I saw myself in a small fishing boat, the sea raging around me. Waves crashed into the sides of the boat, water leaping inside. The wind blowing the boat further out into the sea — my paddles were useless. Jesus appeared and the wind kept blowing, but the waters turned eerily calm and flat. The thick, grey clouds parted and the sun shown through a small opening. It bathed me in its rays, even as the clouds remained and the winds kept raging.
I then saw myself around a campfire at that time before dawn when it is the most cold and dark. The sky overhead filled with stars. Trees rising to the sky around my small clearing — their trunks and branches blocking my ability to see beyond my small space in the forest. Creator was the sun, peeking over the horizon. Even before I could see it, the sky above and the air around me becoming ever lighter, ever warmer. Jesus sat in front of me taking my worries in his hands. Mary, who was the wisdom of Spirit, held me. They told me they would protect me no matter what happened. I recalled the indigenous healing ceremony in Bogota, at a time when I felt more alone in this world than I ever have, hearing God’s voice tell me “You are not alone. I am with you.” God, the Spirit, surrounded me, embedded in the earth; I felt serene and calm.
I’ve always been a little jealous of mystics and their visions. I want Creator to send me these messages. I’m in awe of Peter and his unbidden vision reported in the Book of Acts. He saw a sheet descending from the sky, lowered by its four corners, filled with animals. A voice commanded him to eat them. He refused. Some of the animals were “unclean” and he had never violated the Deuteronomic dietary laws and eaten of such animals. But the voice, which he called Lord, told him, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” He heard this voice repeat three times and then the sheet with the animals was taken back up into heaven.
Cornelius, an Italian centurion, had his own vision during prayer, telling him to send his messengers to retrieve Peter who would have a message for him. When the messengers arrived, Peter heard a voice telling him to go with them. When Peter arrived, he started to speak to Cornelius and the gathered group. As he spoke, he saw the Holy Spirit fall on the group gathered.
With these visions and this experience, the Jesus Way came to the Gentiles. Conflict around the inclusion of the Gentiles would come later. But at this first foray, Peter’s vision and the command to not make what God had made clean, profane, convinced Peter’s fellow apostles and believers that God had made the Gentiles clean. So they welcomed them into the fold.
The images called forth in my imagination are beautiful and comforting. Even meaningful. But even here I compare what I’m seeing to others. I wouldn’t call them “visions” because they aren’t unbidden in the way that Peter’s vision was. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises guide me down a path. Most days I find it difficult to give free reign to Spirit in my imagination. On occasion I’m surprised by what arises when I am able to let go and wait on what God has to show me. I also tend to downplay them because they are not messages that will change the course of history. Instead, they are overwhelmingly images comforting me, telling me to stop worrying.
Yet I share these images here because maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these images are “visions” and maybe they will change history. Not in the direct way of Peter’s vision. Yet, in the act of sharing them with the world, I am having to be vulnerable in a new way. I am making my faith and my spiritual practice public, knowing that the vast majority will not only not be interested, but repulsed. I’m fighting the urge to write in a way that hides what I’m experiencing, thinking, and feeling. I’m laid bare. Who knows where that could lead?