“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90v12
So today marks yet another turn in the seasons and here I am again, as is my habit, looking back down the road: Yes, we can surely say, ‘Ebenezer – this far has the Lord helped us’ (1 Samuel 7v12). Truly we have found grace for each day and our lives are a testimony of the goodness of God: I am so grateful for every good gift.
But perhaps six months ago as Spring began it was easier to feel more hopeful about the coming season – at this end of summer we lament the loss of warm days and none of us like the threat of winter cold and dark nights! However, the seasons of the soul and rhythms of the Lord don’t always line up neatly with the warmth around us. My summer has been pretty hard this year. So once again I ‘stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the good way to walk in’ that I may find ‘rest for my soul’. (Jer 6v16) And I am peering as far as I can up the road (which is not very far!) – with hope and expectation, but also questions and trepidation, as I face unwillingly into the season of death and loss that winter represents. But as Richard Rohr says, we must have ‘both descent and ascent’ to fully encounter God and be transformed…
It was exactly six months ago that I wrote this reflection below – and really not much has changed. This is a long journey and the signposts don’t say how many miles there are still to go!
Lost at sea
It’s the first day of Spring. I am adrift in an open boat on the ocean of life. The winter storms took my rudder, sail and oars, so all I can do now is lie back against the weathered wood and look at the sky, allowing the pale sunlight to warm my skin. I have no choice but to let the currents take me where they will.
I was on a journey: I suppose I thought I knew where I was going, with some element of control. But the storms of life, which no-one can escape, came through in force and blew away my sense of direction. The journey has been radically interupted by circumstance – an intervention of Nature, the suddenly of God – and now my destination is unclear. I have no say in it anymore – if I ever really did – and now the wind and waves decide when I reach land and I have no idea when or where. Subject to the weather and unprotected I drift in my coracle, carried by the undertow of the deep, vast blue. My only provision comes from the heavens: thirsty I drink rain, hungry I remain.
It is quite strange, but there are other ships within my sight. Liners crowded with tourists pass in the distance, lights and laughter reaching me across the water. Other small boats make some headway under sail, white against the turquoise sea. Along the horizon trading vessels plough their course, merchants with purpose and cargo focussed on their goals. I even saw a pirate ship out there… Sometimes the passengers or crew spot me and wave as they pass by: how can they know I am in distress if I only cry out silently? I do not have the option of being rescued. I cannot join their journeys.
Today I revel in the season’s change and wonder if it signifies new hope: a change in climate, a touch of tranquility. Peace cannot come from circumstances, only from trust. Even in the dark when the huge waves rise and fall, the billows roll, the storms come up, the cold wind rips across the water and stings my face with its tears – when the terror strikes… All alone on the sea of life, battling with my fear, I am looking for the Man who walks on the water.
First posted on Stories from the Streeton 21st March 2010