I wish I could say to you, dear readers, that I’m covering many miles and a lot of ground at speed on this, my spiritual journey. For the impatient amongst you, I’m afraid it’s not like that. I feel more like a dogged little snail, edging along, flinching at the sight of any big and nasty predators, and finding safe comfortable rocks to hide under when I get the squits with fright, or just need to have a nice lie-down. To be honest, if you want to read accounts of God changing water into wine or making the lame dance for joy, look for another blog. (I’m pretty sure there’s something out there.) No - my journey is inching along and it takes me all my time for me to stay with me, never mind anyone else.
Last week, we took ourselves off on a weekend à deux to one of our splendid cathedral cities. I won’t name which one because although I only have mainly good things to say, there are libel laws and you can’t be too careful. We looked forward to Evensong in exquisite surroundings filled with warm and cosy spiritual feelings.
That first evening we schlepped down into the city from our digs in a monsoon. Although my husband was never a Boy Scout, he had checked the weather and prepared for such an eventuality, purchasing a handy foldable mac which he smugly eased himself into. The only trouble was that it certainly repelled the water, but channelled it instead down the polyester, pooling in large quantities over the top of his jeans. His torso was bone dry but his legs looked as though he'd just waded through a sheep dip. I was slightly better off in my calf length waterproof but still looked as though I’d been through a carwash by the time we arrived for the service.
Now this choir is one of the best in the country. I sat back and prepared to be dazzled. We were parked somewhere on hard chairs at the back of the nave, as a lot of other people had the idea of dropping in (to get out of the rain I thought uncharitably and certainly un Franciscanly) and the best seats were taken. And I don’t know if it was because it was Lent, or the music was all in a minor key, or hypothermia began to set in as the ambient temperature was around 10˚c but I didn’t enjoy it. (I know St Columba prayed up to his neck in water and all I can say is he has my greatest admiration). I tried to pretend to be devout so as to chalk up some holy brownie points, but I was glad to escape to the warmth of the adjacent hostelry for a cheeky drink and dry out.
The next evening, it was hotter and drier than Ibiza and we tried again. And this time I was able to relax and let go and let the music and the words wash over me and reach down into the depths of my being. The fact that I was not a soggy soaking little heap, perched on a wooden chair behind a pillar next to the gift shop helped. I was simply able to pray. We sat behind the choir and I watched the little boys, barely two years from learning to read and write singing music which taxes me when I sing, and I’ve been reading and writing for a long time.
I think I’m beginning to understand that God was there in both services. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t feel anything at the first. Maybe I was just hiding under a rock and God knew I was there and was content to let me be.
This is what I’m discovering. That God is there and sometimes I’m able to tune in and sometimes I’m not. And if I can’t, it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned me or is busy or away on holiday – it just means that in my human and fallible way, I sometimes don’t connect. God is always there, waiting for the connection. Sometimes I’m just not very good at plugging in.
You remember in my last piece I wrote about not trying with God? It’s here if you want to take a look. https://www.backstreetpilgrim.com/post/encircle-heal-protect Well, I’m still not trying. And not trying to the extent that I’ve even stopped setting a timer when I pray. God doesn’t have a watch and she’s not bothered if I rack up five, ten or thirty minutes. She’s just there waiting for me to tune in. And when I do, I feel loved, accepted, held.
Tuning in. That’s what it’s about.
Last week, I went to the first in-person meeting of my Third Order Local Group since the start of the pandemic. Happy days and much rejoicing! And at the end, our Convenor (that word always puts me in mind of a 1970s shop-steward) asked me to lead Compline. The God I thought I knew would have loomed menacingly with his pointy finger saying, ‘GET IT RIGHT!!’ whilst terrified of being noticed, I ran away and hid under the table.
The God I know now sat back and joined in and didn’t set her watch or even follow the service to make sure I didn’t miss any bits out. She was just right there, with us, leading us to the end of the day and granting us peace.
Loved. Accepted. Held.
And I tuned in.
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