“I’m actually a spider underneath my skin. I just wear my human skin so I don’t scare people.”Marlon’s contribution to his kindergarten class’s discussion on families, getting into arguments, and saying “I’m sorry” confused me. What did this have to do with what we were talking about?“Sometimes I’m a shape shifter too. But mainly I’m a spider, and I can climb the walls like a spider would,” he continued.My “teacher side” almost attempted to steer the conversation back on track; my pastoral, “listening side” prompted me to stay in the moment and listen deeply. Somehow, I suspected Marlon was responding to the discussion through fantasy and storytelling.After engaging Marlon in his fantasy, I learned that his “super powers,” and his fantasy, allowed him to cope with tense family moments he did not understand and felt powerless to change. Marlon was communicating in the only way he knew how that tense human encounters like arguments were scary for him. For Valentine’s Day that year, Marlon gave me a small teddy bear—his way of thanking me for the sense of security he felt at being understood.
We all have moments where words escape us in the presence of deep and powerful inner emotions. We have also had moments where others perceived us in ways inconsistent with who we are and what is truly going on inside us. Whenever we have moments of feeling powerless, at a loss to comprehend or unable to explain what is going on within or around us, we may appear to others—as Marlon initially did to me—as “off track” and in need of “a correction of course.”God’s way of “correcting our course” often begins with meeting us where we are at with the utmost patience, compassion, and acceptance.Whenever I look at the teddy bear Marlon gave me, it reminds me of an important lesson: we must seek to see, perceive, and understand one another as God does by “listening deeply with the ear of the heart.” (RB Prologue.1)
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.View all of Sister Ann Marie’s blogs.