26 July 2010

Finding God's Mercy

Those of you who may have been reading this intermittent blog for some time--or are willing to page back through to see what the heck this is all about--may have noticed that one recurring refrain in my spiritual walk is this: "Is this year OVER YET??" At my age especially, one hates to wish away one's days, weeks, months, and years. So I have decided that my focus for the rest of 2010 is to try and alter that refrain to something more positive, by attempting to find in each day something good, uplifting, or even just of shorter duration than it might have been otherwise.

Of course, the Universe being what it is, the very moment I make such a decision there arises a challenge.... *wry smile*

Well, I've been doing it again. Wondering if 2010 is over yet, foolishly believing 2011 will somehow not have its own challenges. This time I believe the universe is not letting me get away with it.

Last Sunday I was awakened by pain. I'm not good with pain, but I'm pretty good at hiding it; not always for the best of reasons, but hey, if you're good at something and there's even the tiniest bit of positive spin to it, go with it. :) Nevertheless, the point of the comment is this: I don't usually let pain get the better of me. But this pain fit all the hallmarks of a heart attack, and for once I decided to listen.

Here's the end of the story first: it wasn't a heart attack. Thank you, Lord, for that! What it was, however, brings its own interesting challenges: it was a return of the stress-related attacks I had a few years ago when my life decided to take WAY too many new directions all at the same time, like puppies pulling toward every quarter of the compass at once. Shortly thereafter--a matter of days--I was gardening and got nowhere NEAR poison ivy, but somehow got it all over myself again. Just like the last two Julys.

Oh yay.... :)

All right, yes, to be honest, fair and just, the crisis was way overdue. I've been living on air and about 4 hours of sleep a night for far too long, and losing important bits of myself in the bargain. Had I been my own counseling client, I'd have known precisely what to say and in exactly what tone of voice--but how often do we give our own selves that interesting grace?

Oh my yes... Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν, physician, heal thyself.... a proverb known in Jesus's day, as he quotes it to the crowd in Nazareth in exactly those terms: "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." (Luke 4:22-23, KJV) We know, as did they, that Jesus meant we should look to our own problems prior to judging those of others--a proverb he would gently push home in another way when suggesting we remove the log from our own eyes before worrying over the speck of dust in the eye of our brother or sister. Oh counselor, look thyself in the face in thy morning mirror and take a dose of thine own medication... :)

Hence the whole idea of trying to do just that, wrapped up in the concept of joy no matter what. So I have to crawl out of bed somewhere between 03:30 and 04:00, hit the road as soon as possible, and drive safely/mindfully to my tentmaker-job? So what! I get to see the lovely full moon riding the skies amid the cloud-ships, where others miss it because they are asleep. And I get to leave before rush-hour traffic becomes horribly bad, which is also a plus. I get to learn afresh that my body's immune system really DOES work, oh boy does it ever, and that all the signals point to upcoming challenges. Joy!

But I also need to heal myself by getting to bed earlier... eating more healthfully and at less odd hours... reclaiming time here and there to do the things that feed my own soul.... And I need to believe and claim that I have as much right to health, rest and joy as anyone else. Not to mention... *gulp* making myself realize that the mercy of God is something that pertains to me just as much as anyone else.

There, I said it. Yes, sports fans, I have come to the understanding that I fell victim to one of the biggest traps that beset people in ministry: a delight and longing and joy in sharing with others the loving mercy of God, and a serious difficulty in applying it to my own self. The reasons don't matter, because they are so different and so people-specific.

Maybe you were told as a child that you were of little worth, took it in and believed it, spent your life so far helping other people because it fed some of the ache in the centre of your own being. Maybe you were abused, belittled, bereft; maybe you grew up in a normal household where helping others was a joyous way of life, and you got so caught up in the process that you forgot to look in the mirror from time to time and thus missed the need in your eyes. Whatever it is/was/continues to be, it doesn't have to have been a bad thing (though it all too often is/was)--it was just a distraction at some level. You went along, kept going, one foot in front of the other, whatever was needful to feed your desire to help, be loved, whatever.

I know I did it, for my own reasons. Some of those reasons I knew about, others I didn't, I just... did it. Gave space to it in my heart. Some of it is there and remains joyful, though I will be working on balance with it from now on. Some of it is there and is clothed in anger, sorrow, loss, grief--and I will be working on balance there, too.

Some of it... Lord help me, some of it is badness done to me or by me that I have forgiven but not released, hurt and dark things I have acknowledged and released but then not completely let go of. Those things will be worked on immediately. With lots of prayer and mercy-searching. With as much honesty as I can muster. Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν.

New Year is not the only time to make choices, declare intentions, slip your hand into God's on one side and Destiny on the other. But then again, the calendar New Year is not the only new year season we receive, either. Our ancestors believed the new year came at the dark of the season, when autumn's leaves were burning and that veil was thinnest that separates us from Spirit. So even though Summer has a high hand in charge where I live, I am very aware this week that autumn is coming. The days are already getting shorter; the heat's back will be broken, and the Lord will have many a message for me.

This time... O Lord, this time let me not only listen--but let me hear. Bring on the Mercy and help me to say yes this time.


Rebecca Ramsey said...

The end of July and the beginning of August are always like New Year to me, probably because that's the time I start thinking about the new school year. It's a great time to re-evaluate and reset direction and goals.

What a big important one, applying our own words to our lives. It's so much easier to speak wisdom to others than to hear it ourselves, I think.
Such a thought provoking post! Thank you!

Rev. Sharon said...

Rebecca, thank you for your comments! It is odd how the year shifts like this, isn't it? How New Year becomes defined by the things that happen, the patterns of our lives? Cool stuff and a challenge all in one. :)

And boy are you right... it is SO hard to take our own advice when it is so needful. Still struggling with this one. :)