The other day I finally got my bus pass, a special one for people over sixty – a flat $25 for an entire year of unlimited travel in my town and even, as it turns out, to neighboring ones some distance away. Holding it in my hand, I had a Bilbo Baggins moment. The path from my front door goes everywhere, connecting me with the entire world. All I have to do is step out and begin the journey. Immediately I wanted to try it. I wanted to travel all the routes in the city to see what I would find along the way.
My friend Betsy has made a ministry of bus riding. On her way to and from work she sits with people and invites them into meaningful conversations. They share a bit of what is important, each to each, and go away enriched. It’s a quiet, simple healing, the healing of good listening. And it happens in this environment where there is a certain anonymity combined with being on the move. It reminds me of when, as a twenty-something flower child I used to hitchhike. (Only taking the bus is much safer. What were we thinking back then?)
I remember from those days riding with an older fellow who had a plastic Jesus on his dashboard. I was on my way from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin, and we were driving along a tiny country road surrounded by corn fields. As we drove my host told me about his prayer life, which consisted of simple conversations with his “Blessed Savior”. I was worshiping with the Quakers at that time, so I told him about silence and being moved by the Spirit. His grandson was in Viet Nam. Some of my friends were Conscientious Objectors. So we mused together about how tough it is to make decent moral decisions in an ambiguous world. Like all such dialogues, it helped crumble the “us-them” polarities we both had undoubtedly assumed our way into. It was deeply healing.
In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus is roving from place to place curing people, and he tries to do it with some anonymity. He doesn’t want to be known. Matthew says this is in fulfillment of the scriptures, but I wonder if it isn’t also because at its heart all healing happens, as it were, on the bus: soul to soul, outside the context of our normal, everyday life.
When I practiced psychotherapy I would often caution people after a major breakthrough in understanding not to tell anybody for at least a couple of weeks. A new insight needs a certain incubation time before it becomes strong enough that the usual perspectives and demands of day to day living do not swallow it and send it back into the unconscious. The old mind sets are not good for it.
All of which is to say there are times when it is important to become the stranger. It’s important to disrobe. Casting off the clothing of profession, social class, and family we can throw ourselves into the vast powerful river of humanity. Christ is out there disguised as the unknown one, back pack resting on his lap, shopping bag clenched between her knees. On the move from town to town, Christ is healing through holy conversation. When we listen, becoming aware of a pearl of new understanding growing in our hearts, the Holy One cautions,“Don’t tell anybody.” It’s between us and God.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado
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