by Theresa Newell
The kingdom of heaven is like an elderly woman who, being hospitalized, found out she has a health condition that will prevent her from living independently again. She grieves for all that she will lose—her house, her independence, and her collections of things she loved—furniture, paintings, her car—everything. Then she remembers that her creator is radically loving and wants the best for her. Thus understanding that even this will somehow turn to good, she prays for acceptance. From her choice to accept, things change. She discovers that in giving away her possessions, she finds hidden blessings, like a pearl hidden in a field.
Unlike someone whose possessions are given away after death, she gets to see people enjoy those things that had been so precious to her. She will tell them the stories, the memories, that accompany each gift, and listen to the appreciation and joy the gifts give to her friends and family. She gets the pleasure of sharing. Those things that family and friends do not take, she will give to other people, people who are in need – just like the king who opened the wedding banquet to people from the street. She will be able to watch the ripple effects of her giving.
Her friends listen to her joy and are amazed. “Is this not our friend who has lost everything? She is searching for an Adult Family Home and, but as of yet, has no place to lay her head. Here she is, with her loss, taking pleasure in our joy.” The friends love her all the more. They want to understand this love, this joy that does not depend on external circumstance. The woman gets more attention, more questions, more love than ever before. And her joy, initially the size of a mustard seed, increases and gives life to many.
The woman shares how she is accomplishing all this through prayer, acceptance and trust in the Creator who she remembers wants only the best for her. She shares her wisdom and her graces. With the sharing, the blessings grow even more.
This woman’s acceptance is so great that it overcomes fear—fear of having to move into a “group home,” of not having any of her comfortable things again, and of being dependent on others. Overcoming fear and hiding brings this woman further to a place that she can give freely and can be fully known—a place that is so honest and real that it is attractive to others. In her vulnerability, love rushes in. Others are drawn into a relationship, a unity, that means this woman will never be alone.
The early church fathers used the term “perichoresis” to describe such a relationship in the Trinity. This woman accepted participation in this same indwelling and mutually dependent relationship. We are all invited in.
The kingdom of heaven is like an elderly woman who cannot (or will not?) live independently again.
Theresa Newell is a hospital chaplain, a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Olympia, a wife, and a mother to mostly grown foster, adopted and biological children. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, the youngest of her children, and her Great Dane.