Oh boy but this was a tricky night. Facing shame, guilt, and sinfulness. Grief. And then there was the wake, when we went deeper and allowed ourselves to be more authentic, more vulnerable.
One thing I have learned: help is much easier to give than it is to ask for.
And I came to look at my scars. And they hurt still. And they are not healed over. Like the tree I encountered this afternoon, there may be regrowth, but restoration cannot be complete. But what is left is something new, scarred and in its scarring, memorable. Then I looked at the tree more deeply, and I saw its cracks and fissures, its quirks and its misdemeanours, the damage that has been done to it and the little worlds inside its spaces. And I was mindful of a door to a new world, wherein we see purity, light, and downright organic disorder. The path to God is not easy. God is not easy. Love is so very easy, but we do not allow ourselves to love freely.
And I thanked the tree for carrying the scar for me – it is a tree that has been part of my most intimate life over several years – and then I caught myself in an
The tree carried my scar, marked my memories for me, and held me in its space. The tree allows me to see the love to which I am accountable.
I’m not quite sure what I can write about this evening, as there was so much of the detail which was unbloggable, but what I need to say is that I have been fed. I found myself in the company of some people with whom I shared some common ground (by no means was all the ground common!), and in whose company I felt safe to be, to whose discussions I felt (knew?) I had something to add, and who weren’t afraid to go to dangerous places. Well, were less afraid than most of the people I deal with.
I am encouraged. I am less alone. I just really don’t like this stupid game we’re all forced to play. I want someone to stand up and say ‘No! Let’s do this stuff properly’. It doesn’t have to be me, does it?
I found myself saying (about a different matter) ‘it’s not my job; I don’t want to do it’, and yet I knew – and we came back round to this in the conversation – that it is my job, because I’m the one who is there and can see that it needs doing. It is my job because its not being done (or being done poorly) makes me cross! So, it is my job, because I believe in it, because I am certain that it needs to be done, and because I am in a position to have the opportunity to do it. What I don’t feel is that I am equipped to do it – but maybe I am, and of course maybe I’m on the journey to becoming equipped.
But why would people be called to things they don’t like, want…oh, I get it!
The thing I learned in the session tonight, after all: when it’s difficult is when it’s good. When we don’t know is when we learn. When we hurt is when we grow. When we take is when we give.
Aha! I just understood a little better the Bible passage we were discussing over wine this evening…which is where the interesting conversation began. I can honestly say that during the 6+ years I have worked in this Christian context, this is the first time I have ever seen a group of people taking out Bibles unbidden to look up a passage because they wanted to talk about it and share it together. In social time. Now, my not having seen it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened – I’m not usually there in social time, but it does mean that I’ve never had the experience of being fed by that, of seeing that hope.
Why are we so reticent about the stuff that we feel deeply, about the things we believe to matter? Is it because we don’t dare own them? Or because we think we might ‘get it wrong’? Or because we fear frightening people? Or just because it’s not socially acceptable?
Why do we, as the church, spend so much in doing stuff we know not to work, and resist so fiercely the things that we know to work? Weird.
Anyway, I’m going back to revisit that story now, see how it looks from here.
I don’t think I realised how vulnerable I am.
What are we doing, as a church, when someone amongst us (and presumably, many amongst us) can feel so alone and afraid in our midst?
Why don’t we all just be a bit more open and kind with each other? Is it so complicated, really?
- Maybe I should just share my outpourings with God rather than trying to share with another person/people? Seems like such a waste. Actually, these are the things I have to offer – these are me – these are what makes me me and special and to stop me, to take them away, is wrong. So how to make it something constructive rather than a bind, a burden?
- A church with closed doors is no church at all – is worse than no church. It misrepresents the Kingdom, and it damages the children of the family of God. Close the building, or open it: don’t guard it closely, hold on to it, revere it. It is a place. To open a space to God and then shut the door is profoundly wrong.
- I’m suddenly using much more language of morality, of black and whites. Actually, there seem to be black and whites where there were not – there are firm lines, now, where previously everything was always in question and shadow
- What can I do? How can I make it better? I have no doubt that I have a ministry of some kind, I just don’t know where to find it
- “This space is sacred” means “this space is/belongs to/comes closer to/improves access to/is a conduit for God”. That means it has to mean “come in, be welcome, share, and live”. That is what church is. It means come find God here. It is inherently invitational. Or else it is false – without the invitation, God is absent/withdrawn/blocked/resisted.
- My stream-of-consciousness sometimes (often!) feels like to much for me to live alone. Where does “life in all its abundance” fit in? We are always so much less than we are – we know we use only a tiny portion of our brains, for instance. How do we be more? What’s holding us back? Weakness of the flesh? Brokenness of society? Lack of willingness, courage, urgency? Or overwhelm, perhaps?
- Where am I bound? To what, to whom, am I bound? Am I bound? Do I bind myself out of choice? Are there responsibilities I must accept?
- Where is love? What does love mean?
- Do we simply need to claim our inheritance? To call an angel sister or brother – does that mean I am become kindred with them? Is that what imago dei means – that we are all as close to God as we are willing to allow ourselves to be? That resonates: the more we can forget our fear-driven learning, the closer we can become to our pre-Fall state, as it were, the more freedom there is (and God lives in freedom), the less brokenness there is
- Is it brokenness that binds, after all? Are we free other than in sin? I think Paul did say something along those lines…!
This blog post belongs after another one that I haven’t written yet. My thoughts are not yet sorted enough, so I’m just posting unsorted for now. I am newly resolute, though, even if I’m not as tidily sorted as I was!
I forgive you, always. I want there not to be grudges, resentment, bad feeling between us. I’d rather take the pain on myself than pile it on to you. It’s unconditional, in that I deliberately decide not to seek retribution, correction, restoration. I believe that only in letting go the hurt is there any hope of restoration.
What I’m struggling with is trust. I forgive you. I take on the hurt. But nothing changes then: you don’t stop doing it; you will do it again.
So I tell you about the hurt, about how you are harming me. Sometimes you hear it, sometimes you just can’t understand. Regardless, sooner or later you come back to do it again.
So – I have to accept that you will keep on doing it? That the hurt is part of the package? Is that how it goes?
Is hurt – repeated, avoidable, deliberate, insensitive hurt – always a part of the package?
I remember at the end of my marriage (and for quite a while before) I wrestled with what marriage is. Is it inherently painful? Does it mean that I need to absorb what suffering is incurred for me – is that part of love? Is that God’s plan?
I’m not sure that it is. But if it isn’t, then what? How can two people ever be constantly reconciled, never hurting, never making mistakes – never repeating the same mistake? It isn’t possible, right? We’re human, we mess up. So how do we learn to live with it?
This brings me back to the cross, and forgiveness. The whole point is forgiveness, that God, despite our permanent fallibility, loves us so much we can be forgiven, whatever the cost, even Jesus. And we’re supposed to echo that Christ-like forgiveness, right? “Father, forgive him, he doesn’t know what he’s doing” – right? But then what? I mean, there isn’t stuff in the Bible about Jesus getting crucified again; how it was for him the next time he came to be human and be killed. Would he do it again? I think perhaps so. But again and again and again? Presumably, yes. But that’s not me. I’m human. Can I learn true discipleship – to keep on absorbing the pain? Maybe I can. But should I? Is that healthy?
I just discovered Christian Piatt’s blog and am loving exploring it. It feels as though he has done some wrestling with some of the questions I’m currently swimming in – and I’m interested in his answers. I’m not rushing to find my own answers – quite happy to tread water awhile before I race off and get myself into trouble – but am going to take this one into the week with me to think about, along with my gleanings from this morning’s service. It feels as though I might find much spiritual manna in this blog. Thanks Christian!
This morning’s service discussed the story of blind Bartimaeus. It’s a story I like, one I always seem to get more from, every time I go back to it. To be honest, the sermon didn’t work particularly well for me: it ranged about too much, tried to tie up too many things into nice little shiny-happy-people packages. But I did enjoy it – it was delivered well, both the preacher and the reader had lovely speaking voices, and many of the individual points made were interesting to me. My primary gleaning, the thing I’m taking home to chew over as the week goes on, is this:
Bartimaeus was in need, and reached out to Jesus. The disciples, we the church, shushed him up because he was an inconvenience to us. This guy was someone who needed the church. And the church was too self-involved to hear his cries. Jesus wasn’t, of course. The preacher actually laid this out rather more effectively than I am now, but the point is this: how many times do we do that? Constantly, I reckon. Now I want to look back and see how many times the disciples did that, too, because I seem to remember it’s more than once!
This is what church is about, right? Bringing the lonely, the broken, the needy to God, to find Christ and in Him “The Way”. To share love. To share faith. To nourish. To teach. To heal. To care. To bring about and enact the Kingdom. This is what Jesus was about, right? So why, even from the very beginning, even in those closest to Jesus, right at the moment of the recreation, do we reject everyone? Why would we rather share with ourselves, each other, the like-minded, than with those who are asking for our help – those we profess we want to serve?
Can any of you say it’s different today in your church?
“There’s none so blind as he that will not see”