Week 7 of the Your Story track (Spiritual Formation for Artists) unpacks the Approach to the Inmost Cave--in which the Hero prepares for a major challenge in the Special World: one that is life-threatening, defining, transforming; a stage in which a hero is either forged or fails.
We took the students up to a nearby cave, one of many where Waldensians met secretly to worship. A sobering sensory experience to underline the dimensions of approaching the inmost cave of our hearts, where we do business with God--spiritual life or death moments.
How does one prepare to enter the inmost cave of the
heart? Who or what are the threshold guardians? What are the fears?
What if there is a betrayal? We climbed with our tour guide, an OM Italy worker, who gave us historical context, while I connected some spiritual dots.
We had 6 'stations' mapped out--natural landmarks where we could stop, catch our breath on the uphill climb, and share a principle embedded in the history. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping--but we were on a mission. No cameras or chit-chat allowed on the way up.
We then entered the cave--"entered" a euphemism for the crouch-bend-crawl into the darkness of the cave, with Matt guarding each head from banging into the lowest boulder. Once inside, we groped along a damp wall, letting our eyes adjust to the darkness. Overhead a few cracks in the jumbled boulders let a shaft of light in.
Matt shared the story of betrayal and massacre: the cave was so hidden, one of the Waldensians had to have betrayed the community in order to find the cave church. Once found, the soldiers poured in oil and torches. Those who managed to crawl out were immediately killed.
We left the students with a few thought-provoking questions and a half hour to process, while we crawled back out into the sunshine and chirpy birdsong. It wasn't long before we were all up and out, and forming into our small groups to process further.
As I sat with my group in a rock overhang, the conversation opened, and somehow meandered into one of life's fundamental questions: "How could God let that happen? Why does evil endure?"
One of our artists shared how she had come to realize how complex the heart is, where both good and evil can reside in the same heart. None of us were immune. I shared the story of Elie Wiesel and Adolf Eichmann--how Wiesel broke down when he saw Eichmann, presumably in nightmarish memories. But no, Wiesel protested: "I remembered a monster. But when I saw him enter the court, I saw a man, just like me, and realized I could have been him."
We all sat chewing on that, until our artist friend took a stand. Throwing off a yoke of victimization with an old identity, recognizing how good and evil could reside in her heart as well as those who had wronged her in her life, she renounced some bitterness and unforgiveness she had held. She forgave some and immediately turned and asked forgiveness of two others in the group for national sins of her country that had affected theirs. Wow. All in the sun and on a dirt path leading away from the cave, in the middle of a secluded, obscure wood.
We stood as a group, renouncing the evil that ran in our own hearts, forgiving those through whom evil had come to us, praying for one another, and hugging, of course.