Clowning in Rome
Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation
By Henri J.M. Nouwen © 1979
Interspersed with comments and bold highlighting by Dan Kral
Chapter Four – Contemplation and Caring
One epithet Rome certainly deserves is City of Statues. You cannot walk for long in the streets of Rome without encountering marble characters, some playful, others fierce, some beautiful, others ugly, some sensual, others spiritual. On one of my walks I met the little stone elephant with an Egyptian obelisk on his back. Looking at this friendly animal, I was reminded of a short story.
There was once a sculptor working hard with his hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little boy who was watching him saw nothing more than large and small pieces of stone falling away left and right. He had no idea what was happening. But when the boy returned to the studio a few weeks later, he saw to his great surprise a large powerful lion sitting in the place where the marble had stood. With great excitement the boy ran to the sculptor and said “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?”
O Lord, help me to see that what you created me to be has been inside of me from the foundation of the world.
The art of sculpture is, first of all, the art of seeing. In one block of marble, Michelangelo saw a loving mother holding her dead son on her lap, while in another, he saw a self-confident David ready to hurl his stone at the approaching Goliath, and in a third, he saw an irate Moses at the point of rising in anger from his seat. Visual art is indeed the art of seeing, and the practice of disciplines is a way to make visible what has been seen. The skillful artist is a liberator who frees from bondage the figures hidden for billions of years inside the marble. The artist reveals the true identity of the figures.
As we come to know who God created us to be and the inheritance we have in Christ we are freed from the bondages that have been put on us and that we have put on ourselves. As we grow closer to God, our TRUE identity is revealed both to us and to the world – becoming more transparent so people can see God in us.
The image of the sculptor offers us a beautiful illustration of the relationship between contemplation and caring or ministry. To contemplate is to see, and to minister is to make visible, the contemplative life is life with a vision, and the life of caring for others is a life revealing the vision to others.
I arrived at this definition through the writings of Evagrius Ponticus, one of the Desert Fathers who had great influence on monastic spirituality in the East and the West. Evagrius calls contemplation a theoria physike, which means a vision (theoria) of the nature of things (physike). The contemplative is someone who sees things for what they really are, who sees the real connections, who knows – as Thomas Merton used to say – “what the scoop is.” As I said before, to see the vision we choose the practice of certain disciplines.
As we walk with Jesus we will not only see more clearly but we will also begin to see how things are connected (it is all connected in the Lord).
Evagrius calls the discipline the praktike; removing the blindfolds that prevent us from seeing clearly. Merton, himself very familiar with the writings of Evagrius, expressed the same idea. He told the monks at Gethsemani Abbey that the contemplative life is a life in which we constantly move from opaqueness to transparency, from the place where things are dark, impenetrable, and closed, to the place where these same things are translucent, open, and offer vision far beyond themselves. He says it so well.
Our goal in life is to be in the process of removing the blindfolds that prevent us from seeing clearly. I Corinthians 13 says for now we see in a glass dimly, but then we will see face to face. Seeing more clearly is a process of going from the shadowlands into reality in all aspects of our lives. The opaqueness of the glass is the smoked over glass that we cannot see through. Our journey in life includes removing the layers of opaqueness until we can see and be seen clearly.
In this reflection, I will look first at the different levels where this movement from opaqueness to transparency occurs, because that makes it clear to us how our lives become theoria physike, a vision of the very nature of things. Then I will explore the praktike, the concrete discipline of communion with God in contemplation that must under gird the living passage from opaqueness to transparency. In so doing I hope we will understand more clearly the relationship between being and doing, between contemplation and ministry. This relationship is as intimate as the relationship between the vision and the discipline of the sculptor.
We know much about doing and very little about being. Being is to be with Jesus and to have a love relationship with Him.
Contemplative life, as Evagrius describes it, is a life that leads us to see our world as a transparent world, a world that points beyond itself.
Just as the Bible is written to point to God the world was created to point to God.
Finding God in prayer reveals the true nature of our world to us. Just as a window cannot be a real window for us if we cannot look through it, so our world cannot show to us its real identity if it remains opaque and does not point beyond itself. You and I on a seeking journey must therefore try to move continuously from opaqueness to transparency in three central relationships: our relationship with nature, with time, and with people.
In recent decades we have become particularly aware of the crucial importance of our relationship with nature. As long as we relate to the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the fields, and the oceans as our properties to be manipulated by us according to our real or fabricated needs, nature remains opaque and does not reveal to us its true being. When we relate to a tree as nothing more than a potential chair, it cannot speak much to us about growth. When a river is only a dumping place for our industrial wastes, it no longer informs us about movement. And when we relate to a flower as nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, the flower loses its power to reveal to us the simple beauty of life. When we relate to nature primarily as property to be used, it becomes opaque, and this opaqueness is manifest in our society as pollution. The dirty rivers, the smog-filled skies, the strip-mined hills, and the ravaged woods are sad signs of relationship with nature.
Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal their real meaning.
A friend once gave me a beautiful photograph of a water lily. I asked him how he had been able to take such a splendid picture. With a smile he said, “Well, I had to be very patient and very attentive. It was only after a few hours of compliments that the lily was willing to let me take her picture.”
All nature conceals its deepest secret and cannot reveal its hidden wisdom and profound beauty if we do not listen carefully and patiently. John Henry Newman sees nature as a veil through which an invisible world is intimated. He writes: “The visible world is … the veil of the world invisible …so that all that exists or happens visibly, conceals and yet suggests, and above all subserves, a system of persons, facts, and events beyond itself.”
How differently we would live if we were constantly aware of this veil and sensed in our whole being how nature is ever ready for us to hear and see the great story of the Creator’s love, to which it points. The plants and animals with whom we live teach us about birth, growth, maturation, and death, about the need for gentle care, and especially about the importance of patience and hope. And even more profoundly, water, oil, bread, and wine all point beyond themselves to the great story of our re-creation.
It is sad in our days we are less connected with nature and we no longer allow nature to minister to us. We so easily limit ministry to work for people by people. But we could do an immense service to our world if we would let nature heal, counsel, and teach again.
I often wonder if the sheer artificiality and ugliness with which many people are surrounded are not as bad or worse than their interpersonal problems.
I have found this painfully true in trying to care for the elderly. Old people suffer from the ugliness of their environment and I trust that much healing and peace are available to older people if only we help them make their homes or rooms a little more beautiful. With real plants that grow and die as they do and ask for care and attention as they do, the lives of the elderly might be less lonely. There is more going on between plants and people than we realize. Perhaps real flowers, about which and to which we can speak, have more healing power than well-chosen words about the meaning of life and death.
Those who are sensitive to the enormous ecological problem of our age and work hard to take away some of nature’s opaqueness are doing real ministry for us and for our universe. They are wise enough to allow not only people but also plants and animals to speak about the cycle of life, to heal the lonely, and to tell of the great love of the Lord. Let us endeavor to make the passage from opaqueness to transparency in our relationship with nature. Transparency not only leads us to a deeper knowledge and vision of the world, but it also contributes generously to our lives of teaching, healing, and worship.
A second relationship in which the contemplative life calls us to ongoing movement from opaqueness to transparency is our relationship with time. Time constantly threatens to become our great enemy. In our contemporary society it often seems that not money but time enslaves us. We say, “I wish I could do all the things that I need to do, but I simply have no time. Just thinking about all the things I have to do today – writing five letters, visiting a friend, practicing my music, making a phone call, shopping, cooking, and cleaning – just thinking about these things makes me tired.” Indeed, it seems that we often feel we no longer have time, because time has us! We sometimes experience ourselves as victims of an ongoing pressure to meet deadlines, to do our tasks within short time periods, and to be ready on time. In simple conversation we frequently hear the excuse “I am sorry but I have no time.” And when we approach each other for support or favors we preface our request with “I know how busy you are, but do you have just a minute?” We hasten over a quick lunch or “while grabbing a bite” to make important decisions. A strange sense of always being in a hurry pervades our consciousness as we watch the time in front of us filling up so quickly. It causes us to sometimes wonder, “Who or what is pushing me? Why am I so busy that I have no time left to live?”
All this suggests how time has become opaque, dark, and impenetrable, and we experience it as chronos. Life is nothing more than a chronology, a randomly collected series of incidents and accidents over which we have no control. To experience life in this way soon leads us to depression and a sense of fatalism, and the fatalism sometimes manifests itself under the guise of boredom. Boredom does not mean that we have nothing to do but we are gnawed by the feeling that whatever we do or say makes no real difference. Boredom is the feeling that the real decisions are made somewhere apart from us, independent of our words or actions.
Boredom in this sense is another way of describing “sleeping through life”. We can easily go through life asleep – doing the things we are suppose to do (e.g. getting up in the morning – going to work – coming home) – going through a routine that loses meaning when every day starts to become like every other day – when you wonder sometimes what day it is – because you don’t really know.
Boredom, therefore, is a symptom of living in time as chronos. The paradox of chronos is that we are most subject to boredom precisely when we are in a hurry, overly busy, or rushing to meet deadlines. This boredom reveals how opaque time has become for us.
When we choose to spend quality time daily with the Lord, we become slowly aware that time loses its opaqueness and becomes transparent. This is often a very difficult and slow passage, but it is full of re-creating power. To start seeing that the many events of our day, week, or year are not in the way of our search for a full life but are rather the way to it is a real experience of conversion. We discover that cleaning and cooking, writing letters and doing professional work, visiting people and caring for others, are not a series of random events that prevent us from realizing our deepest self. These natural, daily activities contain within themselves some transforming power that changes how we live. We make a hidden passage from time lived as chronos to time lived as kairos. Kairos is a Greek word meaning “the opportunity.” It is the right time, the real moment, the chance of our lives. When our time becomes kairos, it frees us and offers us to endless possibilities. Living kairos offers us an opportunity for a profound change of heart.
If we wake up each day with the real possibility that today is going to be a great day – a day worth living and a day worth remembering it will change our perspective and thus, change our reality. Living in the present with the possibility of greatness always there in the present is the best way to live.
In Jesus’ life every event becomes kairos. He opens his public ministry with the words “The time has come” (Mark 1:15) and he lives every moment of it as an opportunity. Finally, he announces that his time is near (Mark 26:10) and enters into his last hour as the kairos. In so doing he liberates history from its fatalistic chronology.
Jesus’ life and death is truly Good News because it reveals to us how all the events of our lives, and even such dark events as war, famine and flood, violence and murder, are not irreversible fatalities. Each moment is like a seed that carries within itself the possibility of becoming the moment of change. So what seemed nothing more than flying pieces of marble begins to reveal itself as the important, necessary, and sometimes painful removal of what prevented us from seeing the true image of God. As we live this passage, we no longer feel seduced to run from present time in search of the place where we think life is really happening. We begin to have a truer vision of the world and of our lives in relationship to time and eternity. We begin to glimpse something of eternity in time. At this point boredom falls away and the joyful and painful moments of our lives take on new and profound meaning. It is then that we know that for us time is becoming transparent.
The contemplative life, therefore, is not a life that offers us a few good moments between the many bad ones, but a life that transforms all our time into a window through which the invisible world becomes visible.
The core of all real caring and ministry is to make time transparent so that in the most concrete circumstances of life we see in time the deeper vision of life. Wasting time in communion with the Father in prayer is anything but a waste, because from it we see the hand of God with us each moment and we live each moment as an opportunity of solidarity with God and neighbor. We live time as kairos. Those who suffer – the elderly, the poor, and those who are physically, mentally, or spiritually imprisoned – are burdened with a sense of fatalism. But our life of prayer and caring may help to break the chains of this fatalism, and perhaps we can support others on their journey to see the real nature of what they are being asked to live. At this point we claim our discipleship by bringing good news to the poor, new sight to the blind, and liberty to the captives (Luke 4:18).
The third relationship inviting us to move from opaqueness to transparency is our relationship with others. With people, more than in the two previous relationships, the importance of our daily time of solitude and contemplation as theoria physike – as seeing the real connections – becomes manifest. We have been conditioned to relate to people as interesting characters or as individuals who strike us as worthy of special attention because of their special qualities. Aren’t we always intrigued by interesting characters? Whether they are film stars or criminals, sports heroes or killers, Nobel Prize winners or perverts we are curious about them and about their lives. Sometimes we become fascinated, and we are instinctively drawn to move closer to one or more of these unusual individuals. We want to meet them, shake their hands, get their autographs, or be close enough to gaze at them. The magazine People makes millions of dollars catering to human curiosity about famous men and women, while the front pages of our newspapers give less and less actual news and more and more pictures and reports of human irregularities, whether they evoke praise or blame.
Rome is wonderful in this way and, remarkably enough, one of the best cities to observe this phenomenon on both sides of the Tiber. Religious journals and secular newspapers create the illusion that not only is the earth dominated by kidnappers and the sky by hijackers, but also that the clerical world around us is richly endowed with curious characters.
As long as the people we meet and relate to are little more than interesting characters to us, they remain opaque. No one who is approached as an “interesting character” will reveal to us the inner beauty or the secret of his or her life. On the contrary, characterization is extremely narrowing and limiting and makes all of us close in and hide our real and precious identity. Especially if we are in the field of the helping professions, we tend to quickly and quietly label people with easy characterizations, thus giving us the illusion of understanding. Not only psychiatric labels such as “neurotic,” “psychopathic,” or “schizophrenic,” but also religious labels such as “unbeliever,” “pagan,” “sinner,” “progressive,” “conservative,” “liberal,” and “orthodox” provide a false understanding of the actual person and reveal more about our insecurities than about the real nature of our neighbors.
Fear is a big block, and so we are often afraid in our relationships with each other. We want to try to prevent our fears from putting people into boxes. We want to try to be open to recognize our brothers and our sisters and we want to work hard to give them the dignity and respect they deserve as children of the Father we know.
The word person comes from personare, which means “sounding through.” In our lives we want to “sound through” in our relationships with each other, having enough space within us to recognize and know more than is immediately evident about another. We faithfully try to “sound through” to love greater than we ourselves can grasp, truth deeper than we ourselves can articulate, and beauty richer than we ourselves can imagine. We are called to be transparent to each other and thus to point far beyond our external characteristics to the true Author of love, truth, and beauty.
It is possible that when someone says “I love you” or “I am deeply moved by you,” or “I am grateful to you,” you immediately become defensive and wonder what is so special about you. You might say or think, “Aren’t there many other people who are much more lovable or much more intelligent than I am?” But then you have forgotten that you are a person who sounds through to others something much greater and deeper than you yourself can hear.
Taking time daily to contemplate the beauty and the mystery of our God as theoria physike, as seeing what is really there, has deep and profound significance in our interpersonal relationships. We may not hear or see many visible images of our “sounding through,” but we are nevertheless seeing beyond and below the visual impressions we may have of each other. Fear falls away and our real gifts and the gifts of the other are recognizable and known. We are less reticent to affirm each other and to receive from each other in mutuality and care.
Perhaps now we begin to see the intimate connection between contemplation and ministry, between communion with God and caring for each other. Our time of being with God gives us new eyes to see the beauty and gifts in those for whom we care, and our caring is also transformed. We were not expecting to receive from the person in need, but by our reception and affirmation of what we hear “sounding through” them they become gifts for us. And we hope and trust that our recognition of their beauty may support them to come to a recognition and acceptance of their unique and mysterious value.
What more beautiful ministry is there than the ministry through which we help others to become aware of the love, truth, and beauty they reveal to us? Ours is a time in which so many of us doubt our self-worth. We hover on the verge of self-condemnation that takes the very life out of us. So in reaching out to help another, our caring or ministry becomes nurturing and fruitful. We see through the other to the hidden gifts that ask to be shared and we both find new life and energy.
Innumerable people suffer from being unable to give anything. Young people are made to feel that they know little or nothing, adults doubt that they have a real contribution to make, and millions of people in the cities, towns, and villages of this world wonder if they are of any importance to anyone. How beautiful, then, is the ministry through which we call forth and receive the hidden gifts of people. How amazing to celebrate with them the love, truth, and beauty they give to us. This is the nature of prayer and caring. Contemplation enriches ministry and vice versa, filling us with an ever-increasing joy. God is revealed to us in the ever-changing lives of people, and the beauty of each brother or sister removes the veil covering the face of God.
There is a continual movement in our contemplation and ministry from opaqueness to transparency. It is the movement from nature as a property to be possessed to nature as a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. It is the movement from time as a randomly thrown together series of incidents and accidents to time as a constant opportunity for a change of heart. Finally, it is the movement from people as interesting characters to people sounding through more of themselves than they ever could have believed. This does not mean that nature is never property, that time is never chronos, and that people are never interesting characters. It does mean that if these were to become the dominant modes of relating to our world, our world would remain opaque and we would never see how things really connect. When, however, we are able slowly to remove our blindfolds and see nature as gift, time as kairos, and people as persons, we will also see that our whole world is a sacrament that constantly reveals to us the great love of God. That is the real nature of things – theoria physike – about which Evagrius spoke.
The lion in the heart
Finally, let us look directly at the practice of contemplative prayer. If we look at the theoria physike without also looking at the praktike, we are quickly deceived. It is so easy to develop a romantic view of prayer and contemplation and its relationship to ministry. But a contemplative life is the choice of a way of living where all of creation – nature, time, and people – becomes transparent and speaks to us about God and about God’s love for us. But this all-embracing view of contemplation might suggest that caring and praying are all the same. This is a large oversimplification. If we say “My work is my prayer,” we forget that the act of seeing requires a well-trained eye.
The little boy’s question to the sculptor is a very real question, perhaps the most important question of all: “Sir, tell me, how did you know that there was a lion in the marble?”
How do you and I know that God becomes visible through the veil of nature? How do we come to the realization that all of our time is also an opportunity for a change of heart? How do we know that people sound through more than they themselves can hear? These realities are certainly not obvious, because for most of us the world is very opaque. We recognize nothing in marble but a thick, impenetrable block of stone. Aren’t we romantics after all, people who are unwilling to see the hard facts of life and who simply see what we want to see?
We are touching here the central questions of our whole lives and of all our praying and caring. Is there a lion in the marble? Is there a loving God, a Presence in this world? Or is this the journey of our hearts and spirits to know God through prayer nothing more than wishful thinking? And is our availability to give and to receive from others nothing other than some collective illusion? Are we deceived, trying to see God and missing the bitter reality of our daily existence? Do we see a lion in the marble and yet not see that it really blocks our way?
There is an answer to the boy’s question and it is an answer that irritates and inspires. The answer to the boy is: “I knew there was a lion in the marble because before I saw the lion in the marble I saw it in my own heart. There is a deep secret here that I want to share with you. It was the lion in my own heart who recognized the lion in the marble.”
It is the God in my own heart, who has been there all along, who recognized and KNEW from the foundation of the world, my authentic self that has been caught in the marble of life. Our authentic lives – the life God designed us for has been there all along, is there now, and will be there tomorrow – our job is to chip away at all the things in our lives that keep us from that authentic life God has for us.
The practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which we begin to “see” the living God dwelling in our own hearts. Careful attentiveness to One who makes a home in the privileged center of our being gradually leads to recognition. As we come to know and love the Father of our hearts we give ourselves over to this incredible Presence who takes possession of our senses. By the discipline of prayer we are awakened and opened to God within who enters into our heartbeat and our breathing, into our thoughts and emotions, our hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting. It is by being awake to this God within that we also fine the Presence in the world around us. Here we are again in front of the secret. It is not that we see God in the world, but that God within us recognizes God in the world. God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart.
Open the eyes of my heart Lord. Open the eyes of my heart
Contemplations, therefore, is a participating in the divine self-recognition. The divine Spirit alive in us makes our world transparent for us and opens our eyes to the presence of the divine Spirit in all that surrounds us. It is with our heart of hearts that we see the heart of our world and this explains the intimate relationship between contemplation and ministry.
Saint Francis spoke with the sun, the moon, and the animals not because he was a naïve romantic, but because his ascetic discipline awakened him to the God of his heart and enable him to see the Lord in all that surrounded him. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus deliberately choose inconspicuous and often monotonous work not because they do not see other, better possibilities, but because they recognize and want to make visible to the poorest the God whose loving care they saw in their own adoration. They desire to carry God in the very midst of human struggle. The Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta experience God’s presence amidst the poorest of the poor because they already experienced this presence in the intimacy of their contemplation. So, all real ministry finds its source in a well-trained heart where God dwells and is known and loved.
Knowing God in the world means knowing God “by heart” and to know God by heart is at the foundation of contemplative discipline. Finding the time and being faithful to the time with God is a very hard discipline, especially for those of us who work more often with our minds. But let us be serious about our yearning to care and make the world a better place, and let us be willing to engage in the tough and often agonizing struggle to break through all our mental defenses and know God by heart.
John 8:32 – And they shall KNOW the TRUTH and the TRUTH shall set them free. KNOWING is KNOWING in our hearts – not just information in our minds, but in the very depths of our being – of who we are. TRUTH is Jesus and is also the real TRUTH that He brings to us. It is not “truth” – those things that we think are true but are not really true.
Simple and obedient We must not underestimate the intensity of this struggle. As people involved in the day-to-day we are surrounded by papers and people, by TV and cocktail parties, by demanding children and loss of friends. We are constantly in danger of letting God’s Word become tangled in the network of our responsibilities and needs, of our elaborate arguments and of the sheer verbosity all around. As those who are serious about bringing God’s Word to others, we urgently need a discipline of contemplative prayer.
There are two main characteristics of contemplative prayer that seem to be particularly important: simplicity and obedience. In our contemplation let us become first and foremost simple, very simple. In prayer the Word of God descends from our mind into our heart and there becomes fruitful. Let us try diligently, then, to avoid all long inner reasoning and inner speeches, and let us focus quietly on a word or sentence. We must ruminate on it, murmur it, chew it, eat it, so that in our innermost self we can really sense its power.
Secondly, in our prayer let us become obedient. The word obedience comes from the word audire, which means to listen. Contemplative prayer calls us to listen with our hearts for the voice of Love. Let Love speak when and where it chooses and do not try to manipulate it. Let Love guide us and let us give up the control.
We are frightened of giving over the control because it may mean that God will say what we aren’t expecting or what we might not want to hear. But if we listen long and deeply, God is revealed to us as a soft breeze or a still, small voice, God desires communion and comes to us in gentle compassion. Without our obedience, this listening to the God of our hearts, we remain deaf and our life grows more and more absurd. The word absurd includes the term surdus, which means deaf. The absurd life is the opposite of the obedient life.
Thus, simple and obedient we come to know God by heart in our time of prayer. When we know Love in our hearts, we also recognize Love in our world, in nature, in history, and best of all in people.
This discipline of daily, faithful, communion with the Beloved is the foundation of the spiritual life underneath all we do, say and create.
In these reflections I have tried to give a contemporary meaning to the theoria physike, about a vision of the nature of things and praktike, the practice and discipline of prayer. I have called the theoria physike the contemplative life and the praktike contemplative prayer. According to Evagrius, praktike and theoria physike find their culmination in theologia. This theologia is the direct knowledge of God that automatically leads to the contemplation of Divine Source of all life. Here we go beyond the practice of contemplative prayer, and even beyond the vision of the nature of things, and enter into a most intimate communion with God who calls us beloved daughters and sons. This communion of mind and heart corresponds to our deepest yearnings and is the greatest and most wonderful gift of all. It is the grace of complete unity, rest, and peace. It is the peak of our whole spiritual journey, because we somehow transcend the mundane to know and experience ourselves in the heart of God’s inner life, and our world as the precious work of God’s hand. In this experience we are not worrying about the quality of our prayer or the depth of our caring. The distinctions are no longer important to us. We are coming through the passage from opaqueness to transparency and there are no more blindfolds to keep us from seeing and living in the very Presence of Love.
We need to understand that we are in a love affair with God. We are His beloved. He sees us as beautiful. He is in love with us and wants to spend time with us.
This theologia in our lives is like the Mount Tabor experience in Jesus’ life. In its totality it is an experience that is given rarely and only to a few. In a moment they experience the deepest and most profound intimacy, and then even they must return to the valley, having been told not to tell others what they have seen. You and I may spend the greater part of our lives not on the mountaintop but in the valley where we have the privileged call of bring Good News to the poor, but we will encounter God because God is Presence, Love, and Compassion.
I began with the story of the boy and the sculptor, which was meant as a parable. I thought it might help us to see the intimate relationship between our inner lives of intimacy with our first Love and our external lives of “laying down our lives” for others. I conclude with the hope that we courageously choose the life that removes the blindfolds and reveals our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of a loving Father God. And I pray that we will become God’s presence to one another in this valley of tears, knowing the truth and the joy of our response to the question “Please tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?”