Yesterday I treated myself to a hair cut, and as always had an amazing chat with my stylist K, he always tells me what he has been doing, and almost always the conversation turns to spirituality, yesterday he wanted to know the difference between faith and religion, I wasn’t going to argue semantics with him, I knew what he meant, it did make me smile that one example he shared with me was that of a member of an older generation in his family was raised by mean Methodists, that led to subsequent being turned away from the church. I do hope I am not a mean Methodist, but I must admit I think I know what he is talking about. I speak to many older members who talk of the strictness and expectations heaped upon them, and I’ve read enough class notes from different times to know that Methodists could be mean in their demands and expectations.
To be fair, I’ve also talked to lots of people whose social lives were centered around church, with sports clubs and dances all being thrown into the mix, of trips away and fun times had. There is always a balance to be found. As K and I chatted, he spoke of wanting an experience, of some form of proof that God is real, and that faith isn’t all pie in the sky, we talked about values and why we seem to need certainty, and whether mystery is a good thing. Did we get anywhere, well I know there are more questions, and I can’t really promise answers, but maybe signposts along the way that make spirituality and faith possible by welcoming mystery over certainty!
I met a few other people while I was out too, and was reminded by one that mean Methodists are still alive and well among us, and by another that life is so much more than what our culture calls success, big house nice car etc, for him contentment is enough, that and celebrating love in his family, as someone who has been through a lot he has some real wisdom to share, but that is his story to tell not mine.
It got me pondering my own story, a bit earlier I had been to collect a prescription, and was reminded how quickly life is moving when I went to pay for it when I was told that I no longer pay for prescriptions being over 60! I pondered that this morning, this weekend I have received photos of my two grandsons, and a video of my granddaughter in her dance show! I sometimes scratch my head to figure out how that has all happened as it doesn’t seem long ago that I was taking my children to a picnic on the beach, or wondering just how many teenagers my son could fit into his box room bedroom, quite a few it turns out!
Perhaps we all do it, we question whether we have lived life well, and wonder again and again what living well looks like, these days my life is very different to the bustle of earlier days, and I must admit I think at times I wished those days away too quickly without living in the moment and enjoying them to the full, I wonder to what fullness looks like for me now, how do I live well, of course if I am to follow Jesus then my answer will probably be counter-cultural, in fact I want it to be counter-cultural, I want to continue to learn and grow, I long for something deeper and more meaningful, I am probably looking in many ways for the same thing K (my stylist) is looking for, how wonderful that he can voice that in his mid-twenties, I think I was just caught in a headlong rush!
Headlong rush often seems to be the way of things, but now, with my free prescriptions I have the possibility of slowing down a bit and looking around, can I find the contentment of my wise friend, contentment in the small things, in family time, in a walk in the countryside or on the beach, can I be truly grateful for all that I have, and can I be generous with my life. Can I be one who brings out the God-colours and God-flavours of this world, one who isn’t beset by worries.
I am aware how idyllic those questions sound, especially when our news is full of stories of war, of lives lost, stories of those who have become lost somehow, of politicians, lies and corruption, being able to live with contentment seems to be stacked against us, and yet I hold out hope that it is possible, as I have written before this week, I think it is about our focus. As I prepare to lead a wedding blessing for 2 friends tomorrow, who are calling the event the “Big Gay blessing” I am reminded of that by one of their chosen readings, and so I simply leave you with that!
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12: 1-2 The Message