3. The Relational Presence of the Guide
The presence of Andrea as guide
I have noted down some more of my noticing about the relational presence Andrea offers to Carol. You are invited to do the same.
Some of my noticing about Andrea’s, presence.
Noticing my inner responses to the relational presence of Andrea as a companion.
I experienced coming into a relational presence—drawing alongside of an open, receptive and gentle heart that very quickly offered me a welcoming, warm, safe, non-judgmental relational space, which was free of fear.
Though there was a lot happening—in my worried and anxiety-filled story—it was still for me an ambience of rest. If I was in a boat tossed around by heavy seas, I had come into a safe harbour.
The harbour was also a place of restoration.
I experienced a great depth and power of love that was restorative to my soul.
A conversation with Andrea about her “presence”
Author: Andrea, I could not help but notice the way you fully opened yourself and your heart to Carol and to her distress. How did you learn to do that?
Andrea: It is kind of you to say that. An open and receptive heart is most important to me. You are asking me to reflect on a part of my companioning work that might hopefully become second nature to me, but not quite. There is certainly a lot of practice in it. But even after much practice, I could still feel myself holding back; holding a reserve and keeping a distance from the pilgrim. It was about that time I began to realize that Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth—who was so important to what I had considered as my faith journey, was also a great shepherd, guide, and companion. Somehow he began to dissolve the artificial boundary I had established between my faith and my companioning of pilgrims. (Andrea paused as if to reflect on what she had just said).
Author: Could you say a little about him dissolving that boundary?
Andrea: Yes! As you ask that question it becomes quite vivid to me again. I had been reflecting on the passage in Matthew 11, when he says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” It was as if he was saying to me: “Andrea, I want you to do that with all of the pilgrims you are journeying with!”
Author: He was inviting you to offer his “Come” and “His rest” to pilgrims! What happen to you as you received that invitation?
Andrea: I think I protested that that might be a lot to ask!
Author: As you protested, what did you notice happening?
Andrea: He was surprisingly patient with me. (Andrea smiled). A few days later I was reflecting on the story of how people bring a blind man to him begging him to touch him. Jesus took the man by the hand and led him out of the village, put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him. He then asked: “Can you see anything?” The man looks up and responds: “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” So Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes again. The man then looked really intently and was able to see everything clearly. His sight was fully restored. Jesus sends him home, saying: “Do not even go into the village.” (Andrea paused as the memory of that story came back to her).
Author: What happened to you as you reflected on that story, Andrea?
Andrea: At first I imagined myself as the blind man being taken by hand and led. Then I could sense that Jesus was somehow going to show me how to see—how to see more clearly his way of companioning. It wasn’t going to happen all at once, and at first it was a bit like those “trees, walking.” He was inviting me to journey with him as if I was one of the disciples by entering fully into the gospel stories as if my companioning, and indeed my life, depended on them, which I soon came to realize that they do. I began to experience how his, “Come unto me . . .” involved a self-giving, other-receiving and sacrificial love; the type of love that flows out from the Persons of the Trinity through Jesus to us, with all of its reciprocity, surrender, relinquishment, forgiveness, and longing for our healing and wholeness. (Andrea again paused, and as she began to speak again there was emotion in her voice). And Jesus was inviting me to become part of that flow of love, to place all of myself in the service of the pilgrims, and to reflect his presence to them.
Author: You were invited to be part of his flow of love and to reflect his presence.
Author: You also said it didn’t happen all at once.
Andrea: That’s right. It was only recently that I returned to the story of the blind man and experienced being led out of the village again by Jesus. This time I was shown more. I was standing among the disciples. It was a glimpse into what Jesus was doing, and how, in every move he was making he was inaugurating the kingdom—the reign of God—which was breaking through into human experience, with its justice and mercy, amazing healing energy and its pockets of passionate loyalty, as well as with its counter-movements and opposition. This is what he was giving his life for. The new “sight”—the clear sight, was that he was asking me to join with him in this task and to give all of myself to it; to give all of myself while participating in the flow of love he was opening to me and to the pilgrims he asks me to journey with.
Author: Could you say a little more about Jesus inviting you to join him in this task and to be part of this flow of Trinitarian love!
Andrea: I know I have been speaking about that, though as I hear your question it is rather big. How can I come at that? (Andrea fell silent and looked downward. When she looked up there was a real sparkle in her eye).
I hope this is not a digression, but I once had this dream that I was a poor orphan child living amongst squalor, violence, and prostitution. There was very little love, and even then, it was closer to exploitation and abuse. Everything was grimy and my clothes were in tatters. In fact, everything was the shade of grey and there was very little light or color. There was one very old but kindly woman who seemed to be my only source of comfort, trust and warmth. Her only income came from cleaning the porch of one of the bigger homes on the other side of town. One day when I was feeling very alone and dejected she invited me to accompany her to her place of employment, pushing aside my protest that if people saw me in my rags they might spit on me. “We go very early, just before dawn,” she assured me, “and there is hardly anyone about.”
The outside of the house was simple yet, as the sun began to shine through the early morning mist, I could see it was brightly painted and well maintained. There was none of the peeling and faded paint with which I was familiar. I did my best to be invisible—an art in which I was very skilled—while the old woman brushed and scrubbed the front pathway and steps. All was well until the front door opened and a girl of my own age appeared. She had long golden hair which was gathered into a pony tail by a white ribbon, a simple white dress and red shoes. Her fair complexion, her rosy cheeks and her sparkling blue eyes reflected a beauty that she might yet become. As she trod carefully on the still wet steps she gestured a welcome to the old lady and then began to help her gather up her cleaning things indicating it was time to go inside. When the old woman pointed in my direction, I was mortified and drew as far back into my invisibility as I could. But the girl had her hand stretched out as if to seek mine own, and conscious as I was of my filthy state, I could not resist her. She drew us inside the house and, as the old woman continued her work in the porch, this child continued to hold my hand to show me around the house just as if I were her newest and most cherished playmate. She appeared completely oblivious to my poverty and lowly estate.
The beauty of this dwelling took my breath away, and the love I experienced in this visit ignited something within me which I didn’t know I had. All I know is that as I returned home with the old woman I began to see things differently. I began to see color where I had only seen black and grey. I saw little eddies of kindness around the thieves, the pimps, and the prostitutes, and I would find flowers and pretty pictures that I could place around the peeling paint and, little-by-little the squalor lost its power over me.
The more I visited the house with the old woman, and always received the same welcome, I began to notice more things about myself. My eyes were also blue. When I really took the time to wash my face my complexion was fair and my cheeks ruddy. When I finally took the courage to tackle my matted and filthy hair and comb it out each day I found, to my delight, it was golden. The old woman found a white ribbon to gather it up. I even found some red paint to restore my scuffed shoes. But the greatest surprise was when I reached out my hand to filthy urchins and other around me, a hand would gradually and tentatively move out from a cocoon of dejection and shame in the direction of my own. If I waited patiently, eyes would raise up to meet mine and a beautiful smile would begin to form.
(Andrea paused as if lost within the dream—within the story—she had just told).
Author: (I had been deeply moved by what I had heard, and so was content to wait until Andrea looked up). What do you notice, Andrea, has begun to happen to you as you share this dream?
Andrea: That a desire has been ignited deep within me not only to visit, but to dwell in the house of the Lord, to daily seek to behold His beauty, to experience His life-giving and heart-transforming love, and to reach out my hand to others just as he has done for me. This is the invitation! This is the gift!
Author: The invitation and the gift! The hand reaching out!
Andrea: It’s the “Come to me. . .” It’s the invitation of the old woman and the open hand of the young girl. The tender summons of this dream draws me closer to the gentleness, humility and integrity of Jesus’ heart, to be shaped and formed through this ever deepening relationship! This is so different from earning merit points in some supposed “school of love.” There is a spaciousness in which I can discover the inner beauty which reflects the image and likeness of my Creator; discovering my own inner beauty, and the beauty of others. Within this love I become more open and receptive to what is within and around me. I am able to wash my face and comb my hair. The transforming power of this love is gradually removing the distractions and clutter, and that is still a work in progress!
(After a long pause). If I come back to your earlier question, it is an invitation to encounter a beauty and to step into a flow of love that was far greater than my own—a little bit like my tiny stream that has been bubbling away on its own suddenly joining a magnificent river—and to be part of that greater flow and to embody and reflect the love and the beauty I have been invited into.
Author: And the hand reaching out.
Andrea: Exactly! Embodying and reflecting the love I have experienced is to become involved in Jesus’ restorative purposes—the breaking through of his kingdom life within and around pilgrims. It is to open a relationship space in which his, “Come to me. . .” can come closer to a reality for the pilgrim, where they can experience rest; even rest for their souls.
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 Matthew 11: 28, NRSV.
 Mark 8: 22 – 26, NRVS.
 The self-giving and other-receiving love that Jesus invites Andrea into is the love that flows endlessly between the Persons of the Trinity. Miroslav Volf. Exclusion & Embrace. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996.
 N.T. Wright. Mark for Everyone. Westminster: SPCK, 2001, 109.
 Mathew 11: 28-30.
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