It is September ( not that you needed me to tell you that), what is sometimes referred to as the silly season in Methodism, meetings abound, and there are decisions to be made, and it feels like 1,001 + things to do. Into this I am dragging my post-sabbatical self, bearing in mind that I have a month of sabbatical to use somewhere, and reflecting that right now I don’t know where to use it or what to do with it. If I am honest I am feeling somewhat out of sorts about life in general and ministry in particular at the moment.
Last Sunday I put my clerical collar on and went off to lead a Covenant Service, I will be doing the same this Sunday, an annual reminder that calling is not always comfortable, but also a reminder of the faithfulness of God who promises to walk with us through all of the ups and downs of life. The God who knows us through and through, who wants the best for us. I tell people that all the time, but forget that the same is true when it comes to me, I have a daft notion that maybe I should have things sewn up and put together in such a way that I don’t need help, support or encouragement, but of course I need all of those things, and I need God….
My problem is that when I feel out of sorts I find it very hard to offer myself to God, and sometimes find it very hard to even know what it is that I need to get through the internal criticisms and angsts that are plaguing me at the moment. A part of that is about being open to engage with my weaknesses and flaws, looking into the spiritual mirror and not liking what I see and having many questions about who I am and how I have been. My impulse is to withdraw or to hide, but right now I need to sit on the side of the road like Blind Bartimaeus (1) and cry out to Jesus as he passes by, and to engage with his question “what do you want me to do for you?”.
What do I want, I want to see, I want to see clearly how I am and who I am, and to ask when necessary that if there is any wicked way in me (2), that God being my helper she and I might walk me to a better place, through the fire of forgiveness, where the double act of being forgiven and forgiving myself cleanse and heal me.
I don’t like to say I can’t do things, or that I am struggling, or that I have messed up. but of course I do. So what do I need? I need to know that I am not alone, I need to know that I am not simply the sum total of my faults and flaws and that transformation is possible, even radical transformation is possible because I am not alone, the Spirit of God hovers over the chaos of my life and calls me on.
What do I want? I want to be open to the God possibilities for my life, open to more than I could ever ask or imagine (3), so I need to lay down my masks of coping and competency, I need to come out of hiding, even from myself and take the words of the Covenant Prayer(4) that boldly proclaim that I am no longer my own, but also proclaim that somehow through the mystery of covenant relationship I am held in love.
Why do I need God? Well simply because I cannot do this alone.
Why do I need others? For the same reason, I cannot do this alone, I am thankful for those who see me as I am and walk with me anyway.
I end with my favourite quote from Douglas Coupland (5):
“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
- Blind Bartimaeus : Mark 10 : 46-52
- Psalm 139: 23-24
- Ephesians 3:20
- Douglas Coupland – Life After God Publisher: Simon and Schuster 1994