The layers of an onion skin are used in many analogies -from geography teachers loosely describing the layers of the earth’s crust and mantle … fine until you get to the superheated molten core… which, unless you’ve microwaved it, an onion is unlikely to have… to the experience of getting to know something or someone.
This week I’ve heard the decription applied to spiritual growth and formation, because each period of spiritual growth can involve stripping back another layer of protective emotional ‘skin’, and every time we do so, it can make us cry! (Kind of like wot an onion does n’est pas?) The other thing about that is -despite the change in size, each layer of an onion is pretty much the same shape -and in the same way old layers of protective behaviour and unhelpful habits don’t go away the first time you spot them, they will probably have been around for a long time, growing with you and distorting your emotional shape so gradually you are hardly aware of their layers.
I’ve been on a Parish Placement these past two weeks. These placements, like shadowing a professional in any field or being an apprentice, run alongside the academic studies at a theological college and are every bit as important as the written work and academic study… and this has been the best one I’ve done so far.
As earlier blog entries will hint, it has been an emotionally exhausting and horribly difficult year -even by theology college standards -I’ve checked this with some of the very experienced staff… and it’s not just me overstating things… they’ve all had a tough time, everyone has.
But this placement, with a truly loving and compassionate priest, who both knows what she’s doing, and empowers others to feel confidently that they are loved and that they know what they are doing, without pandering to difficult customers or compromising truth and integrity… this has been a time of enormous healing.
This time has made me become aware of some of my own onion skin layers -newly developing ones, and ones that had been with me so long I had almost forgotten what shape there might be underneath.
So I hope I’m even nearer the heart of things than I’ve been before -well nearer the heart of myself, and nearer the heart of God too, as I reveal his divine creation underneath the layers… there is a change in the air I haven’t experienced before, but it doesn’t smell like onions, it smells like freedom.