Okay, so this won’t be about mystical experiences in general, but rather about two very specific ones I’ve had recently. And I’m going to be making myself pretty vulnerable here, so I’ll remind you of a couple ground rules first. This blog is essentially an extension of my home. I have invited you here to sit with me for a while so we can chat. I appreciate honest dialogue and earnest conversation. I will not tolerate someone entering into my home and giving me abuse, profanity, or invective. If you want to make a critical point, that’s fine. If you want to say something mean, spiteful, or hurtful, your comment will be deleted without a second thought (but with, however, a prayer for the hurting in your own heart). That said, here we go.
So. I am a mystic. I’ve known this for years, though it originally had to be pointed out to me. About eight to ten years ago, I had frequent mystical experiences, usually visions or dreamscapes or active imaginations. They were wonderful consolations, and I loved them. Through the deep, dark valleys of depression, those experiences kept me connected to the Divine and to the people I love. In time, the experiences slowed, and then stopped. I mourned their loss, even while knowing this meant that God was setting me free, that God knew I didn’t need them any more, and that it was time to get on with the work of living, without relying on the visions to get me through the sludge. I was perfectly capable. I was equipped for the journey. I could do it, whether I wanted to or not. I don’t want you to think I particularly liked or appreciated this, but I knew it to be true, and even (DAMMIT!) True.
In the last year, I’ve become increasingly involved with a wonderful man. This is the first time in my life I’ve been in a deep and meaningful relationship with a person of faith. He and I have a great deal in common in our spiritual journeys… and a number of places that are different. He’s never walked completely apart from Christianity, as I have a couple times in the past. But it is so amazing to be able to share some of the deepest places of myself, the places that had opened me up for ridicule and abuse in the past.
In the first week of March, I moved out of my (rented) apartment and into a (just purchased) house. My beloved flew down from Canada to help me move, and though it was a frenetically busy few days, it was a wonderful time together. His last night here, we were physically worn out and emotionally raw. Being together is wonderful, and separating again is harder every time. And as I lay in bed in the darkness that night, I felt an overpowering urge to pray for protection for him. Now I tend to pray very generically. I usually just think of the person, perhaps name them, visualize myself holding the person up to the Divine, or see the person standing in the Divine Light. But this was specific and powerful. He needs protection. Pray for protection. So I did.
And as I prayed, I felt a presence in the room. It did not feel like God, like Jesus, but it was strong and powerful. I turned toward the corner behind the bed, and I still am not sure whether I opened my eyes or not. Either way, I saw who it was. It was Michael, the archangel, the defender of heaven, he who is like God. I saw his head, his powerful shoulders. I saw the sword held in front of him, flaming. I’m still not sure whether I saw him with my actual eyes, but some part of me saw him, in my bedroom, watching over my beloved. He nodded his head toward me, and I remember closing my eyes and rolling back over. And I was both comforted at the protection placed over my love, and frightened that he might need that level of protection.
In the morning, this had escaped my memory in the rush to get him packed and to the airport, and then me to my new office (yes, my office moved on the same day my home did). It was only as I sat at my desk, unpacking the boxes, and found my two icons of St. Michael that the memory came rushing back. My love called me from the airport shortly after that, and I told him the story and how powerfully the memory had come back.
So just a few nights ago, my beloved and I were having our nightly tuck-in phone call, and he’d been having a hard day. He was feeling quite grumpy and a bit put-upon, and I sensed again a need to pray for him, but I wasn’t sure exactly what for. Because I expected to be sending energy or doing healing or protective work over him, I asked his permission first. He agreed readily. I took my prayer shawl, the one knitted for me by fellow parishioners to have while my daughter was having surgery, and I gathered it up in my arms. I closed my eyes, and instantly lost touch of my surroundings.
I could see my love lying in his bed, in the dark, the moon shining through the window over the head of his bed. I saw golden light shining all around him, the Divine Light flowing in and around and through him, gathering any darkness from within him and gently releasing it to flow into the earth. And as I took in this image of my love, enveloped in the Divine, I became aware of two presences. Neither was the presence I know to be Jesus; neither was the presence I associate with the Creator; however, one was somewhat familiar. I began to see St. Michael again, standing behind my love’s right shoulder, holding his fiery sword and watching over him. The warrior was back, to protect my beloved from the darkness, and I nodded to show him respect and gratitude. His expression changed, in a quick flash, and I am not sure whether it was a smile, a wink, or a simple nod of the head in return. But the archangel saw me, knew me to be there, and knew that I had asked for his help.
The second presence was not one I had encountered before. It was another being of immense power, but not warrior-guardian-protector power, like that of Michael. Instead, I felt an outpouring of love, of peace, of healing energy. And back somewhere else, I felt tears on my cheeks as I described to my beloved on the phone the amazing presence in his bedroom of the Archangel Raphael. I did not “see” Raphael as I saw Michael; I just knew him to be there. I described to my love the golden light surrounding him, flowing into him and through him. I described to him the protector who was watching over him and the flaming sword that would destroy any evil that dared to enter his home. I described to him the healer who was there to soothe his heart and mind and body, to bring him into wholeness and peace.
As the words faded, the vision remained in my – eyes? mind? heart? soul? – for a short time, and then it began to fade, too. And my love and I were left in the silence, hearing only each other’s breathing, and probably suspecting that both of us had tears on our cheeks. Gradually I became aware of my arms wrapped tightly around the prayer shawl, of its softness against my chest and neck. I became aware that my eyes were still closed, and I opened them to the light of my bedroom again. I was a little bit surprised not to see St. Michael standing there, in the corner behind the bed where I’d seen him a few months before. And yet, I did still feel a part of the angels’ presences in me, carried back to me from the bedroom of my beloved, more than six hundred miles from here. Somehow, we each found our voices again, and were able to speak a very little about what we had just shared. And then we bid each other good night, and I turned off my light, and we each closed our eyes for the night.
Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause
– seemed already to have been answered. And though I do not have it memorized, I was reminded of the other psalm traditionally used in the office of Compline, Psalm 91.
Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,
There shall no evil happen to you,
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over you,
to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you in their hands,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
And I knew then, with complete certainty, I have made God my refuge. I do live in the heart of the Divine One. While I know that there is complexity in life – there are storms and chaos and conflict and tumult, and there are evil things and plagues and stones – I know that by giving myself over to the Divine in this way, God honours this gift by caring for me, by answering me when I call, by setting me free when I am hard-pressed, by hearing my prayer, to gathering me in God’s wings, to filling my heart with gladness, to making me dwell in safety.
Later, I knew another thing.
I knew that my beloved had done the same.
I’m still not entirely sure what this means, but I know it’s significant. It’s important. It is big and bright and wonderful. And it will make all the difference in the world for us as we make our way together in the future.
So. Those are the two experiences, the two visions I have been blessed with this year. In contemplating them, I was so touched and honoured to receive an experience like this from God again. And I realized what a blessing it is that these visions were not a blessing for me; rather, they had merely been sent through me, being intended for someone else. I do not mind being a conduit for the Divine. The experience of having God work through me has been a very powerful one, especially when it comes to setting myself aside to accommodate God’s will and God’s energy. I am still pondering in my heart what it means to be blessed with visions again, particularly with visions for others. The world thinks mystics are crazy, and we are, a bit. So I’m reluctant to share too much, in the wrong circles.
Meanwhile, I go on, sleeping and working and eating and praying. Listening for the still, small voice. Looking for God in places expected and not. Loving people, even the ones who are hard to like. And isn’t that what Jesus told us to do?