Okay, so can I just say that there are some weeks when the creative process kicks me up one side and down the other? This has been one of those weeks.
It has to do with circles.
For many days I have been pondering this week’s gospel lection. I love this passage, which Matthew, Mark, and Luke each include in some fashion in their gospels. I particularly love it for the way it intertwines the story of the healing of the long-bleeding woman who reaches out to Jesus with the story of a young girl, the daughter of a leader of the synagogue (or “ruler,” in Matthew’s version), whom Jesus is on his way to heal.
The story of the woman occurs in the middle of the story of the young girl. It’s possible to read the woman’s tale as something of an interruption of the girl’s, but there is such resonance between them that it makes a lot more sense to read them as the intertwined stories they are. A number of folks have written about the connections between these stories, teasing out the details of the literary structure and Jesus’ work of healing and restoration in both cases. These commentators have noted the detail that Matthew omits but that Mark and Luke include in their tellings: The girl, they say, is about twelve years old—the same number of years that the woman has been bleeding. It’s a detail that further underscores the links between these stories.
Pondering this passage in the context of lectio divina, I have found myself reflecting in particular about how the story of the woman is contained within the story of the girl. The girl’s story holds the woman’s story, not only in terms of literary structure, but also in the mysterious way that happens in the realm of story. Their healing is bound together.
A couple of months ago, I began doing some focused work with a gifted listener. In our first meeting I told her I wasn’t in the midst of a crisis, and I didn’t sense there was anything huge that was waiting to be unearthed. I was there, I said, because I needed to tell some stories. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve accumulated a few. Some of them are particularly present with me these days, and I’m curious to look more closely at how they connect, what they hold, and what they have to tell me as I discern the path ahead. In talking with this listener, I have found myself deeply aware of how each story I tell her contains another story, and another. Stories that may have happened years apart in chronological time are near neighbors in the space of the soul. The stories of the girl I was contain the stories of the woman. And the stories of the woman hold the stories of the girl.
In her book Writing for Your Life, Deena Metzger offers this quote about stories:
Stories move in circles. They don’t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and listen. (A Traveling Jewish Theatre, Coming from a Great Distance)
Moving in circles in a mindful fashion makes for great soul-work but not for easy blog entries. Though I’m not a terribly linear person at any time, I do value being able to achieve some coherence, which has been elusive this week both in my artwork and in my writing. The deeper a text connects with my story, the more challenging it sometimes is to articulate the connection. Sitting at my drafting table and wrestling with the collage, sitting at my computer and wrestling with the words, I have felt a little lost. But I’m pausing in the circling, finally, to offer some scraps from the path, along with a few questions that I’ve brought with me:
How do your stories move in circles? What are the stories that are most present to you? How do the stories of your past and present contain one another? How do those stories pull you into the path ahead? Is there anyone who hears your stories, someone who helps you look around and listen?
A blessing on your circling.