Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Epiphany Of Embracing

I am loving being at college. It is a daily joy to me.
I don’t particularly like the lectures;
or the assignments;
or hospital chaplaincy placement;
or my fellowship group [the group dynamic, that is; not the individuals].
I don’t necessarily find these things
either interesting or enjoyable.
But I can genuinely, wholeheartedly and unreservedly say that I love being at college.

I observe that not a few of my fellow students are not loving being at college.
I observe that several of them find
the lectures, the assignments, the placements and the groups
much more interesting or enjoyable
than I do.
But their experience of college is nonetheless not a particularly happy one.

My reflection is this:
That I have consciously chosen to
embrace the experience of being at college
and to
be embraced by the college community;
and others have chosen –
consciously or unconsciously –
not to do so.

I do not think that makes me better than them.
But it undoubtedly results in a greater experience of ‘at-one-ment’ with God and my self and my neighbour; it both enables and evinces a measure of healing in these three fractured dimensions of relationship.

The whole is not the sum of the constituent parts.
Rather, our experience of the whole is determined
by our perspective on the whole.

The parts are bricks and doors and windows and roof-tiles and so on.
But it is the imagination of the architect that determines how they combine.

And it is the spaces between the parts that light and air and people flow through…

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Epiphany Of Friendship

I find myself, this Epiphany-tide,
on a journey of discovery
in company with others,
shaken out from the routine
by pilgrim light:
in which we share
gold of our common knowing,
incense of entwined remembering,
myrrh of self-denying loving…

I find myself, this Epiphany-tide,
on a journey of discovery
in company with others,
growing dissatisfied
with offering my companions
9 or 18 carat thoughts
and words and acts; willing, instead,
to be known and know
in 24 carat confidences.

I find myself, this Epiphany-tide,
on a journey of discovery
in company with others,
writing new stories,
weaving lives together before God;
not simply telling what has been
and is, but building-up
in readiness of that to come,
as yet unwritten-able.

I find myself, this Epiphany-tide,
on a journey of discovery
in company with others;
a journey of the heart
laid down;
transformed by love
laid down and taken up again,
to love, and so to

be transforming.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Epiphany Of Loving

There is more than one way of loving.

There is to be in love with someone,
to respond with joy and wonder at the person God has already formed,
enjoying the gift of their presence;
and there is to love someone,
to commit to helping them become the person God is yet to form,
without seeking to control that process in any way. [1]

(I reflected on these ideas last summer, in one of my favourite posts of last year – go read, if you are interested.)

To be in love with my son is to celebrate the stage in life he is in at present, not wishing he were beyond it (this is not always easy!); while to love him is to accompany him on his journey through subsequent stages – in which I shall be in love with him…
If I were only in love with my children, however good my intentions, they would be stifled and grow up too slowly to reach healthy maturity. If I only loved my children, however good my intentions, they would be pushed ahead of themselves and grow up too quickly to reach healthy maturity. I and they need the dynamic tension between these two ways of loving.

God is both in love with us – sees us, just as we are, in Christ, as perfect – and loves us – desiring, fostering, but not forcing, growth.

Earlier this week I was listening to someone speak of friendship. Of how to be a friend historically was a passionate relationship (i.e. an ‘in love’ relationship) that always sought the good of the friend (i.e. a ‘love’ relationship). Of how we have debased passion by restricting it to sexualised passion; and debased friendship by restricting it to shared experienced (so, and in stark contrast to the moral and life-enhancing concern of friendship in times past, ‘friends’ go out binge drinking – mutually endorsing self-destructive behaviour – in our society).

It struck me because I already felt that God had been speaking to me, in the week since college started back after Christmas, about passion being the defining word for how I am to live this somewhat strange season…

[1] There is a wonderful scene in the film Love, Actually where one of the characters (played by Andrew Lincoln), who is in love with the newly-wed bride (played by Keira Knightley) of his best friend, turns up at her door and in silence holds up a series of placards on which he declares his undying love “without hope or agenda,” and then walks away, saying to himself, “Enough, now.”

I love this scene for so many reasons, including that it shows that it is possible to be in love with someone without wanting to possess them for yourself, and that it is possible to love another enough to lay down your own hope or agenda in deference to theirs…

Epiphany Of Remembering

There is more than one way of remembering.

I love the Eucharist, bread broken, wine shared.
It is us remember-ing Jesus’ broken body;
and Christ re-membering his broken body, the Church
(a community broken by the distances between us –
both physical and inter-personal,
by geography and by the falling short in our relationships –
made whole, made one again).
The interplay between his once-and-for-all act
and his ongoing repeated-over-and-over action.

There is more than one way of remembering.

We can remember relationships in a way that keeps our focus on the past,
a past that we cast as being better than our present,
and in so doing keep our present (increasingly) broken.
Or we can remember relationships in a way that draws on the past
in order to resource the present,
and in so doing find (increasing) healing for our present brokenness.

I have lived long enough, and moved often enough,
to know what it is to invest in another,
to be invested in by another,
to have dear friends,
and then to be separated.
I have chosen to remember in ways that have kept me broken;
and I have chosen to remember in ways through which God has restored wellbeing to me
(which is not to say that the separations get any less painful…).
And I hope that I am learning to do the latter more and the former less.

Now we are in Nottingham (for two years, before we move again…), and Jo and I are making friends who are dear to us, and whose friendship will carry on beyond this time and place.
But our daughter is just at the start of this journey
into the life of friendship
(our sons, too young to have begun at all, really),
and she is finding leaving old friends
and making new friends
much harder…

Saturday, January 05, 2008

God's Epiphany

There is more than one way of knowing.
There is knowing about something or someone, and there is knowing with something or someone;
objective knowledge, and subjective knowledge;
propositional knowledge, and relational knowledge.
God knows everything there is to know about everything (that’s what it means to be omniscient). But God is more interested in knowing with creation. God wants to know us – to know you, to know me. And though you can find out about another person in many ways – Google them; read about them in the gossip press – you can only get to know them by coming alongside and, well, getting to know them…

Tomorrow is the Feast of Epiphany.
What might God learn with us, from the gifts we bring?

god knows, i am
a physical being;
in hunger,
i am in need
of bread.

god knows, i am
a spiritual being;
i am in need
of deliverance.

god knows, i am
an emotional being;
in grief,
i am in need
of resurrection life.

god receives;
and in receiving
god knows…