“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. Matthew 5:8
We’d lived in Hoboken for a while. We had a lovely railroad apartment on the top floor of an apartment building. The lounge was 24 feet by 12 feet, enormous by Hoboken standards. I was working at the Church in Manhattan, and Chris was flying up and down the Eastern Seaboard with his job as a software consultant. It wasn’t until I’d been in the USA for a year that I started to feel really homesick.
It wasn’t that I preferred England. I had a much higher standard of living in the USA, and it was exciting in New York. Because of Chris and the Church I was automatically a part of a number of social groups. Drag queens invited us to the Court. Bears invited us to the beach. The Church invited us on retreat; and we dabbled with the leather scene. (I bought a leather cap and Chris had leather stoles and waistcoat made for me. I wasn’t exactly mainstream!) America was fun.
But I didn’t really understand how things worked; and I had been ripped off a number of times. The police scared me because they carried guns. I felt lonely.
Chris bought me an elliptical trainer. It was at one end of the lounge, under a skylight. It was my ‘thinking time’ as well as excercise, especially when I didn’t feel safe walking around the streets on my own.
One evening I remember feeling especially lonely. Chris was away working in Maine and I’d become quite depressed. I decided to get on my trainer and see if I couldn’t forget it a little.
As I pedalled I leaned into the handlebars. For a while I drove the machine with my legs, allowing my arms to follow, and then for a while I drove it with my arms allowing my legs to follow. The world fell away and I began to feel better.
After a few minutes I stopped focusing on those things that were wrong, and started focusing on those things that were right, that were exciting. Before I knew it I was praising God, and with every word the speed on my machine increased. I was sweating profusely and was just about to stop when…the room filled with light. Not the kind of light that blinds your eyes, but light that blinds you nevertheless. It filled the room with a song, and filled me with peace. I felt an indescribable joy, completeness, a belief that God was with me and that everything was going to be OK. Better than OK, it was going to be fantastic.
And then the sound fell away, the light dimmed, and I came to a stop.
What had just happened? Had I just experienced ‘the burn’? That state runners talk about when they go through the pain barrier into an endorphin packed state? Perhaps, but I wasn’t working any harder or longer than usual, and I’d never experienced anything like this before.
I think for a moment my heart was so full of gratitude and love that a door opened. The kind of door that Julian of Norwich speaks of, and the priest writes about in The Cloud of Unknowing. I know that it stayed with me for some time, gave me the strength to carry on and break through into acceptance. I’m not sure if I saw God, but I certainly saw the light.