Walking a dark path

Over these past few weeks, our family has been travelling down some pretty dark paths and, if I am brutally honest, I have found life to be a bit of a struggle.  My biggest frustration as a parent and grandparent is that I would do anything to protect my children and, in our current situation, I feel so powerless to help.

As a minister, I suppose I wear a kind of “mask”.  I have a “public persona”, the me I am expected to be and the me I want others to see.  The real me only emerges when I am in private and I am faced with the doubts and fears that lie deep within.

Of course, questions of faith emerge at times like this. I can appreciate the Psalmists Lament;

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

(Psalm 22)

 

Of course, there are many well-meaning Christians who will trot out well-worn Bible verses and seek to assure that “God will use this for good”.  Whilst, ultimately, I believe God will, this kind of comment produces in me an anger that just wants to punch their lights out – in love of course!

So, why do I feel like this?  When we focus on “the good that will come, sometime, eventually, in the future” we deny the pain of the present moment. 

To see somebody in pain can be an uncomfortable experience and produces disquiet in the person seeing the pain.  So, like Jobs comforters, we want the quick fix, the easy answer.  We want to rationalise the unexplainable whilst denying one inescapable truth 

The pain is real.

I read some words this morning, quoted by Richard Rhor, that really spoke to me at the present time;

Something in you dies when you bear the unbearable. And it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees and to love as God loves.

(Ram Das)

In many respects the message of the cross doesn’t make sense to me.  A loving God allowing His sinless Son to bear the sins of the world.  However, it begins to make more sense when we look at it through the eyes of pain.  In Jesus, God does not deny the pain of humanity but stands alongside us in our hurt and our suffering.  That, for me, is part of the message of the cross.

So, in this current struggle, there is hope.  Not that “one day we will look on this and see all the good things” but, that we are not alone in our pain, God is there.  God doesn’t deny the reality of what we face and He doesn’t walk away from us.      

 

 

Having A Duvet Day

(Icon of the Transfiguration by Theophanes 15th Century)

 

I awoke yesterday morning with a splitting headache and feeling really groggy.  The past few days had been very busy and I was feeling quite jaded.  There was nothing else for it, I awarded myself a duvet day!

Just so you are clear, it was my day off, I was not skiving.  Also, for clarities sake, I did not lounge around wrapped in a duvet wearing my PJ’s for the day.  I did, however, take the opportunity to “veg out” and catch up on some TV programs I had recorded.  I drank lots of tea and enjoyed some treats in front of the telly!

Sometimes, we all need a bit of a duvet day.  A time when we rest both our mind and our body.  Do nothing.  I felt much better as a result.  I returned to work this morning and was able to tackle a large part of my to-do list.  Had I not had my duvet day yesterday, I doubt I would have been able to do it.

The Bible sets a pattern of work and rest, that is partly what Sabbath is about. When we have a Sabbath we cease from activity and rest so that we can worship God fully. Many of us work, in order to rest.  Or we rest, in order to work.

I began to think about this slightly differently this morning as I turned to my time with God.  The passage, if you would like to read it, was Luke 9 vs. 28 – 36.  The story of the Transfiguration when the splendour of God is seen by His disciples shining through Jesus.  Those disciples began to see Jesus differently.  It was verse 32 that caught my attention;

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 

(Luke 9 vs. 32 – NRSV)

I felt that God was speaking to me about this way in which I, so often, sleep walk through life.  I am so weighed down with all that I have to do, so focussed, that I can miss His splendour and glory shining through.  What if my rest was not so that I can work but, so that I can be fully awake?

What if your rest was not so that you can work but, so that you can be fully awake?

Think about it.  How often do you go through routines and patterns of life without even thinking about what you are doing?  I know I am guilty of that.  When I am not fully awake, am I missing the things God wants me to see, or the things God wants to say to me?

Why not ask God to help you rest so that you can be fully awake?  What do you see that is different now, to what you saw before?

 

 

 

 

Perform a U-Turn

 

I believe that one of the greatest inventions of all time is the Sat-Nav.  I tend to do a fair amount of driving and the Sat-Nav has proved invaluable in getting me from point A to point B in an efficient and quick manner.  I remember the good old days when you had to get the map out and plan your route to unfamiliar places well in advance.  With the Sat-Nav I jump into the car, program the post code and off we go.

I do, however, have a little grumble from time to time with my Sat-Nav.  Sometimes, I know the general route it’s the finding my specific destination that causes the trouble.  I program in my destination and then I drive the route I prefer wanting my Sat-Nav to guide me in the city or town of the address.  If I go one way, sometimes the Sat-Nav wants to take me another direction and the little voice chimes out;

“perform a u turn when possible”

My response to this voice is often to argue with it (I know it cannot hear me but, I still argue).  I know the general route, I have driven this before, I know the roads I like and the one’s I don’t.  Why not give me helpful advice when I need it?  Still the Sat-Nav keeps on;

“perform a u turn when possible”

I heard that same voice today as I spent some time in prayer and with the Bible.  As it is Ash Wednesday, the passage chosen was the traditional passage from Joel 2;

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

(Joel 2 vs. 12)

If I was to paraphrase this verse, I would translate it as “perform a u turn”.  Instead of arguing this time, I realised I needed to listen to this instruction.

Let me explain why.

It dawned on me yesterday that I have been very distracted of late. There are lots of reasons I could trot out at this point but, they would just be poor excuses. 

The phrase that I have heard some people use is “I have a monkey mind”.  I could relate to that. 

I sit down for my quiet time and thoughts are popping into my head and instead of focussing on what I am doing, I am scanning the bookshelves for that volume I put somewhere safe because it would come in handy one day.  Within a couple of minutes, I am working on something else, checking emails and I am not paying any attention to what I started out doing. 

I have even found I was having a conversation, and find I am not concentrating on what somebody else is saying because my mind elsewhere.  Goodness only knows what I have agreed to do because, I haven’t got a clue.  My mind was on other things.

This morning, through the prophet Joel I heard God say;

Perform a u turn and seek me with an undivided heart.  Focus on what you should be doing not on the things you shouldn’t.

(Joel 2 vs. 12 – my paraphrase)

 

Perhaps there is something we can all learn from this.  Do you need to make a u turn?