A Link in the Chain to the Big Holy
In February I dreamed that Hillary and I were living in the home my family built and occupied when I was an adolescent in a small Missouri farm town. It was right next door to my grandparent’s house. In the dream Hillary and I were welcoming our friends from Budapest who had flown over to visit us. We led Agnes, Dezsoe, and nine year old Bruno to my sister’s former room and placed their luggage there. I then told them that I was excited to introduce them to my grandmother Doe. She was sitting in a big upholstered chair in the living room, surrounded by many of the church people she had known over the years. Doe was a preacher’s wife who played the piano, sang in the choir, and taught Sunday School.
Over the years since she passed I dreamed of her in numerous spiritual classroom visits, including a special time in her old kitchen where she chopped up vegetables and arranged them to appear as the musical notes of the hymn she loved, “In the Garden.” Moved by the report of that previous dream, Dezsoe made an artwork of chopped vegetables that recreated the same music (see below). Now I was introducing Dezsoe and his family to Doe.
My grandmother smiled and giggled with joy as she met our special friends and welcomed them to our family. She was very happy to meet the man who had brought her vegetables into the spiritual musical garden. We then listened to the church people standing around her share stories about Doe’s spiritual life. One person said, “She was born to lead people to God. She was made for it.” Another elder replied, “She went straight to the point and wasted no time telling others what they needed to do once they had decided to live a spiritual life.” I was so overcome with admiration and love for her that I wanted to discuss all this with Hillary and determine what implications Doe’s way of spiritual teaching might have for how we teach Sacred Ecstatics.
I noticed that Hillary had left the house and walked next door to where my grandparents lived their final years. I ran over there and found Hillary in Doe’s bedroom. As I shared what had been said about Doe’s spiritual life and teaching, I began to weep. I remembered how loved she was by church members. When she was in her eighties every age group at the church wanted her to be their Sunday School teacher. Unable to decide which class she should teach, the church voted to have her teach everyone in one big class held in the church sanctuary.
I discussed with Hillary how folks of every age and level of education were drawn to Doe because her faith was so strong and sweet that she glowed. When she spoke it was comforting and assuring to all. Her faith was the kind I later found in church mothers in the Caribbean and the women n/om-kxaosi (Bushman doctors) of the Kalahari. In my younger years Doe and my grandfather were my main reference point for spiritual truth, wisdom maturity, and holy power. If someone’s spiritual talk and action did not resonate with the emotion that my grandparent’s spirituality stirred in me, I paid little to no attention to it. Early on I was given a means of discerning whether God’s love was in the air based on what it felt like to be around my grandparents at home or in church.
Still weeping in the dream, I told Hillary that everyone comes to know God through having a close relationship with someone else who is close to God. My closeness to the divine is mediated and made possible by my relationship to my grandparents. Their ropes to God are inseparable from my rope to God.
At the end of the dream I heard a voice say to Hillary and I: “This is what it means for a Bushman to be carried on the back of another doctor or elder.” This is a saying I heard from Bushman elders over the years while visiting numerous Kalahari villages. Each Bushman holds onto another ancestor or teacher to form a link in the chain or strand in the rope to God. Similarly, in India a traditional guru is meant to serve the same function—a teacher’s connection to God provides a shared bridge for a student until his or her own relationship becomes well formed and strong. Preachers and teachers of all religions perform this function. Like the Bushman hunters of God’s n/om, you can hold onto the living relationships that transcend time and space, connecting you one ancestor to another all the way back to the Creator. This chain of love can help guide you through each day, making earth as it is in heaven.
You find your way to the divine through your relationship with others who are close to divinity. It can be no other way because there is no divinity separate from humanity. It is the relationship between divinity and humanity, spirit and flesh, and the sacred and profane that is holy. You experience God through dancing on the back of your ancestors, grandparents, family, friends, and all the teachers who love the originating source and force of creation. Remember that you, too, are a strand of the rope connecting earth to heaven. Someday you will also be an ancestor, and in the eternity of First Creation time you already are. Ask yourself if you are doing all you can do to be a good bridge or link in the chain that helps all your relations come closer to the Big Holy. We invite you to find the divine through relating rather than soloing. Relationship is the sacred ship that carries everyone home.
-Bradford Keeney with Hillary Keeney. March 4, 2018.