I am writing, but I am not sure who I am writing for, quite possibly it is for myself for that is how I think, so you may or may not be reading this as I may or may not decide to post it, perhaps I simply need to hear my own thoughts. As I write emails are pinging into my inbox, even though it is a Sunday evening, tempting me to Black-Friday deals, for Black Friday seems to have become a week of consumerism, the pressure is on, the pressure is on everywhere!
Pressure, and the demand for action seem to fill our world, the pressure to know, to have answers, to spring into action, to do, to act, to answer, to know, these pressures surround us as we seek to navigate a world that is it seems making us more and more anxious. Anxious because we are not under control, not in the way that we think we should be; perhaps this is our truest gift.
I had an unexpected day off today, I found myself at home when I had planned to be away, and I received that time as a real gift, this morning I read, I finished a book, and this afternoon I walked, and spent time looking and being. If you want to confuse people, sit on a bench on a November afternoon and simply take in the view, a number of people stopped and asked what I was looking for or at, the response just taking in the view was apparently challenging!
Challenging maybe, but for me absolutely necessary, to take time to be and to breathe is to be in touch with myself, a state of being that is not always comfortable, nor easy, for in stillness I encounter the self who is not as strong, as knowledgeable, or as efficient as I would like to be. The self who wakes in the night with questions about competency and qualification, the self who fears being found out.The self who comes to know that in the deepest place my only way forward is to own my vulnerability and lean upon the one who became vulnerable for my sake and still bears the scars of crucifixion.
My own experience is that we live in an age of anxiety, I sense it in myself, in the church, for we fear change, in society, because the certainties and security we once accepted has been shaken, and in the shifting arena of politics and power, where less and less is known. All of this makes us unsteady, and unsteadiness often propels us into a fight or flight mode, for we must defend ourselves and be safe at all costs. The defended state can make us withdraw and create enemies, even among those we once considered friends, racism, sexism, political opinions, theological differences can all serve to narrow our boundaries of who we currently accept, to live beyond our boundaries is seen to be risky at best.
I read the blog of a friend who has been laid aside, and realise that I am far from alone in my sense of vulnerability and lost-ness, in the questions that keep me awake at night, questions and doubts as to my ability to take hold of and perform the tasks set before me. Yet perhaps this is our greatest gift….
Perhaps the greatest gift we have today is to embrace our vulnerability, to notice how the one who we looked for in power came in vulnerability, how the answers we seek are given to us in stories and parables, of how the disciples were sent out in weakness not in power, to make a way for the one in whom truth lived, the one who was misunderstood over and over again. When Jesus walked among us it was those who had eyes to see who recognised him, usually they were the powerless not the powerful.
I know that we can learn from this, so often we preach it, but how do we live it individually and corporately? As an individual I have to own my own weaknesses and faults, being willing not to hide from myself in order to prove anything to anyone, for this is the me that Jesus meets and in whom the Christ-Spirit dwells, the me imprinted with the divine presence at my very core, all else, all pretense needs to fall away. My weakness can become a strength if I own it.
Corporately, as the church we need to see and acknowledge that ( certainly in the West) that we are not in a powerful and influential position that we once were, and that we are unlikely to find ourselves back there again. Again I believe that this is more of a gift than a curse, and that if we dare to rise to the challenge then we will find the move of the Spirit among us.
I leave the last word to Elaine Heath, from her book, “God Unbound“;
“Can we give up our obsession with being big and making money? Can we learn from Jesus journey in the wilderness immediately following his baptism? One reason that we have resisted the new work that God is doing among is beloved church is that we buy into the foolishness that bigger is always better, that we have to make a big splash to get everyone’s attention. We listen to the voice that tells us not to undertake a work unless we are assured that it will make money and make it big. this is not the voice of God because it does not agree with the way that Jesus lived…
Perhaps our greatest need is to find a way to walk with the one who walks with us, to walk in humility and integrity, to be real and to answer his call:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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)