This past spring, I found myself in a small adult Sunday school class in Woolwich Maine. I hadn’t been to Sunday school since junior high, perhaps? Anyway, much to my surprise I actually enjoyed it.
One of the books we were reading had a chapter on the life of Joan of Arc. Joan had an extraordinary life full of dreams and visions that began around the age of 13. Around the age of 16, this peasant girl living in medieval France, with no military training, found a way to convince the embattled crown prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orléans, where it achieved a momentous victory over the English and their French allies. It’s hard to find a word other than miracle to describe her life. One of the reasons she was able to convince powerful men was that her dreams and visions somehow allowed her to know things like the status of a battle before that information was available to anyone else.
In any event, the Sunday school teacher asked the class if anyone had experienced any type of dreams, visions, or intuitions themselves, even on a very small basis.
Of course I perked up, because this type of thing has always been of interest to me, namely, knowing something that comes to us and through us, but isn’t from us.
One of the folks that spoke up was John Whalley, a well known Maine painter, and he shared a story about how out of the blue, while he was painting one evening, he received an impression or a “pressing” to call his friend and tell him he believed his mother was going to pass away that night. John knew that this man’s mother had been sick for some time, but he could find no logical reason as to why, on that particular evening while he was painting, such a thought might intrude upon his focus with an intensity demanding action.
John related how he knew about the illness of his friend’s mother, but hadn’t spoken to his friend in some time and had no reason or information that would have lead him to make a call that evening. He said it was difficult not to want to dismiss this “pressing” because there was no other reason to call that night, especially at a late hour.
However, after speaking to his wife, he decided to pick up the phone and call his friend, acknowledging the strangeness of why he was calling, but nonetheless calling. The friend’s wife picked up the phone and her response was “How did you know?” You see his friend’s mother was in the hospital in critical condition and she did end up passing away that night.
That evening John was able to comfort his friend and tell him he had no reason to worry about where his mother was, because as he said, “If God can get through my thick skull, he has things handled for your mother”.
How did you know?
I think that question demands an answer. At the very least it demands an acknowledgement of the possibility of the divine and the divine within us. Because how did John know? How did Joan of Arc know?
I believe we’ve all had “pressings” and we are all more connected than we think. There are many words for it. Some say intuition, some say the Holy Spirit or God, and others say the unconscious or collective unconscious. I know what I think, but regardless, it’s something and this something offers a form of knowing that is beyond us. It almost always requires action without a logical cause, a leap of faith. I have seen it time and again that there is a rightness and truth from beyond that breaks through into our reality seeking to manifest itself, the result of which is beauty, grace, healing, love, and all the “ineffables” that push life forward and create meaning.
I think it’s important to tell these stories, because they are more ordinary than you would think. When you hear the knock, I hope find the courage to open the door.