For the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on passage from the Christian scriptures that came up as I walked the labyrinth in my backyard. The words tumbled and skittered around in my mind for a while and I’ve contemplated them for quite some time, reflecting on their meaning for me at this juncture. Perhaps it is the physical prayer of walking and turning or maybe it’s an urging, a sense of growing beyond confines I’ve imposed on my life. Perhaps it is the process of releasing, receiving and returning when walking.
As you’ve probably recognized, my spirituality is nourished from a variety of sources and traditions. From time to time, I return to my roots in Christian theology and scripture in which I formally and earned two college degrees.
What is that I’m being asked to release, to let go of, to abandon and shake the dust from my feet and move on? How to we let go of what we know and reach for what is unknown?
The words which arose for me while walking the labyrinth are from the three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew’s version “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Mt 10:14) Luke writes “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Lk 9:5) and Mark “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mk 6:11) (NIV translation)
A little lectio divina . . . read the passages again . . . and again . . . and again. What does this mean for me today? What am I being asked to release so I can receive and return? What habits, thoughts, or actions am I being asked to “shake” from my being?
We all experience rejection and being unwelcomed for a variety of reasons which we don’t understand. We all encounter situations we are asked to release or “shake” off. It is especially painful when we are forced to let go by being pushed away and rejected. We aren’t heard. Seen. We haven’t been able to be our authentic selves.
It’s hard to let go of relationships and situations where we once felt safe. Situations change. People evolve and grow apart. How are we to respond when we become aware that we aren’t safe any more? What is the wisdom to be learned from continually knocking on a door that remains closed in a place or with an individual which does not want us? What do I need to release, to “shake off” in order to turn the corner, head in another direction and step toward the Center?
It seems “shaking the dust off” from one’s feet was not only symbolic but also quite provocative in Biblical times. When leaving Gentile or non-Jewish towns, Jews who followed the letter of the law would shake the dust from their feet to show their separation and their difference from the Gentiles and Gentile practices. (Anyone who was not Jewish, was deemed a Gentile.) I’m sure it caused some hurt feelings to the townspeople and villagers. And it’s all so dramatic! Taking your shoe and literally shaking dust and dirt from it at the outskirts of town as if to say I’m done with you!
I don’t intend to be that dramatic. But how should anyone respond to a closed door or window, or the ending of a long relationship?
Jesus, who was Jewish, seems to say in this passage disconnect yourself from those who reject you and don’t hear you yet he doesn’t distinguish between Jew or Gentile. Everyone is invited to hear the Good News – Jew and Gentile. Not everyone can hear it or does. But Jesus creates a condition precedent which must be met before He says to disengage from the situation. He tells us – if you’re not welcomed, if they won’t hear, if they won’t listen and so on then and only then, disengage and move on. Thus, giving the people in the town every opportunity to meet hear and receive the gift. Because if they welcomed and heard the followers of Jesus and the Good News, they would receive so much more than shaken dust. Their lives would have been enriched by all the apostles and followers would have offered.
But if they reject you, Jesus seems to say, shake off the rejection, the negativity, the feeling of not being heard, turn away and head toward the Center in a new direction.
I imagine men – and some women – in leather sandals traveling dusty and rocky roads walking into a town bubbling over with joy of knowing The Prophet who spoke of Light and Grace from an All Loving, non judgmental Creator. They shared their gifts. Brought healing and comfort to those in pain. Deeply listened to those who felt alone and forgotten.
And yet, town officials, merchants, and even the religious leaders rejected them. They were told to leave town. “We don’t want your kind here”, they say. “You preach heresy contrary to the traditions of our faith. You must leave here at once.” Or in some cases, the followers of Jesus were chased out by stones thrown in anger and out of fear.
The labyrinth, for me, is an ancient and rich archetypal symbol of the path of life. We think we are headed in one direction, we see the center and then we encounter a turn which looks like we are now moving away from the center. I imagine that is some of what Jesus’ followers and apostles felt, turning this way and that.
They intimately knew the Center, the beginning and ending point of everything. They longed to share that experience with others. Some in the town were healed, some joined them. Others remained in the town as planted seeds of the great Grace, Love and Light they encountered.
They were rejected and turned away.
Shake the dust from your feet. Leave this place. End this relationship. It’s extremely painful but it’s more painful to remain. Leave a blessing of loving kindness, good wishes, and mercy and move toward people, places and situations where you will be heard, seen and welcomed. Remain open to the possibility of reconciling with those who hurt you.
Have there been times in your life when you wanted to share your talents and gifts with your neighborhood, church or community and were rejected? Write what you felt with as much specificity as possible. If words aren’t coming, I invite you to make a collage of images on a 5×8 mat board, index card or manila folder which convey your feelings.
How have you “shaken dust from your feet” and moved beyond situations in which you were not heard or seen? Perhaps this is a question to “ask” of your created image and write the response.
Who are the individuals who accept you and your message of who you are without rejection or conditions? This week send a handwritten note of gratitude to those people.
If you would like to work more with images in your spiritual life, please message me or sign up for one of my virtual SoulCollage® workshops. The next Beginner Workshop is Saturday, September 12, 2020 from 1 PM to 4:30 PM EST. Please visit my events page for more information. https://listening-heart.com/events/
(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting or can be done via Zoom or other virtual platform. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual companioning, group companioning, SoulCollage©, the Labyrinth or Reiki, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual companioning, please contact me to schedule an informational workshop. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for prayers, vibes, positive energy and support.)