If you followed our Advent/Christmas series — either my Sunday sermons or here on the blog — you met a fictional character I created and gave the name Amanda. Here’s an Afterword to the series.
[ uh–man-duh ]
= a female given name: from a Latin word meaning “beloved.”
Who is Amanda?” The reader might be wondering. Amanda is indeed a fictional character I created. Yet, a bit of Amanda lives in most of us. Let me try to describe her a bit more.
Amanda is tired but determined. Amanda is weary but restless. She is a seeker and not a settler. She is often on edge biting her fingernails, but equally prone to be edgy, stepping out in faithful obedience. Amanda is part American materialist, part contemplative mystic. She’s a comfort creature eating her cares away one moment, and a spiritual ascetic satisfied with “the bread you know nothing about” (John 4) the next. Amanda is a sacred contradiction.
She is trapped in a Western mindset, but the whispers of the Eastern mystics are growing louder. She knows deep down in her bones that Jesus really meant it when he promised a kind of inner peace that the world cannot give. She has tasted the living water that could become a gushing spring within her someday.
Amanda is tired of being tired. She is frustrated with her frustrations. She is seeking a spirituality that is more than lofty ideas or heavenly promises for later. She’s tired of preachers turning earthy promises into vaporous metaphors. She wants to experience for herself what she reads in the Bible, not admire wondrous things from a distance. She wants to join the holy huddle, find herself in the ancient Story, be blinded by the dazzling light and venture bravely into the Cloud.
Amanda is a spiritual climber. An intellectual spelunker. She’s a swimmer and a sailer on the waters of fluctuating emotions. She refuses to believe God is no longer in the business of bringing unsuspecting disciples up to experience the magic and mystery of Mount Mystic in all its forms.
Still, Amanda often forgets that, in the end, it is not the climbing or sailing or swimming or spelunking or feasting or fasting that defines her life and her true identity. In the end, what really matters is that she is simply and profoundly, eternally and inescapably, what her name means in Latin—the beloved.
If the reader comes away from these meditations from Mount Mystic feeling a greater burden or a heavier yoke, a sense of guilt or feeling like a spiritual failure, they have misunderstood the generous nature of the Hosts. Eli and Sophia—Father God and Lady Wisdom—walk in the ineffable glow of Eternal Love. Eli’s cabin is heated not by that stone fireplace and wood, but by the burning love of the Trinity.
The Cloud is Love sheltering us from Holiness’s ferocity. The blinding Light is Love too bright to behold. The Ancient Story is written not with quill and ink, but self-giving love and sacrifice. Moses saw the backside of this Love from the cleft of the rock, and a strange Love carried Elijah away in a chariot fueled by flaming Love. Love spoke affirming words from the Cloud to the Beloved anointed.
And Love sends us back down from mountain top retreats into the lowlands and flatlands of everyday life—in hopes of bringing others up to Mount Mystic someday. But until that day comes, it is enough to bask in the glow of the knowledge that, like Amanda, we are each of us in this moment perfectly, inescapably, eternally the Beloved.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)