Month: January 2020

Held Back

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When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth.  

 

          Reading the daily Bible readings, I have often prayed to have words move me, pierce me even. Sometimes, that prayer is answered; often not. Last Monday was a not day, and that made me wince a little. Anyone walking in the dark desires light. How can you know where to go or where not to, where to place your foot and where to draw back – unless there is light shining out the path ahead?

          So, I asked God to move my heart with His word.

          Instead, every word slid off me. Nothing stuck nor stirred.

          Why? I asked God.

          Then, an old friend brought this answer,

          When a sparrow tied by the leg tries to fly, it is held back by the string and pulled down to the earth. Similarly, when the intellect that has not yet attained dispassion flies up towards heavenly knowledge, it is held back by the passions and pulled down to the earth.   ~   St. Maximos the Confessor

          What passions did I have? I wondered even as I recognised the truth of it. Was it the small bit of glee I had that we were finally going to change the living room sofa to a colour I liked after 10 years of my husband’s choice? Did the thinking about slipcovers and maintenance and chair positions constitute passions? And anyway, wasn’t this way better than constantly pulling out my hair over work issues?

          The reply to that came soon enough. It wasn’t the new couch. My leaden passions referred to my heightened busyness and preoccupation with work plans and deadlines. Despite the great calm inside me and my cheeriness at work and in work, there was too much of work filling up my soul.

          Taking up space that it shouldn’t.

          Biting my lip as I stared at this truth, I wondered what to do. I wasn’t stretching myself thin; whatever work I was busy with was work that needed to be done.

          Again, St. Maximos intervened. He took me back to an old post from almost 4 years ago, to old problems with superiors which remained still, hurting and grating even now. St. Maximos led me to his old words for me,

To the extent that you pray with all your soul for the person who slanders you, God will make the truth known to those who have been scandalized by the slander.

          And that very day, I began to pray Blood of Christ prayers for superiors and colleagues who continue to make life difficult for everyone.

          Prayer didn’t lesson the amount of work I needed to do. But suddenly, work didn’t take up the space in my heart that it did before. While it was a constant presence, even following me home, I didn’t feel anchored to it.

          And as I continued those Blood of Christ prayers, I felt the first stirrings of a new sign for the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Light

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The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.   ~   Matthew 4: 16

          I awakened in the dark of pre-dawn Friday last week, puzzled at the unusual illumination of a room that is normally swathed in darkness at this time. Parting the curtains I realised it was the moon’s doing. Crowned with her aura, bright beyond words, she had flung her cloak of light across the expanse of the northern sky. Breathing in this incandescent beauty, peace settled its freeing mists gently into me.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          After 2 consecutive Thursdays of joyful news, naturally, my seeking heart was primed for another this week. Still, God’s ways not being ours, and not mine certainly, I prayed to forge ahead with steady hope even if the Thursday hours descended into its end with nothing for me.

          Thursday morn began with a brief dream. A dream of a telegram received from a family member, telling me the news of the death of his wife. But the telegram message ended unexpectedly with a triumphant

Yeayyy!!

          The gentle peace of the quiet moonlight snuggled deep within, the morning marched on, and soon, out of England last week, came the next – news of a royal couple trying to break free of Palace control.

          In both the Thursday dream and in that piece of news, the common theme was freedom. The dream showed the family member was finally free from a wife who seemed to tick all the boxes for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This severe narcissism had rendered the relative’s marriage of 5 decades a long march of endless madness and suffering.

          The royal couple seemed to be trying to break free in order to find true life. As it is with any news, people soon hustled themselves into 2 camps: the for and the against. Some commiserated and rejoiced with the couple. Nonetheless, louder still were the voices accusing them of derailing decades of adherence to monarchial norms.

          I feared for the young couple, even as I rejoiced with them for wanting to chart their own lives. Because it is never easy to redefine relationships, be it with someone suffering from NPD or the monarchy. When people like even the former chaplain to the Queen of England no less, says, The problem for the Sussexes is that they have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public duty and family, when words like blinkered, immature and self-pity are used to bolster such an opinion, each missile takes me back to my past. Of being in a prison pit, totally subject to another person’s control. Of being indoctrinated repeatedly that my own husband and children were not as important as my birth family. That my own life and all that matters to me must come a distant second to anything deemed more important by those who controlled me.

          Many aspects of the royal drama reminded me of the past where my life was not my own, not even God’s. It brought back to me the old days of knowing where the key to my prison was, yet being too incapacitated by fear to reach out and use it to unlock the door and sprint for freedom.

          Planning for a break is one thing; going public is another. To have your attempt to break free played out on social media, in press pits, in bars and restaurants, in offices as well as in homes, is taking the fight for freedom to another level. I can barely contend with 2 sides of the family even now foaming at the mouth waiting to sink their teeth into me for daring to break away to save my marriage, my family and my sanity; I cannot begin to imagine the number of snarling wolves circling this young pair bold enough to attempt something done only once before in the 1930s. The volcanic fallout can suffice to tempt them to choose the path of cowardice and to back away from the fires of change.

          Because fear of punishment is a powerful weapon. And its power is not lost on those who feed on our obedience, our love, our readiness to forgive.

          Our mute allegiance to commands.

          Our timidity.

          But is the pain and unhappiness wrought by someone’s  – or any institution’s – crippling dictates truly preferable to living free under the rule of God?

          Of course I cannot claim to know exactly what shade of freedom this young prince and his beloved seek. And taxpayers have every right to know how much of this freedom they have to pay for, as is their right to reject footing the bill for the freedom of the rich and privileged.

          But I’m looking at support of a different kind. Isn’t it telling when someone wilfully eschews much of the trappings of power and plaudits for a quieter life away from the blinding lights of pageantry? Doesn’t it count for something that this is a fight for the right to raise a family in the real world?

          Isn’t that a choice we should try to support even if we do not completely grasp all the reasons for it?

          About a year ago, I had a dream about the British royalty – my first, incidentally. However, it showed the older brother of the royal in question now, with his wife, living and thriving as commoners. They were at an outdoor market, perusing items on display, very casually dressed, just part of the crowd. No one even recognised them and they did absolutely nothing to seek out the old public adulation. In the dream, they were calm, and quietly happy to be a part of the mundane flow of the day.

          There were no forced smiles, no scripted moves, no performing for the public gallery. They were themselves.

And they had clearly found peace.

          At that time, I did not believe this would ever come to pass. Even in my relative’s case, I wondered if peace would ever come to that marriage lined and ruled so deeply by narcissism.

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen

          But God used a Thursday to remind me once more that miracles mean light rising out of death, the unimaginable becoming reality.

          A miracle is also when a prisoner is finally, impossibly, set free, his freedom like the brightness of a moon, against which the darkness of night surrenders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Happy

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I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. Think of all the beauty still felt around you and be happy.   ~  Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

          Two Thursday miracles so far, two answered prayers. Uncertainty for the future remains, the thread of anxiety stitches a quiet seam through my hours.

          But what is life if not to hope?

          This day is a carefree young girl, undecided on her hours. Should she drench the earth with springs from heaven, or burst gold and warmth through blooms and boughs? The winds laugh and sigh, giggle and chatter, as the day ponders how it will live.

Think of all the beauty still felt around you and be happy. 

          As the hymn of the winds dip then soar from minute to minute, a lone robin slips his notes into the spaces. Hope, he sings to remind me, Hope being his song from a winter old. While worries and concerns are an immutable part of my daily walk, the robin wills me remember they must never be allowed to blot out the sun of hope.

           So, for my heavenly Mother, my offering for this First Saturday of the decade is to seek out the blooms of hope She has hidden for me to find.

          May this be my gift to my Mother today, the gift of enduring hopefulness. For hope is the angels’ paean.

          To hope is to be happy.