Some days the world seems to weigh heavy, the news seems to be an ongoing tirade of fear-filled reports mirroring to us how afraid, separate and broken we are, and if we dare to look closely into our lives and souls we might see that brokenness there too. I am struck by that today as I have reflected upon the stories of friends who have been told that either what they are is not enough, or that they are not living in a way that glorifies God. Now I am not going into detail here, but enough to say that while broken, because we all are, that neither of these people are what I would describe as evil or immoral they are trying to love and serve God as best they can, but their lives cause others to criticise and even condemn them.
As I reflect upon this I am challenged by the human capacity to name others as enemies because they are not like me, we so easily create barriers and walls, even those of us who want other barriers and walls to be torn down put our own up as we stigmatise and name the wall builders as villains, ” the bad guy, the other”! I know that I do it, perhaps particularly when I am under stress, or when I have only one version of the facts, and I am not talking alternative truths here, simply acknowledging that in human relationships we all experience things differently.
I am also challenged by my need to make progress and to get it right, I guess that means that I want to be successful, to show that I am worth something/ worthy of your attention, and yet in these days of clamour and shouting I am more and more drawn to a place of quiet where I can allow things to settle a little in my heart and mind, and become still enough to discern the often so gentle quiet wooing of the Spirit of God within me.
As I pause I hear over and over the words of Jesus as reported by Matthew:
“Are you weary and heavy laden? Come to me….” (Matthew 11: 28)
Come to me, the Spirit calls to me,to us, come away from the noisy demanding world, put you protests and protestations aside for a moment and listen, really listen. While you may be horrified at what you see going on in the world and want to put it right, while your personal or work-based situation might not be just how you want it, and while you want to kick and scream or rage against the system, or just someone who has dared to p*ss you off, you cannot, you must not do things in your own strength and in your surface thinking.
Come to me, I hear that call again, a call to a deeper life where I can dwell from the focused centre of divine love and grace, because when I am most broken, then I most need to receive that love, so I need to receive that love over and over again, to find myself in that place where I know that I am loved and accepted just as I am and how I am. I am accepted with all of my flaws, I am accepted in my exhaustion and over-thinking tendencies, I am accepted even when I create false enemies for myself and call another one the “bad guy”, even when a slightly less judgemental glance would reveal that we are more alike than I care to admit.
Now I am not advocating doing nothing, certainly in this world that is not an appropriate response to the evils we all see unfolding as people are neglected, excluded and abused, and people with power terrorise and threaten those they should be caring for, and I am not only talking about the President of the United States, look to Russia, to Israel, to every place and country where fascism is on the rise, including our here in the UK. Look to every community that demands its own comforts and neglects the poor; but look also into your own heart. Only yesterday as I was pushing my shopping trolley out of the supermarket I was tripped over by my own sense of moral outrage which is easily shared on Facebook, and humbled to take some of my purchases from that hoard and place them into the foodbank collection point, and as I do given pause to consider how many times I simply walk past it, and I have worked with homeless people, shame on me!
We live such hurried and burdened lives that I think it is inevitable that we trip over ourselves, that is why we need to hear Christ’s call, to feel the stir of the Spirit within calling us to heed those words and come to the one whose life and light flow deeply through us all even when we are not aware of it. To be grace-filled and loving I need to live my life in a deeper awareness than I often do, I need to lay aside my need to be right or successful or strong and to accept that there is nothing I can do to escape the depth of divine love that comes from the one I call most loving and holy. In short I need to pray, but not shopping list prayers on entreaties on behalf of myself and others, but with a deep and holy listening that will draw wisdom from the well of my God-created self, a wisdom that will teach me to respond with love, grace and maturity.
To quote a worship song, I pray:
Lord I come to you
Let my heart be changed renewed
Flowing from the grace that
I have found in you
And lord I have come to know
The weakness I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of your love
Hold me close let your love surround me
Bring me near draw me to your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like an eagle
And I will soar with you
Your spirit leads me on
By the power of your love
Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see you face to face
The knowledge of your love
As you live in me
Lord renew my mind
As your will unfolds in my life
In living everyday
By the power of your love
I need to have a transformed and renewed heart, I need to know that my weaknesses will not hold me back from living in love, and I need my eyes to be unveiled so that I really see, myself, others and this crazy mixed up world from a holy and connected perspective. A world where we are one, a world where there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, where religions do not divide, where a person’s sexuality does not break anymore families apart because we will accept one another in love. A world where colour and creed are part of a delightful diversity and where the strong willingly protect and nurture the weak. The list could go on and on.
Is all of this wishful thinking, I do hope not, no, I know it isn’t. but I do know that it is not something I can generate on my own, I need God, I need to find God in the depths of my being and to spend time there if I am going to live the loving, powerful, grace-filled life that is needed in these days, in all days. I need God because I cannot make it alone.
“My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.” – Douglas Coupland- Life After God.
My response can only be to respond to the invitation;
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out …? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30. The Message)