A Pause In Lent 1

Joining with Floss over at Troc,Broc et Recup and several other bloggers too, I’m pausing in Lent. I think the idea is that once a week we blog about Lent: what it means to us, how we are keeping Lent, our thoughts and our prayers. I have joined in because I thought it would do me good: my spiritual side is a weak and wan little thing at the moment.  I’m not taking part in any Lenten discipline, nor reading any Lenten books, nor doing anything – I guess this is my Lenten discipline, but I’m fairly sure it’s going to be rather incoherent, and rambling.However, for other, more inspiring posts, try going to Floss and her list of other Lent “Pausers”.

Where am I spiritually at the moment, I ask myself. Well, basically, I seem to be avoiding Church. I make excuses: it’s a long journey, my friend isn’t there at the moment, I can’t understand what the sermon’s about, I don’t want to go, it’s too wet, I’ve got up too late. However I dress it up to myself though, I know the truth: I am avoiding going to church. Or maybe it’s God I’m avoiding – I don’t know. Nor do I truly know why. But church is not calling me at the moment. I’ve not been for 5 weeks and I’m not missing it.

I am still praying – in a fairly low-level way, generally. I am still “chatting” to God.  I had a couple of days ranting at God about the total unfairness of a friend’s son’s cancer, and praying, whenever I could the arrow prayer “Please God, not malignant.” For a hold-your-breath few days it was looking like God couldn’t give a shit, but he came through with a diagnosis (described by the specialist as “incredible”) of Hodgkins lymphoma. I was grateful and thankful and back-on-God’s-side (for a couple of days) then it all just dribbled out of me again. Then there is the world shaking news of earthquakes in New Zealand and now in Japan. While I don’t exactly blame God for these – they are, after all, natural disasters caused as the techtonic plates go about their business and the earth continues to evolve as it has done over millions of years – I still am horrified by the enormity of what has happened and the helplessness I feel.

Maybe this is my problem: I’m feeling insignificant, useless, helpless in the face of such horrors – both personal like cancer, and global like the earthquakes. I was talking to my mum about the first of Dr Brian Cox’s new BBC series “Wonders of the Universe” She said that the effect of watching this for her was to realise how, in the grand scale of things, we are nothing but mere specks of dust. In fact a million billion times smaller than mere specks of dust. We are insignificant. And I argued that while we may be insignificant in terms of the universe, to those around us we are significant. We do have an effect. We can change things….because if we think that we are insignificant, we then are in danger of believing that everyone is insignificant and unimportant. And that surely will effect how we interact with them and how we see the world. If nobody matters then we don’t need to worry about them.

A quotation from Dr Who which kind of sums this up…As Kazran describes Abigail as “No-one important” (when in fact she was the most important person in the world to him) the Doctor responds with: “Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in 900 years of time and space, and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

But while I’m with the Doctor here, while I believe what I said to mum: that  in the place where we are, in the here-and-now, we are important, and we are not insignificant, I do start to wonder about how significant we are to God. As creator of not only this Universe but every universe to the end of infinity, it seems nigh on impossible to me that he can care for every creature within those infinite universes (human, or whatever other life form they may be). And presumably, if Christ died for the creatures in this world, then did he die multiple times for creatures in other worlds/universes – or maybe they didn’t need it, because they hadn’t “fallen” quite so spectacularly as humankind.

Does he care if I don’t go to church? When thousands of people have just been washed away by a tsunami, worrying about my lack of attendance at a small Eglise Reformée in central France seems like a non starter. I can’t help thinking God’s got bigger fish to worry about frying…

But then I guess that I am always, inevitably, going to be thinking from a finite, human point of view. I’m trying to make sense of a world I don’t understand because it’s too big for me. And if the world’s too big I haven’t a hope understanding the Universe and beyond… I am trying to squeeze God into a box that is too small to contain him. I’m trying to make him comfortable, and easy-to-understand, and I am forgetting that he is GOD. Huger than the very hugest thing. Creator of infinity. That isn’t comfortable. That isn’t easy-to-understand. So maybe I should stop trying…

The soul in its littlenness looks on God in his greatness and loves Him.

God in his greatness, looks on the soul in its littleness and loves it.

Trite? Profound? Easy to say? Difficult to grasp? I don’t know.

Oh, dear, I don’t know if this is what Floss was hoping for…It’s not exactly encouraging. It’s not exactly inspiring.But it’s where I am. I suspect that my Lenten discipline may be to try to spend time mulling over what I’m saying here. I’ll maybe try to hold onto that quotation (from Augustine?) above, and meditate on it a little.

I really wanted to share a poem with you, by Joyce Rupp, entitled “May I have this Dance?” which really spoke to me, some 12 years ago, when I went to Iona with a group of people from the churches in Milton Keynes. I had a great time, spending time with my Godson, but also meditating on my relationship with God. This poem summed up my feelings at the time so magnificently well and I think it sums up what I am yearning for now. But I cannot find it available on the internet, and I’m sure it will be in copyright, so I can’t quote it all here. But maybe I can be allowed to quote a small part, which still speaks to me:

the Voice stretches into me

a stirring leaps in my heart

lifting up the bones of death.

then I offer my waiting self

to the One who’s never stopped

believing in me,

and the dance begins.


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7 Responses to “A Pause In Lent 1”

  1. Pom Pom Says:

    This is a true, naked-soul post and I found it comforting AND inspiring. Both last year and this year I am drawn to images of sheep. They all look the same, they all follow as they bump up against each other, they don’t get to style their own fleeces, if one wanders away, the Shepherd comes looking for them. Whew.

  2. Carolyn Phillips Says:

    Thank you for being so honest, breathtakingly honest. Encouragingly honest. One person’s honestly helps other people to be honest. Being honest with yourself and with God is always best, even when you want to shout and swear at him, or say all the things churches would raise an eyebrow or two at…God knows anyway so you might as well. I’ve never been hit by a lightening bolt yet for following that path.

  3. fineline Says:

    I chat to God like that too – I don’t really know another way of doing it. I think prayers have to make sense to you and have to be what you are thinking and feeling. So I rant and ramble to God.

    I can relate to what you write. I often feel insignificant, in the light of the hugeness of creation and so many awful things that happen – and sometimes it seems so random, that things happen elsewhere and not to me, and I wonder when it’s my turn. Oddly, I’ve never seen it in terms of God seeing me as insignificant – more that I think that what he sees as significant might be different from what I see as significant, and I’m uncomfortably aware he has a far greater perspective than mine. Which I think is also sort of what you are saying.

    I’m glad you’re writing about Lent – I like to read people’s experiences of God and Lent, and especially when they are very honest like this. So thank you.

  4. magsmcc Says:

    Well, thank you for this. I’m cruising through Floss’ Lenten community drumroll and I am so glad to meet you tonight. I remember that Dr Who quote, and how it struck me at the time! One of our worship leaders has a song God made all of us special, each one just as He planned. It goes on through mention of squishy bits etc with actions that I won’t bore you woth now! What a God you glorify here, in just excatly where you are and what you are now. Last sumer I read The Practise of the Presence of God, which reasured me deeply about the times when I am not reading or thinking or “doing” much at all. This post reminds me so much of all the encouraging things I found there! I look forward to reading you more!

  5. Floss Says:

    Well, I think, now you make me reflect on it, that I was hoping for Reality. And reality is what you are prepared to face here, and it looks like I’m not the only Pause blogger who is appreciating that, so thanks!

    Actually, the way you describe your feelings about church is pretty much exactly what I am going through at the moment, except I add: ‘How can I drag two adolescents there when it means them giving up one quarter of their much-needed weekend?’ to the excuses, too. Going to church in a foreign country, especially where it requires long journeys to get to one’s own ‘type’ of church, is really challenging. I haven’t actually worked it out at all yet.

  6. Kaye Swain Says:

    Hi, I came to visit from Floss. I have a dear friend who is going through much of what you’re describing, so I was especially interested to read what you wrote on it. I also appreciated your quote from Thomas Aquinas. I’m praying for you for wisdom, guidance, and more encouragement. Also for your friend and their son.

  7. Karin Says:

    I’m not sure what I believe about God any more. I suppose I still consider God to be some kind of Cosmic Parent to humanity, but I’m not sure how much she intervenes in the details of our lives or whether he’ll do something just because we’ve asked him to. I find myself chatting to God and saying ‘thank you’ out of habit, so perhaps I still hope God will sort things out for me in my subconscious.

    Interestingly, although I am not observing Lent I have started thinking more about what I believe these last few weeks. I’ve started to miss church lately, too, although I’m thinking more about attending Quaker meetings if I do anything of that sort.