Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The journey continues

I don't know why I always forget how utterly transformative Holy Week can be, especially when I attend Compline (Evening Prayer) every night. (Well, in 2011 I missed the Wednesday because SecondSister had to be rushed to hospital with a shoulder injury from dancing on a table....but we have already been to the Emergency Department for FirstSister's trampolining neck injury, so hopefully....!)

In the worldly world in which we live, it can be troubling to try and live up to others' expectations of us. Parents, teachers, employers, colleagues, and friends want us to fulfil obligations in certain ways. For all our trying, we can get nowhere, or wind up with a people-pleasing complex. Societal demands and family responsibilities may feel overwhelming, and this before we pay much attention to our spiritual life.

If I take a report card to God, though, even if there have been myriad times when I have not tried and effort is lacking, even if I have not succeeded in excelling in even one area, he still holds me in embrace without disappointment. His expectations are divine, but He also knows how it is to be human. He knows our weaknesses and our failures better than we do. That's why He asks us to lean on Him. 

I can sit through a Holy Week reflection, berating myself for being unable to modify explosive anger earlier in the day, shaking with tears - or I can accept that these behaviours are absolved, as long as I know they are desperately wrong, and try to move on and do better, and teach by example.

At the end of a day, with its ups and downs, with its trials and tribulations, do we beat ourselves up for our failures, or do we recognise that we have already surpassed all of God's expectations of us in our humanness, in our situation on earth, that we have done better than imagined given the current set of difficulties we were born into, or live within?

God asks us to love, to love Him and rest in Him, to ask for guidance and to listen for a response, to recognise we cannot do it alone and that we need assistance to reach any wider potential He may have in mind for us. He asks us to love ourselves, including our failings, and to love others, especially the needy, which, face it, we can't do effectively unless we have ourselves fairly sorted. We will fall down and get back up a million times on His watch, but as a kind and loving parent, He will bestow on us total acceptance, forgiveness and grace. He loves us without requirement. Yes, He knows we can do better - but He also knows how good we can be at admonishing ourselves, counting our sins and storing up our penances, without letting go. And we need to offer them up to Him, to ask for more assistance, to do it with His help.

I have always found psalms and hymns to help me in times of fact they helped bring me back to Christ. I never doubt that meaningful poetry accompanied by holy music can be as transformative as direct scripture, sermon or prayer. Last night I sang these words and emerged a different person:
Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation,
racing across the sky, trailing bright clouds of elation;
sun of delight succeeds the velvet of night,
warming the earth’s exultation.
Sing for God’s power that shatters the chains that would hold us,
searing the bleakness of fear and despair that would mould us,
touching our shame with love that will not lay blame,
reaching out gently to find us.
Sing for God’s justice disturbing each easy illusion,
tearing down tyrants and putting our pride to confusion;
lifeblood of right, resisting evil and slight,
offering freedom’s transfusion.
Sing for God’s saints who have travelled faith’s journey before us,
who in our weariness give us their hope to restore us;
in them we see the new creation to be,
spirit of love made flesh for us.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Holy Week begins

There is a nail in my coat pocket, which I turn around and around against my fingers and palm, from time to time pressing its thickness and point into my skin. Our priest speaks of grace and mercy, and all I can think is I am not worthy. All my time in the darkness, a part of me was waiting for my prodigal return, for God to carry me home. I rejoice that I came back to Christ...I can think of the years I was away as 'life experience', preparation, academic and practical, for ministering to people in the now.

But it still can feel such a waste, especially during a Holy Week service. A darkness I don't want to touch or even acknowledge, really. 

Many good things happened to me without my realising Jesus was in my heart. Relationships, understanding, learning, seeing the wonder of God's world in different countries. Cooking, baking, making music. Making connections. But it was like this little impervious bubble, only able to let occasional bursts of God-light through a tough exterior.

And now it hurts to feel. I am encompassed by a sadness, I can feel the betrayal. I am guilty of turning my back on the one who brought me into existence, and who now sustains me.

But, after a dark and lengthy week, with altar stripped bare, nails contemplated, time at the foot of the cross and an impossible understanding of such pain, we will rejoice. We will rejoice in each day being a new day, in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection, in our humanness, in our reliance on the divine. Like Judas; like the other disciples who were His closest friends but stood by and watched, empty; like all the others who have gone before me into the darkness - I am mercifully loved, my transgressions accepted as part of me, my return to the fold a complete joy.

God doesn't sit there contemplating my past failures. I think it's enough to know what took place, and live in the now, for Him. There is too much to be done to take much longer pondering, although Holy Week is a fitting time for it. It's enough to realise that the pure joy, the mercy and the grace is what matters - not those years before the breakthrough of holy technicolour...