She spent more than 20 years feeling “the weight of God”, an experience that has become the subject of her book of poetry, Human BEcomING: A Path to New Life in Contemplative Poetry.
Jacqui-Theresa Leiba, former bank employee left TT for the US in 1995 and her engagement with God began when she was at the University of Maryland, completing a bachelor’s degree. At that point in her life she felt her prayer life had gone dry.
With a look of contentment Leiba told Newsday: “The title of the book itself was given to me in a revelation. Twenty years ago I began to deeply question life, I began to question why my own life was not working. I passionately needed answers. I questioned what God meant by the abundant life…I had discovered it had very little to do with material things and there was more to the abundant life.”
This led to her feeling uncomfortable in her own skin, Leiba said. She was deeply troubled, wanting answers to some of the questions that arose. All around her she saw people whose lives were “not going as it should and were not working…they were not living deeply meaningful lives.” As a result she lost her desire to pray and go to church.
Things changed when a friend invited her to listen to a sermon on the radio. “As I listened on the radio to him [the preacher] reading from the Bible text, I felt immediately a sense of deeply being drawn into the story that I heard on the radio.” She became deeply enmeshed in the sermon.
In the book’s preface, Leiba writes, “Word had come alive. I was hooked and hungry to listen to this voice on the radio that had awoken something in me. All through fall, winter and early spring, I continued to listen to the radio broadcast…” and she did for a while. When her friend suggested they, “meet the voice on the radio,” she met Rev Andrew at the Episcopalian Church on Connecticut Avenue, Georgetown. There, she experienced what she termed an inner quake, which became the subject of her first poem.
At that time she worked as a personal trainer while living in the Silver Spring, Maryland. As her spiritual life unfolded, she found herself releasing the hectic pace of it. She gave up early appointments and began letting go of her other appointments. She began having deeper engagement with the Bible.
Leiba described this period as being submerged in dark water and said she began having “mystical experiences” which confused her.
“I began to have that sense of being pushed under water even though I am walking around and doing all my ordinary things, and this water feels dark.”
At first she thought it was depression, but after having a conversation with a Catholic priest, Fr Henry Charles, she said he explained to her that what she was feeling was “the dark nights of the soul” –a mystical experience in Catholic literature which mimics symptoms of depression.
She experienced this for months and shortly before the darkness ended, Leiba said she felt as if she was passing through a tunnel.
Being out of the tunnel, she felt like a newborn baby, “weak and incredibly vulnerable.” She later experienced being at the foot of a giant billboard with the words “huMAN BEcomING” written on it. This became the title of her book.
Throughout the years, Leiba said she experienced different stages such as visions of Jesus Christ in 2002. Throughout it all, Leiba said, her husband, Arthur and sons, Nicholas and Brandon were patient with her journey.
She started documenting her experiences and wrote over 200 poems, publishing 41.
Her experiences have shown her that God’s love is universal, transcending religious boundaries, a message she hopes comes through human BEcomING, she said. “In the final analysis, the book is really a call to the reader to discover or rediscover what that intimate, personal relationship with God really is all about and to become persons [sic] who live from the deeper awareness of the relationship.” The paperback book is available on Amazon.com.