The prayer in the title was reportedly prayed by St Francis of Assisi, it comes in various forms, but always leads us I think to the same answer…
O God who are you? …and who O God am I? While these may be treated as existentialist questions I think that perhaps they are more rightly questions that help us to find our truest and deepest selves, and I wonder if it is because in the asking we encounter the truth that we are often disoriented in life even when we struggle to keep a semblance or appearance of control.
This week has held three surprising revelations for me in a short space of time, first of all was a supermarket discovery, I was on automatic pilot shopping for the week ahead when I stopped in the vegetable aisle, packet of mushrooms in hand when I heard myself thinking “I don’t even like mushrooms” ! That may seem strange, and I would happily eat them if offered at a dinner party or similar event, but for me on a day-to-day basis I can choose not to eat them, because I don’t really like them. I have bought them for years, and eaten them for years, and carried on buying and eating them when instead of feeding 7 people I am now able to choose just for myself….
A revelation; I am a person who does not like mushrooms….
The second event was when my car decided to overheat and investigation revealed that it will not be worth repairing it, now in the past I may have panicked and rushed into trying to replace it, and those feelings of panic did begin to arise. Yet again I found myself stopped by an internal voice that asked quietly “why are you feeling pressure in this?”. It was then that I responded began to think in other ways, do I need a car, if I do what type of car do I need? Maybe I can look into another way of being!
A revelation: I might become a person who does not own a car, and that is OK!
Finally I began to think about how I will use the space in the Manse I will be moving to in August, the big question became about where I would put the desk, when it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t use my desk, I much prefer to use the laptop at the table in the living room or while sitting on the sofa… so a rethink on office space began, and I think I have come up with a creative solution that I am happy with.
A revelation: I don’t use a traditional desk!
Who am I, I am a person who does not like mushrooms particularly much, who may or may not ( though I probably will) own a car, and who does not use a desk….
Of course there is much more to me than those revelations, but what they showed me is that there are times when I really need to ask the question “who am I?”, and that got me thinking how much safer that question is when preceded by the question “who are You O God?”
For me that question does not ask for concrete or black and white answers, it simply acknowledges that I am not alone, and as the wonderful Methodist Covenant prayer reminds me that I am also not my own. Instead I belong to a God of wonder and mystery and through that God to a fellowship of believers and seekers and questioners and pilgrims (travellers). It also acknowledges that I am held/ belong in something much bigger than I am, and that mysterious something is knowable and approachable so that I can dare to ask the question “who are you?” without being afraid of being blasted by a thunderbolt!
I then find that this God invites me to participate in life with and through him/ her, that I find wisdom through the Spirit and in the person of Jesus whose story life, death and resurrection draws me into that participation so that I find myself in him, in Christ…. and that is the eternal framework where I ask the questions ” who are you O God, and who am I?” What I once saw as a concrete faith is now emerging into a life lived in a deeper mystery, that is a relational mystery, and it is in that mystery that I begin to find myself, and find it to be okay that I don’t like mushrooms, may decide to live without a car, and don’t use a desk. I am more than those external things, and more than that I am loved, and found in the questions, whose answers are probably “I am more”, and “you are more”!