Conversion and conversions will be themes of this blog for the next couple of weeks. This series on Chrysalis is about Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Today’s comes from Nancy.
?Chrysalis? was a very affirming read for me. I entered the text as a chrysalis myself, one tucked into a cocoon, waiting in the dark, undergoing some secret spiritual transformation. ?Chrysalis? gave me hope and increased peace about this process. I had suspected I was undergoing some developmental transition but also wondered about other potential explanations. The use of the process of metamorphosis as an analogy for spiritual development initially seemed a bit trite and yet it really does provide a beautiful and relevant concept for the process. As with any ?stage theory?, I have some trouble with the idea that the journey is a linear one and like Jamieson, I suspect that some of us will find ourselves in cocoon times more than once. For many, the path will be more spiral where we circle around and around but never quite land on the same spot.
I very much related to Jamieson?s description of the process, specifically, the need to detach from my old faith community and to honor my sense of mistrust in and near-aversion to all the old activities I used to put so much energy into. I was recently asked what I have learned from this cocoon phase and I think Jamieson described it best: ?to sense, listen to, and strengthen (my) own inner identity, truth, wisdom and contribution?. I have also learned humility. I unwisely and arrogantly imagined that my spiritual practices and the fruit they had born would provide some immunity from the uncertainty and near total destruction of a dark night of the soul. While it has been deeply unsettling, I love Jamieson?s description of this process as an ?invitation? to go deeper. It is painful, a time of sorrow, fear and anger. Yet it is also a time of hope, creativity and new freedom.
Jamieson normalized and supported the same drive I intuitively experienced to locate and attach to a group engaged in honest questioning and who would provide respectful support, not criticism or judgment. Blogs like JC offer easy access to such safety and support. I found Jamieson?s discussion of spiritual direction spot on as well. I understood this was a need and did locate a spiritual director who seemed to grasp what was happening to me but not how to assist me through it. It was very frustrating. In retrospect, it was her repeated directives to engage in the contemplative practices that I had been doing for years but suddenly felt totally unable to perform that caused me distress and a sense of failure. As Jamieson suggests, it is imperative to find a spiritual director who understands the process and recognizes the unique needs of the individual who is in this ?cocoon phase?. For me, I needed to stop struggling against the dark night, trying to push myself through and just surrender to whatever God was doing in me.
?Chrysalis? seems a useful guide for people who are apparently transitioning from one ?stage? of spiritual development to another and to those who hope to guide them in the process.