Have you ever had a moment when you experienced an event that felt too designed to be merely a coincidence? Or a time when you just knew that you had received a clear message to your heart’s longing through someone else’s words? Or maybe you have seen a sign that you desperately hoped for and felt a resulting peace that could not be explained? I have had so many Godwinks* that I would not be able to recount them all if I tried. Grief broke me open to seeing them in a way nothing else has.
As my husband was living his last hours in a hospital ICU I had a private conversation with him telling him that I HAD to have a sign that his soul – that our souls – went on. I have always been a person of faith but his impending death rocked me to my very core. I had begged God to save him but it was clear that was not going to be the outcome; if my faith was to remain intact I needed confirmation that I could not miss. He was the skeptic so I felt that if he ensured I received a message I recognized then I could rest in that. The first came within four hours of his death. They continue to come regularly in the form of hearts, hawks and angels who walk right up and say just the thing I need to hear. Yes, I have gotten the message. No, I’m not ready for them to stop.
If you have been following the Wordless Wednesday posts you know that I have been working with my church to provide liturgical art for their Psalm 23 summer sermon series. This week my friend and grief retreat co-leader, Jill Joyner, was scheduled to deliver the sermon so I had to be there to hear her message. But I didn’t expect to have an encounter with an angel.
As in many churches, after the service the Pastor greets members of the congregation. I queued up to give Jill a hug and tell her how proud I am of her. One person after another pulled me out of line or turned my attention just before I could reach Jill. At last it was my turn. Before I could close the three foot gap, Annunciata stepped in.
She commanded the space around us. Her Afrocentric clothing among the Presbyterian highlighted her significance while her petite form belied the power of her presence. Grasping both of Jill’s hands, she spoke with a calm intensity that said, “Pay attention.” I couldn’t look away. “God led me to this church this morning and I didn’t know why until I heard you,” she said. She thanked Jill for leading the way for women in the pulpit and assured her that she is creating the change she wants to see. I cannot do it justice but I felt as if the words from her lips were being spoken not by a flesh and blood mortal but by an angel.
I was honored to witness that moment. Maybe that’s why I was pulled out of line so many times.
Oh, and Annunciata? That name means “annunciation” in Italian and refers to Mary, Jesus’ mother. Having just finished Traveling with Pomegranates the night before where the black Madonna is a central archetypal figure, I was blown away by the synchronicity. In her reflections on Mary’s role in her novels, author Sue Monk Kidd has said:
“I think of the Black Madonna as the White Madonna before the church scrubbed the really interesting stuff out of her. I began to study the Black Madonna, and to travel to her pilgrimage sites, especially in France. I discovered that many of her stories and history reveal a Mary who is openly defiant in the face of oppression.”
Jill is part of the revolution to ordain women in the clergy. I witnessed an affirmation to her to keep going even as resistance persists. But for me…in all honesty I’m still working out the symbolism of this encounter. What message am I meant to take away from it? I don’t know today but I’m confident that in time the pieces of the puzzle will eventually fit together.
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* Godwink – A term coined by author, SQuire Rushnell to describe an event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it could only have come from divine origin.