Sometimes an ordinary happenstance takes on significant meaning. I regularly experience this when I’m hiking, as I see a hawk, a deer, a beautiful tree, or a cloud formation and feel a spiritual connection. My heart is easily stirred by beauty and presence. When I started a familiar hiking trail, though, I didn’t expect to encounter the divine in such a curious way.
My spiritual journey in recent years has taken a significant shift as I began to explore the feminine aspects of a loving God. I knew that I was deeply loved by the elderly female caregiver who became part of our family and by my grandmothers, but none of those people were nurturing women. Coupled with the trauma of my mother’s death when I was three, I carried what my friend Kelly McDaniel describes as painful Mother Hunger in her fabulous book by the same name. I had an ache inside that nothing seemed to fill.
With the help of my spiritual director, I’ve found that emphasizing God-as-mother and all of what that image positively represents has been very healing. I have connected deeply with the nurturing, comforting, present-like-a-good-mother aspects of God: a “MamaGod” as I’ve come to call her. Thinking about, praying to, and conversing with the Divine Feminine has become a nourishing daily practice.
That morning I had waited almost 45 minutes for a parking space to go hiking, which itself can be a peaceful nature experience if you stay patient and present. As I finally started the hike, I gratefully began talking with MamaGod. As I do every morning, I asked if she would tangibly show up for me that day in some clear knowing that God was with me – something that I could physically see. (One of the best things about this request is that even if I don’t experience anything that strikes me as a specific stroke of God, all day long I’m watching for it, and even a supposed absence reminds me of God’s unfailing presence.)
Soon I neared the Heart Tree, which is one of my favorite spiritual places. I glanced up the steep slope that descends from higher up the ridge, and there were four angels! Four nuns in full white habits and white tennis shoes were spaced out along an S-curve that incorporates a set of precipitous stairs built to aid hikers navigate the steep terrain. The women seemed to flow in unison down the hill despite the uneven path. I was struck by the simple beauty of the scene and recognized immediately that it was a lavish visitation by my MamaGod, this time in a form that looked like angels, which I dearly love.
As they reached me, we mutually greeted each other and exchanged names. I took a breath and told them about my MamaGod and my daily request for visible Presence. Then I shared that seeing them flowing down the hill was a celestially evident sign of God-with-me, that they were physical manifestations of a loving Mother God. The nuns seemed as moved as I was at hearing the story, and we all were teary before we parted. I still warm with the memory of seeing those angels in an unexpected form and place.
If, like me, you long for tangible evidence of God’s presence, be assured that there are always angels among us – sometimes even physically embodied in flowing white habits and tennis shoes.
Marnie C. Ferree