The Apostle Paul writing to the Christian community in Corinth, reflecting upon the ramifications of our relationship to God, asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” Intimated is that in us resides a Spirit that hobnobs with angels. We are part of that we do not see. It is not a graspable idea.

The upwelling of our inner history is only partially known. Poet John Donne three centuries past wrote: “I am rebegot of absence, darknesse, death: Things which are not.” Our nature harbors other dimensions. “Double in ourselves” wrote Montaigne. We seem to be more than we appear to be: God’s Spirit dwells in us, wrote the Apostle Paul.

Sometimes things happen in our lives and afterward we think – just possibly – these bodies do indeed house a Spirit not of the self. I recall an experience out of yesterday-time. When Evelyn and I with our children moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the ’60s, the church housed us for a few months in a small cabin-like affair in Annisquam – one of several Cape Anne communities. Our cabin was boxed in with several other houses of varying sizes and shared a common area. In one house lived a retired lawyer, his wife long deceased. We were cautioned that he was not an easy man to know and that he could be very caustic. In any case, we wouldn’t be there long enough for it to be a problem,

As things happen, often contrary to expectation, the old gentleman was interested in his new neighbors. One day he was in the common area and I, wanting to be friendly, introduced myself. We chatted a bit and that was that. As time went by, he began showing up in the common area each evening about the time I would return for supper. Always, we exchanged hand-waves. One evening, he hailed me with a beckoning crook of his hand. That evening he wished that I might visit him after my evening meal. He had something to show me.

One of the first things he said was that no one had been in his study for years. He seemed pleased I had taken time to come. We spent the next hour or so poring over old scrapbooks that cataloged how he had happened to life and how life had happened to him. My interest respecting the things he shared with me encouraged him to a further opening of his life to me. I have forgotten a lot about how our relationship continued. Often we visited but there was no set pattern. I never tried to “church” him. What I most remember now is how we came to the end of our relationship.

He had gone to a nursing home. There I would visit him upon occasion. My last visit before he died is itself a kind of “scrapbook-memory.” Perhaps in heaven he too gathered up the story of our last time together in an old scrapbook. I had been with him only a few minutes, as visits to the dying are often brief. A prayer was spoken and as I made to leave, he reached toward me with his hands, his mumblings a plea of sorts. Bending over him that I might better hear, I found my face being caressed by his two hands. For a moment his hands remained, while a smile surfaced in his bewhiskered face.

As that old man and I were to one another, so you too are party to “soul-reaching” space between yourselves and others. Governing my thought is the knowledge that in fact there is a Hallowing Presence inhabiting these vessels of clay. I choose to believe that within ourselves we participate in the Spirit of the ultimate Dreamer, who dreamed into being light and the galaxies. I choose to believe that this same Spirit wills to be in the “soul-reaching” space between myself and the other. Oddly, my choosing provokes in me a strange but gracious unexpectedness becoming a carillon in my soul heralding blessing and peace.

The Rev. Merle G. Steva is minister of visitation emeritus at First Parish Church in Saco. He may be contacted at:

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