What might it mean to encounter the Divine? Is it different from experiencing the Divine? Maybe it is splitting hairs, but I’d like to explore the difference. I can experience a rainbow, the Grand Canyon, a symphony. I can see it, hear it, feel it. I can also experience the Divine in worship, when I feel carried along by a current flowing through the worshiping body. These experiences typically occur without agency, that is, without my willing them to occur, or intending them to occur.
There are many stories in the Bible of encounters: Jacob wrestling with the angel, Mary encountering the angel Gabriel and agreeing to spiritual conception, Jesus encountering the woman at the well. In each situation there is a sense of mutuality, of give and take, of choice. Is an encounter like a dance, where there is an invitation, an acceptance, and a mutuality of movement to the music?
This past week we celebrated both our 49th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of a couple of F/friends, so my thoughts turn to marriage encounters. I believe that an encounter, whether the mystical, once-in-a-lifetime variety or of the daily interaction with a partner, requires full participation and mindful presence. In Couple Enrichment workshops we learn ways of listening to each other with our full attention. This takes practice and commitment, just like learning to dance or play a musical instrument.