He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (1)
You won’t find the meaning of that word in the usual lexicons. At least not the deeper meaning.
However, the source of it’s translation is supplied for us immediately following the exclamation. It means…”Be open!”
This quote is from Jesus of Nazareth. The story is dramatic and deserves telling, not only for the scriptural context but it serves as an illustration to the opening of this first entry to the new Write of Passage. And it does so on many levels.
Personally, after moving to Maryland, a form of depression was plaguing me as I encountered the word “ephphtha” in that passage above, from the book of Mark. Lately I’ve been revisited by a similar feeling. I wrote about that initial time in one of my journals two years ago and I believe God was revealing something to me as I was writing. Each stroke of my pen became more important. What came next was something I’d seen a few days earlier, and it hit me. A drawing, a word and writing came together in the Chinese character for the feeling of being depressed. It is a combination of “door and heart”. But the heart is lodged in between the split sides of a double door, where the strokes for “door” appear facing each other. Immediately it came to me. I saw the link between the effect of depression and the affect it has on one’s being. The double “f” s look like the character for door, and the similar sound of the two words is like the double sides of a split door. Then I knew, my heart was caught in the doorway.
The character for heart is simple, three dots spread out and a graceful wave of a line moving through them. My heart was stifled, confined in the doorway, moving from within, but not moving out. It was stuck on the threshold. I couldn’t manage the passageway. My only recourse was to lean not on my own understanding, but on my faith. As soon as I turned to God, he broke the hold on my heart. One word from Mark’s gospel and my world turned around. That’s how God loves to make his presence known. Simple. Direct. Compelling.
Two days ago I opened that journal to the exact page.
Now from Mark’s gospel:
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the sea of Galilee and into the region of Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to put his hand on the man.
After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!” ). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. (2)
Well, I too keep talking about it. Even as I was writing this it occurred to me that Jesus’ fingers, on either side of the man’s head were like the two sides of the double door. In an instant the man’s ears were opened when Jesus removed his fingers. The words “listen to your heart” are an invitation to enter into the holiness of its being. When your heart is closed off and you can’t hear, nor can you speak about the silence where your heart is lodged, when the effect takes on an affect, and you are in the still, small, place,… listen. From within the silence your heart is still moving. It is your gift. Given to you by the one who cares deeply about you. He will move his heart together with yours, if you say, “Ephphtha!” Then, you can meet him in the opened doorway to your heart. Trust and walk through. It can be another rite of passage in your life.
Right of Passage
Today I opened another door. I return here to writing after a brief interim, with a new focus that I hope will allow me to answer what is in my heart as well as those things that weigh on my heart. At times they are one and the same. I learned, from another Chinese character, that my heart, together with my head, forms the meaning “to think”, and lately I have been consumed by the presence of their internal dialog as I try to navigate through recent days.
Following my last and final posting on Facebook, at least in the social realm, comes this venue, to which I will continually post links. I know, it’s like a contradiction in terms to leave social media…for social reasons. Yet, there exists among us, myself included, an erosion of the Spirit, where I believe our words have become weapons and social media has now become a battlefield. The battles are, like always, battles for the heart. Postings and comments have, in the increasing days, since recent Supreme Court rulings, brought fresh divisions within the fabric of friends and families. If I thought the one question to keep asking people, as they express their opinions, which always seems to be the case, was “why?”; I would now add, since “why” only engenders more opinions, the question “where?”. Where seeks to discover where someone learned the basis of those opinions. Here we run into the troubling issue of truth. Today, there is among most people, if you ask, the idea that truth is relative. You have your truth, I have mine, for various and relative reasons. If you don’t impinge on my truth,… I may not impinge on yours. We should just coexist.
So, who testifies to the truth? A witness? A cloud of witnesses? I’m afraid it’s more like a crowd of witnesses, each with a different take.
Pool of Bethesda
For some of my readers, I’m now about to be…scorned, is a good word. So far I’m only slightly impinging on someone’s truth. But, if I may, from John’s gospel:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, ” I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, ” Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ” It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
But he replied, ” The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ “
So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick up your mat and walk?”
The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him.”See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (3)
Too often people go to Facebook like it’s a healing pool. They’re looking for reassurance, relief, rejuvenation, retribution, revenge, revelation, rewards, recriminations, reunions…redemption. More often, however, I believe they look for reflection. Sometimes reflection of themselves, hoping they will fare better than what they see in others. Here they can establish where their significance lies by wielding their influence, joining someone else’s, or entertaining their perceived insignificance. I know, I’ve been there. We agree with a comment, join the comments, create a comment, then return to see if someone agreed with our comment.
Right now I know how you feel. I’ve felt the same way. What I’ve found is this; I’ve found myself drowning in that pool. The shoreline becomes soft, boggy, then I find myself sinking into quicksand, so I scramble to recover; but inadvertently I push myself farther into the pool. There are many people hanging around the edges in what seems like innocent participation, but often becomes something more like voyeurism. Watching to see what others are doing about the world we live in. Forgive me if that sounds a bit harsh. Please remember that this is where so many people share their information. We inadvertently drift into agreements that are partially true, adamantly disagree with some, and are disgusted by others. Many people don’t risk a comment, thinking that someone they know might scroll through and discover something they didn’t really want to divulge for fear of having to defend themselves later on. You see the quagmire.
Before you finish listing the many good things that have transpired through social media, and there are many, I hold these pictures up to you because I care about your heart. We share what we’ve learned with those we care about and want them to be a part of our life. I get that. There is a wide circle of people who love and care about me in the same way I love and care about them. I also know people who are lost and out of touch because there’s an erosion in their spirit. Social media, although conveniently portraying closer contact with others, still doesn’t connect the contact with real life. It’s become a paradox. The French phenomenologist, Michel Henry, in his book Words of Christ:
Paradoxes, like many challenges to good sense, are arranged side by side in such a way that, if not one of them agree with our thought, a mysterious affinity nevertheless seems to unite them. (4)
We become united with agreements that compromise our spirit. We know some aspect of an agreement is wrong, but we’ve entered the story already and need to find out what happens in the end. There’s really no harm in it. Right?
Again I ask, “Where did you learn that?”
Every Tree in the Garden
Today we live with cognitive dissonance on so many levels. Our digital dialogs and face time, without real faces, mark well worn, yet invisible footpaths. Can we see an electronic signal when we cross paths with it in our dialogs? Does it matter, as long as we make the connection? Can we see our spirit cross paths with the Holy Spirit? The power in that connection will matter. My last post to Facebook included Jill Carattini’s article, God of Possibility, where she quotes a well-circulated essay by Nicholas Carr:
Over the past few years I’ve had the uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going – so far as I can tell – but it’s changing. (5)
He questions the shifting of his own thought patterns because, as a writer, using the internet so much has diminished his capacity to engage certain ways of thinking. I suspect his heart is caught in the middle of it all.
We don’t acknowledge the large double doors that have amassed people’s hearts, keeping them caught in the pool tide. Most everyone thinks of the heart as the seat of our emotions. It is not. Decisions are made in our hearts and our emotions are only the voice of the heart. Yet we will risk exposing our hearts to things on the internet, read privately, that we would never stop to read in a tabloid at the checkout line. We calculate the recovery time from reading various postings on Facebook, thinking our ethics have been immunized and our relative truths will keep us safe. The power of suggestion, however, was in the first lie ever told. The question was about authority, and the enemy of our heart claimed to be a witness. Remember the question?
Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (6)
(My next posting will continue with matters of the heart, guardian spirits and resentments from sheep.)
1.) Mark 7:34, New International Version; 2.) Ibid 7:31-37; 3.) John 5:1-15 NIV; 4.) Jill Carattini, Slice of Infinity: God of Possibility, June 29, 2015; 5.) Michel Henry, Words of Christ, p.24, (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2012.) 6.) Genesis 3:1, NIV.