In a recent post I shared the unexpected and stunning turnaround in my health that I experienced in February. The last 6 months of 2018 had seen a severe decline in my mobility to the point that on any given day I had no idea how long my body would be in a state of tremoring and muscle rigidity before flipping into severe dyskensia and somewhere inbetween those states giving me broken periods of mobility. Some days were good and others were bad.
As awful as this was, it was also a period in which I discovered a new layer of spirituality. My faith has long been framed around the imperative to participate in God’s work of redeeming creation. In the faith of my childhood this meant seeking to share a gospel of salvation of sinners from the wrath of God. As I got older it meant greater appreciation for recognising God’s grace, joy, love and generosity in all creation along with the human capacity to surrender these to greed, violence, injustice and fear. It meant participating in God’s work of helping us recover our humanity, our communities and our world through the revelation, grace, healing, forgiveness, and hope opened up by the crucified and risen Christ. It meant giving myself to the life of my church and to working with others across our nation in advocacy for justice.
Yet as my body grew increasingly recalcitrant my activist oriented faith became increasingly remote. My spirit was willing but my flesh was weak! Somehow, in the midst of this God met me in a new way, in a spirituality that found its meaning in the simple knowledge that God was with me, and that my days were lived in the presence of a God whose grace, love, generosity, joy and hope were trained upon me. It was a season to simply be in the presence of God.
This did not mean I entered a contemplative life of silent meditation. Apart from the fact that it is difficult to calm your spirit when your muscles are tremoring at breakneck speed or you’re swaying madly like someone completely inebriated, I am by nature extroverted and 30 minutes of silent contemplation still sounds like a form of torture to me. No, it was in the soaring wail of Clapton’s guitar, the resonant lyric of a Dylan classic, the contagious rhythms of Aussie pub rock that I found points of joy, grief, celebration, hope and grace. It was in the sheer joy of a schmalzy romance, the unrestrained laughter gifted by a good comic, the laying bare of injustice in a well researched doco, the emotional engagement with the characters of a well scripted and acted drama, or the outrageous hope of sci-fi that I connected with love, hope, pain, grief. It was in the prayers of my friends, the expressions of care of my church, the grief and hope that were shared with others, and the tender compassion and generosity of Sandy, Ash, Jess and Lachy that I found myself moved time and again to tears and astonishment at the presence and power of grace.
These have long been part of my encounter with the Divine, but they had now become the centre of it. All these and more connected me to the overarching narrative of my faith and the story of Jesus and were means by which I found myself simply resting in Grace, Joy, Love, Hope, and Grief. Nothing else to do. No deadline to meet. No project to complete. Just being. Resting. Receiving.
Reflecting on this I wrote a song echoing what I believe God was saying to Sandy and I during this period. The lyrics are repeated below. And now that my health has turned around, I hope that I will retain this capacity to rest in God’s grace, draw ever deeper into God’s love and get myself lost in God’s embrace.
Come rest yourself in my grace
Fall ever deeper into my love
Get yourself lost in my embrace
I am yours
You are mine
You are my child.
My child you thrill me
I have set my heart on you
My love for you will never fade
I will see you through it all
Through the fire,
Through the storm
Til you reach safe shore
My child I’ve got you
If you find yourself grown weary.
And your heart is overwhelmed
I will carry you in my arms
And hold you until all is new
Lord, I put my trust in you
It’s all that I can do
As I fade away.
I’ll seek for you my friend
In that place we’ve always met,
In the haze of grace.
Scott I found your post inspirational and challenging -you have such a wonderful way with words. I am fortunate to be in good health but in spiritual maturity I have miles to go. How many of us I wonder will have to experience what you are going through to discover that layer of spirituality you describe. However it would seem that we do have at least one thing in common – your taste in music!
May your mutual love with God continue through it all.
Please watch Henry Nouwen’s sermon on you tube, in particular about being ‘broken’ and ‘given’ (away).
He wrote one year before his death that our greatest spiritual gift to others is our death.
After a few minutes of Dutch the sermon comes in English.
Thanks Andris, for the comment and the link.
Thank you again Scott, for the gift of sharing your story. In articulating your faith so well you’ve been most helpful in my own personal reflections on faith and meaning.
Hi Scott, I have wanted to get in touch with you ever since I did a subject at Morling college in 2014. I loved sitting under your insights then & I loved reading this just as much now. You have no idea how much that class impacted my life. What I learned in Aid & Development ended up fueling me to spend the following year (2015) training teachers in Madagascar. That was the beginning of a journey that is still not over. I’ve been back. Written a course for training teachers that’s being used nationally by the university institute &… Read more »
Wow. Thanks Lara. I am thrilled that the aid and development course had for you and at where it led you!