Last year, full of resolve and a certain determination I signed up to walk 1,000 miles, the truth is I probably did, but I gave up pushing myself to do so and to record each mile covered following a foot injury, and also the knowledge that I was doing myself more harm than good in pressing myself to do something that seemed so out of reach. By the middle of the year I had collapsed into an exhausted and depressed state, but thankfully and with support and counselling I am now coping with life in a healthier way.
In some ways I needed to acknowledge that there are things that I cannot do alone, and also that I need not be so hard upon myself, that there are times when it is okay to rest, to acclimatise myself to a new situation and to ease into something slowly. Interestingly I wouldn’t call myself competitive, but the reality is that very often I am in competition with myself, and in some subtle way therefore with those around me. I want to be the best, and anything else is not good enough. I have to admit that this is not the best way to live with or love yourself.
So this year I am choosing life, I often do that and then fail, so I am not expecting too much, maybe I should say that I am trying to choose life. I am trying to follow the command of Jesus to love myself (1) for in loving myself I believe that I am freer to love God and to love others. When I refuse to love myself then I am putting a barrier between me and life itself and that often stops me from doing something about it.
Perhaps the big change came when I decided to take myself for a walk to the beach, I had walked, and it was okay, I treated myself to fish and chips and they were okay, but I wa struck by a sudden revelation, and epiphany of you like, and it stung. That revelation was that this had not made me happy in the way I had hoped it would, and the reason was that I was running away from and not towards life!
So what do I mean by that? What I mean is that I was looking for something external to fulfil an internal longing, and that longing was to be at peace with myself, to love myself, to forgive myself and to encourage myself. On the surface this could all seem very selfish, but I don’t believe that it is, and to explain that I am going to quote a portion of Richard Rohr’s meditations from last week. Rohr says this:
When I was on retreat at Thomas Merton’s hermitage at Gethsemani Abbey in 1985, I had a chance encounter that has stayed with me all these years. I was walking down a little trail when I recognized a recluse, what you might call a hermit’s hermit, coming toward me. Not wanting to intrude on his deep silence, I bowed my head and moved to the side of the path, intending to walk past him. But as we neared each other, he said, “Richard!” That surprised me. He was supposed to be silent. How did he know who I was? “Richard, you get chances to preach and I don’t. Tell the people one thing.” Pointing to the sky, he said, “God is not ‘out there’!” Then he said, “God bless you,” and abruptly continued down the path.
The belief that God is “out there” is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart. Our view of God as separate and distant has harmed our relationships with sexuality, food, possessions, money, animals, nature, politics, and our own incarnate selves. This loss explains why we live such distraught and divided lives. Jesus came to put it all together for us and in us. He was saying, in effect, “To be human is good! The material and the physical can be trusted and enjoyed. This physical world is the hiding place of God and the revelation place of God!” (2)
Even more, my heart my soul and my longings, even my unhappiness can be a place where I encounter God, the God that I preach, the God who loves and receives me with all of my faults and flaws, the God who knows me through and through, the God who is really beyond naming, and infinite in love, mercy and compassion, the God who sets me free to live life, to be life, the God who makes me whole.
I run out of words because I know that when I use the word “God” that some people respond with a negative reaction, for the God they have been introduced to is mean, controlling and very demanding, a God who is out there and waiting for the time when we slip up so that he ( and he is almost always a he) can zap us!
When I say God I am describing the divine spark that set the creation of the universe and beyond into motion, an act of creative and inclusive love that had to be expressed, and contains all darkness and light all joy and pain, who has revealed the divine spark in so many ways, and especially for me, as I follow the Christian path, in and through the person of Jesus. It is Jesus, who by the divine Spirit calls me into life, it is Jesus who showed the love of the divine to such a depth that he was prepared to give himself away for it, and challenges us to enter that same path, as one hymn puts it, he ” emptied himself of all but love” (3).
So why am I writing all of this, to be honest I don’t know, maybe it is something that I simply need to speak out, to communicate a deep passion that lies within me, but can be buried by the concerns and worries of this world, by my own separation from my soul, and from having a wrong relationship with myself that damages my relationship with others.
This year I have chosen to do two embodied things that require me to be in touch with my physical self, I have signed up to Slimming World, and I have chosen to enter into a Couch to 5k programme, both of these thing involve the support and encouragement of others, some of it online, and some in real life. I need this, I need to know that when I struggle there will be those around who will encourage me, who will cheer me on and celebrate with me, or cry with me. These two things involve me choosing to let go of my need to be the best and to simply choose to participate in life, to be free to become without pressure.
When I signed up to slimming world I was struck by the enthusiasm and passion that the Consultant had, she believed in her programme, and dare I say her product. It left me as a Christian Minister, asking myself if I have that same conviction and passion for the Gospel I preach, I want to say that I do, and really I do, but to communicate that fully I must allow myself to fully know the depth of love, mercy and compassion that I dwell in. I need to let go of false expectations, and set myself free to be loved, and to be love.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.(4)
- Mark 12:31
- Richard Rhor Meditation Friday 5th January 2018 (https)://cac.org/where-is-god-2018-01-05/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-01-06%20DM&utm_content=2018-01-06%20DM+CID_301eeb47a141cde38b70941669103189&utm_source=Campaign%20Monitor%20Google%20Analytics&utm_term=Friday )
- From “And can it be” by Charles Wesley
- Ephesians 1: 3-6.