How I came to be sitting in an Indian sweat lodge, butt naked, with a bunch of strangers makes for an interesting tale!
I didn’t mind the darkness, or the claustrophobic nature of the tent. I wasn’t particularly apprehensive about encountering a “spirit guide”. My deepest concern about the ceremony was the naked part of it! Granted it was dark in there and we didn’t need to disrobe until the door was covered. In the inky blackness, no one would be able to see the arrangement of spare tyres that neatly folded over my lap.
I met Avril through Weightwatchers. I joined after our pastor spoke passionately about friendship evangelism and encouraged us to join something, meet new people and share our faith.
We clicked and often met for coffee. I was finally on the brink of fulfilling the pastor’s mandate! Somewhere in a conversation, when the time was right, I would introduce Avril to Jesus. It turned out that she had her own agenda. One afternoon Avril confessed to being a North American Indian shaman and invited me to attend her vision quest..
“Avril…I am a Christian. I am not sure that I ….”
“Oh, you’re one of them! Mind made up, eyes shut tight, everyone else is wrong and you’re the only one that has got it right.” She glared at me, daring me to contradict her diagnosis.
“I will make a deal with you.” I hated being labelled. I walked out on eggshells, hoping that God was not listening. “I will come to your vision quest, if you come to my church.”
My husband and I joined a select group of people gathered in Avril’s back garden a few weeks later. Avril asked to be called Swiftdeer. Apparently we each had an Indian name which the sprits would reveal. She was taken aback when my husband named himself Brightwing, and introduced me as Heart Song. Choosing your own Indian name was obviously against the rules judging from the dance her eyebrows were performing.
The ritual was similar to sitting in a sauna. The sweat lodge was made up of a frame woven from branches of willow, over which a number of animal skins were stretched. A small entrance led into a dark void.
Our first task was to find a speaking stone! I took my best guess on a small grey stone that flickered with glints of red crystal in the evening sunset. The stone was reverently lifted and carefully placed on a fire in the centre of the lodge.
My husband, “Brightwing”, sat on one side of me and Avril, sorry, Swiftdeer, sat on the other. Once the entrance had been covered over, we descended into pitch black. I reluctantly shed the towel and felt my thigh touch Avril’s.
Someone started a low chant and I resisted the urge to giggle. Water was tossed onto the hot stones spitting and hissing and filling the darkness with a moist hot cloud of vapour. I hoped that it was just water and nothing hallucinogenic.
I wasn’t aware that I had begun to sing. The melody was haunting, and the words slipped off my tongue, singing of my soul’s deepest desire to see God. I was thinking about Moses’ humble request to see God’s glory. I could picture myself, not in a dark tent, but high on a rocky ledge. The tempo of the song changed and became a song of rejoicing. My search for God had brought me before His throne. There was another change in the tempo and I began to sing of repentance and sorrow as I knelt before His throne. I sang of his forgiveness and his cleansing and felt his breath upon my face.
I stopped singing. I was conscious of being in the wrong place, but it seemed that the meeting was over anyway. I gratefully crawled out of the door, remembering just in time about my towel.
I found Avril staring at me curiously and felt bound to try to apologise sure that I has sabotaged her vision quest, albeit unintentionally.
“Swiftdeer..” I began.
“Avril,” She corrected.
“I should not have come tonight,” I confessed.
“Oh but you should. You were rightly named Heart Song. I felt something tonight that I have never felt before. I caught a glimpse of God through your song and…all of this,” she waved her hand over the sweat lodge, “it’s coming down tomorrow. I will see you in church on Sunday.”
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