This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman who shared a beautiful story with me of an encounter she’d had, that totally transformed her life. She’d been traveling and, after a few months of sight seeing and youth hosteling, had decided to accept the hospitality of a monastery in India, in order to rest before the next leg of her journey. While she was staying there, she took on the community’s way of life, embracing their rhythm of work, mediation, prayer and silence and before long she became aware of a new peace in her life. As she recounted the story to me, it was obvious that the memory melted her heart again and she smiled radiantly. She described how she had decided not to continue traveling but, captivated by her experience, opted to stay in the monastery to learn more about how to lay down her life for the sake of others and continue to walk this path of peace. It was beautiful. There was no hype, no thunder bolt from heaven and, perhaps most surprisingly, there was no mention of Jesus either. The monastery was an ‘Ashram’, the spiritual home of her Guru, Amma who describes her religion as love. She has founded an international humanitarian aid project and travels the world to share her wisdom and give out hugs. My new friend now joins her on her tours and serves on some of the projects that have been set up through their aid organisation.
As we continued to talk, the Hindi word ‘Namaste’ which I had come across in Shane Claiborne’s book ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ came to mind. (It means ‘I honour the Holy One who lives in you’.) I realised that I was captivated because I recognised Jesus in her and her story. For me, He was the unnamed source of beauty, joy, peace and transformation. I left feeling really challenged and incredibly humbled. She had owned her story and shared it with ease. She was not afraid of what I might think or how I might react. She had not tried to persuade me to think the same but had let the story speak and gave me opportunity to do the same. I came away with fresh eyes and a new desire to pursue, what Brian McLaren describes as “a Christian identity that moves me towards people of other faiths, in wholehearted love, not in spite of their non-Christian identity and not in spite of my own Christian identity, but because of my identity of a follower of God in the way of Jesus.”
Carmel Murphy, Cobridge, Stoke on Trent