Following my blog post yesterday a friend sent me a lovely message, it said this:
Sally, reading your eternal footsteps post, I get the picture of you emerging from a chrysalis as a butterfly!!!!
You have retired from life as a caterpillar and are undergoing a complete reshuffle within the cloistered wall of a cocoon. Bet the caterpillar feels disoriented and asking what’s going on! God will use all the bits that make up you and put you all back together in a different shape and far more splendid to enjoy the freedom of his garden! Excuse my fancifulness but the picture was so bright I just had to share it!
I can certainly identify with the soupiness of being recreated, the messy process of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly can be seen via time-lapse in many YouTube videos like this one, and is a well documented and often used illustration. It is a slow process in many ways, and the caterpillar is completely unmade, or undone before becoming something new, and yet it remains the same while being completely different. As I pause to reflect over the last three years, years that have brought so much change to my life I know that I have been undone in many ways, and have even participated in my undoing! It wasn’t long ago that I wrote a blog-post on Coming out at 57, in support of Philip Schofield, but also telling a part of my story, revealing a part of what had been hidden before is to make yourself vulnerable, even if it sets you free in many ways!
Along with the Covid-19 pandemic the years from late 2019- to the current day have brought many other changes, celebrations of family weddings and new-born babies have sat alongside lockdowns and isolation, I struggled with being alone so much, not helped at all by two bouts of an illness that put me in hospital as well as other lesser infections. Hopefully with a new diet the infections are now under control as I still wait for an operation, and in the meantime I can get back to doing some work, today’s meeting certainly indicated that.
Most of all though I am left with the knowledge that I hate being out of control of my own life and that these last two years particularly have brought with them quite a lot of that, my own body rebelled against me, and my usual stress relief of walking in the hills was at times restricted by lockdown and by my own health. My working life has changed in my absence, and that is a tough thing to deal with, even though I can laugh at myself because if I had made the decision I would have been happy with it. That teaches me something about me!
Earlier this year I reflected upon the Methodist Covenant prayer, which contains the words, “let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you”, pondering my struggle with being laid aside, even temporarily. I wonder to myself if I want to be busy and to be seen, I want to show up and do stuff, and I have to ask myself if there is actually any humility in that, perhaps that question needs to play a large part in my recreation, perhaps it too will set me free! Maybe life has just held up a mirror for me to look into, and asked me “what’s so great about being in control anyway?”, especially when you go around talking about being centred in Christ, and giving your life to the divine…. you just can’t have both!
For someone who wants to be a free spirit I am aware that I want to be in charge of my own decisions, but I am also becoming more aware that I must give myself to the soupy- messiness of this time and allow it to do its work. I come back to the raw grief of Holy Saturday as a helpful focus, and also to the newly pregnant Mary, remembering my favourite quote from Barbara Brown Taylor from her book Learning to Walk in the Dark; “…..new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” Darkness brings with it mystery, uncertainty and a sense of unknowing, or being out of control, uncertain. It also brings many gifts, rest and restoration, a place and space for questioning, as Taylor-Bradford says: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
Maybe I can say that I have needed this period of uncertainty with it’s reminder that there is a divine presence, a holy creator holding all things, even me, one who in Jesus showed us what it was to be somehow utterly dependent and utterly independent at the same time, standing up for what was right, showing a new way to live, challenging the “powers that be” yet completely reliant upon God, the one who understands our struggles and meets us in the midst of them time and again. Today another Psalm speaks to me, Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Darkness may surround me, uncertainty and lack of control might be where I am at the moment, but I am not alone. My friend on the mother hand is more certain than me, I mused about what colour the newly emerged butterfly might be, her response made me smile; All the colours of the rainbow I’ve no doubt!
Bring it on!