I am getting ready to move again in a couple of months time, once again looking around and deciding what will move with me and what won’t, I can definitely feel a book cull coming on, something I didn’t do on my last move, I am also going o rationalise my kitchen stuff, I have too much, so am looking to what I actually use, do I need all of those plates, well lets be honest, no I don’t!
I haven’t been here a year yet, and am in some senses just settling in, I will miss the view from my study window, but I also know that I am still just about recovering from my previous move, there is always a grieving process no matter how good or bad an experience may have been change is hard and we cling to things, even unhealthy things sometimes.
I must say I am growing tired of change, this will be my 6th move since 2003, that is a lot of moving, in that time other changes have come too, my children have all graduated from University and left home, not only that but they have married and have families of their own now, they have bought houses and changed jobs, some days I feel that I am still reeling from the shock of empty nest syndrome, maybe more so because there are 5 of them!
I have also become an Ordained Minister in the Methodist Church, been awarded an MA ( that is still a surprise), and taken on different roles in the life of the church. Alongside that I have been through a divorce, which painful as it was gave me space and time to reflect on life, and to finally be honest about my own sexuality, sometimes it takes time, and of course that has changed how some people look at me and respond to me, friends become unsure, while new friends are made who accept me as I am now. I must admit after so many years of feeling like a square peg in a round hole ( forgive the illustration) I understand myself a little more, but it has not been easy, spaces that were once safe, although they never were, are now no longer safe.
As I look back I can honestly say that I have spent so much energy on trying to fit it, on trying to do the right and expected thing, on living with the fear of failure, and the reality of failure ( whatever that is)Ho strange it may seem to some that at 60 I feel very much like a teenager just setting out, and yet I do so as one with the confidence of experience that enables me to accept myself, and to name my pain, something I have tried so hard to avoid in the past.
As I look back, over the last years I can honestly say that one thing I have struggled with more than anything else is trust, I have too often lived defensively, I suppose when you feel that you don’t belong anywhere, and that you certainly don’t fit in, then maybe that simply becomes a way of being, but living this way is exhausting and debilitating and cannot be sustained. My struggles with anxiety and depression over the years are indicators of this.
Interestingly every week I encourage people to trust in the God who believes in them, and even to quote a prayer from the Iona Wee Worship Book:
We pray that people might forget the God they don’t believe in, and meet the God who believes in them.
In many ways that is a mind blowing concept, especially when we live in a world, and possibly belong to a church that sets down so many codes of conduct for acceptability, and so many expectations for how we need to live in order to fit in. Many of them are false of course, the rise in Instagram and Tik-Tok Influencers and their effect on those they are seeking to influence is well documented. Nobody can live up to the impossible images that they share nor flourish under the culture of bullying that can stem from not fitting in. Maybe we should pray:
We pray that people will forget the image they are trying to live up to, and find the divine image within, that God has placed in them
The there is the constant pressure to live up to the false aspirations of a capitalist culture, a culture that fights against the deep desire to live differently, and where even being able to live an environmentally conscious life style can be the luxury of those who can afford it, if you are reliant upon a foodbank to survive, you are unlikely to be buying organic vegetables, if any vegetables. If a rare treat is a new T-shirt others criticise for being made in a sweat shop is a luxury long saved for, and yet comes with attendant shame because of a subversion of values. The poor are demonised, blamed and shunned far too often. Maybe we should pray:
We pray for a society that sees everyone as equal, and restores to all the God given dignity that is theirs.
Maybe I have strayed a long way from my original intent, which was reflecting upon my upcoming move, but in many senses I haven’t, I have struggled with the image of a God who I saw as demanding critical and unaccepting. I have struggled with a church that has a strongly middle class face, where acceptability means fitting in and while we may wish to help, or as I often say ” do good to the poor people” it rarely walks alongside them. I have striven to fit in while feeling like the odd one out, and that took its toll upon me, and sadly upon my family, which leaves me with deep regrets.
So, as I move I am looking to the God who believes in me, who reminds me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, who calls me good, and has set their image within me, I am going to search for the God who knows my full potential and calls me to walk with and work with them. I am going to search for the God who I can put my trust in, no longer looking for the brittle self reliance that I have placed around myself as an armour too often. I am going to look to Jesus who invites me to share my burdens with him and to work and walk with him in the unforced rhythms of grace.
That said, I know that trust can be challenging when you have struggled with feelings of never being enough, never god enough, not correct, or just different from the expectations, and expectations I accept that many of those thoughts might be my own, it is so easy to inflate your own perceptions of what you think others think about you, and of course to err towards a negative conclusion. Trust then becomes an exercise of faith, and an expression of prayer, it is an ongoing work and not an easy one, it requires a reliance upon the divine other, who calls out of you their divine image, and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit who will lead you into all truth. That truth is ” you are worthy, I am worthy” and I am loved.
Step by step, I will move on. All will be well.