep affirmation of that phrase as I gazed at her, her inherent spiritual beauty became apparent to me, and my desire for her well-being became palpable to me - and so she saw it and felt it. And I ordered my food, and all was normal - but the encounter was uplifted, and joy had been generated.
"I love you..."
Man to woman, mother to child, friend to friend, they are the words we all long to hear. They express the reality we all long to experience.
Why do we not think that God longs to hear them as well?
(Chapters 3 and 4 coming soon! Meantime, go ahead to Amazon if you'd like the whole story!)