I live a charmed life. I have lived more than thirteen years with advanced cancer. Yet, I live a charmed life. Surrounded by my beautiful family and cherished friends at the beginning of this New Year, I am overcome with gratitude for the grace that lifts me up. In the faces of those who love me, I see the Face of the Divine. In Relational Presence, we are together– to paraphrase the mystic, Hildegard of Bingen–“the delight and illumination of the love of God.”
This is not about some abstract theology. This is about turning and touching. This is the ecstatic and joy-filled Dance of the Whirling Dervishes. The Whirling Dervishes reach at once for the heavens to invite Divine presence and simultaneously toward the earth to bless this life we share together. In turning and touching those I cherish most, I turn and touch the Face of God. This is the place where earth and heaven meet and we discover that which is sacred in ‘ordinary’ relational life. The whirling dervish never dances alone. This is a relational dance. The dance step is the embracing of the Divine Grace that sustains us and gives us life and breath.
I live a charmed life. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a charmed life is one “unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.” I can truly say, my life has flourished, since I was first diagnosed with advanced cancer in 2002 and was told that I had less than a 14% chance to live more than 24 months.
Cancer will never define who I am. Cancer is simply a diagnosis, not a definition. Cancer is not a war to be fought–it is a grace to be found. When I breathe my last breath, it is grace that will take me and not cancer. I will gladly surrender to grace–I will never surrender to cancer.
It is a small mystery that I live such a full life with advanced cancer. This is the great mystery–that I was known and loved by the Divine, even before I was conceived in my mother’s womb (As spoken to The Prophet Jeremiah in sacred scriptures). This great relational dance of the Lover and the Beloved will go on, long after I step to the side of the dance floor.
This is my invitation and my prayer. Keep turning and loving with me. Do not let hardships, disease or disappointments tarnish the treasure of this dance to which we are called together. Keep revolving! In the words of the Holy Qur’an (64:1): “Whatever is in the skies or on earth invokes God.” Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, “All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”
So taste and see the Divine Grace in every turning. Choose with me the charmed life. Bless and be blessed. Give and receive. Touch and be touched. Love and be loved. Give and forgive. Know and be known. See and be seen. Live into life-giving relational practices. Turn and turn again! Above all, do not succumb to fear. Fear seeks to be the killer of the Great Dance. Choose love over fear.
In this Great Dance, we are never alone. The dervishes never whirl alone. In turning together, we are transformed together. In the words of the Shaker song from the 18th Century, let us “keep on turning till we come out right.” Let this turning, be our great delight:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.