Thursday, 18 August 2011
Whilst on holiday I read Living Well by Alan Hargrave. It is a fairly practical book looking at various aspects of finding a Rule (or habit or discipline?) of Life, with questions at the end of each section. It is not excessively long and it is personally, even affably, written, but painfully honest at times. There are challenges there for me, especially in terms of how I relate to those closest to me.
I think I'm going to end up working with some of the questions more, with pencil and paper rather than just reading straight through.
But I'm also aware that on some level, I have a tendency to want this to be a sort of magical fix. If I can just get this right, I think to myself, I won't feel so overwhelmed or inadequate, and I can be more effective at fixing the world. Ho ho, not so fast! Not by my own strength am I saved, not by my own bow. There is no perfect strategy, no perfect routine, which will mean I never feel bewildered, never feel insignificant, never feel lost.
I won't always understand everything. I am confused. I won't always be able to change things. I am weak, and I am only me. I won't always know what is what or what I should do; I will feel disoriented and lost.
And that's good.
Because God is more complex than anything I can understand, and it is right to feel bewildered. Be-wilder-ed. Made wild? Lost in wildness? Whatever it is, my bewilderment is not wrong. (Higher are my ways than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts. Oh yes.)
And God is powerful, more than I can ever imagine, and it is not inaccurate to feel insignificant. What can I do that isn't with God's help? What do I have to offer that isn't first given to me by God? (Lord, treasure up my mite...)
And God's love is huge, huger than huge, enormous beyond all reckoning. It cannot be measured or counted. Of course that's disorienting. Of course I will feel lost. What a wonderful place to be lost! (Lost in wonder, love and praise.)
None of that means I don't need a Rule, of course. An appropriate Rule, like good liturgy, gives me the tools to bring my bewilderment, my weakness and my lostness to God, to recognise God at work in the world and in my life, and to join in with that work -- especially in those challenging relationships, those where I wish I could fix the systemic problems. But it is just a Rule, just a habit, and it is just as well not to get too hung up about it.