God’s Image MLK one more time
“Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation who hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every person and see deep down within what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love in spite of. No matter what the person does, you see God’s image there.”
Martin Luther King Jr., “Loving Your Enemies” , sermon at Dexter Ave Baptist Church 1957
Trying to see the face in God in others can be an almost constant exercise we can do anytime, anywhere, like saying the Jesus prayer, to help us realize our connection to God. We can sit quietly for a few minutes or longer and just remember, bring to mind the faces of people who taught us unconditional love. Then we can remember the unexpected, surprise glimpses of God we saw in people we barely knew or briefly met. Finally, we can mediate on the people we had written off we thought we never would be able to see God within, people who destructively criticize us who only seem to be find faults in us, or publically humiliate us, or sabotage our work, or make clever sarcastic insults, or verbally abuse us. Subtly ever so briefly without warning they open a small attic or basement window within themselves for us to see the light of Christ within. We are following Anthony De Mello’s meditative practice of keeping a photograph album of sacred memories and bringing them back to mind. Each of these meditative exercises can change our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. I cannot explain it, but as we see God in others, the God within them opens a window to the God within us. Sometimes that God we see within them comes into us through a huge bay window and sometimes a small decorative window over the door to our inner life. The light of God in each other in such an encounter can keep reflecting back and forth as happened in Mary’s visit to her relative, Elizabeth, when Mary finally bursts forth in the gospel of Luke with the Magnificat, “My soul declares the greatest of the Lord”…..
“Stick with the winners” is one of AA’s quotes to lead people into recovery. The quote is also helpful in trying to see God. We can meet regularly with a person or group where it is easy to connect with the God within each other, such as spiritual friends, a 12-step group, a dream group, or a book group, or a spiritual director.
I have found one place I go every week where I find the face of God. It is at the food pantry at our church. I sit and talk to the people who come in, have a cup of coffee with them, just ask them how they are doing and let them know they are in our prayers. Almost every person tells me how blessed their life is. It is a holy place They who have so little material things are giving spiritual food to us who are in need of their faith and gratitude and their connection to God which often illuminates the whole room.
On the other hand, whenever we sit with someone with whom we are having difficulty, hoping to stay focused if possible, we can try with all our might to see the God within them. Often this window opens through a wound they inadvertently let us see. That small basement window they share can change everything in our relationship. We also can imagine Jesus taking us by the hand and then taking the person we are having difficulty with and walking with both of us to a quiet place. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if we were kneeling together at an altar to receive communion.
It is helpful for spiritual friends to share how practices such as these have helped them or have not been helpful. Let me know what helps you.
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