This post starts after the Lindt cafe Sydney siege and the breaking news today that eight children have been stabbed to death in Queensland. One as young as 18 months.
It starts less than 24 hours after our quiet, leafy suburb was teeming with police and their dogs, searching for the person who chose to hold up our local liquor store, threatening the young bloke behind the till with a needle injury.
Yesterday I suggested on social media that our local community buy a case from the local bottle shop today. Small scale #Illridewithyou. Today I went in and my heart was gladdened to hear the owner say how busy she was. Thank you community.
Today I sat in our local cafe next to our Como institution. Close to 90 years old, Mrs R lives independently – my family first got to know her almost ten years ago when I walked past her house with my newborn son. She had a quiet tear today thinking about how long she has lived in this peaceful suburb and how distressing it was to hear the news of yesterday’s robbery. After she left, the cafe regulars worked out how to make sure she was tended, to offer her love and comfort, without intruding on her independence. Thank you community.
It would be easy for me to say, after the events of the past week, that it appears God has turned his back and shut the door on our bewildering world. But then I see Jesus in each person who bought a case of wine or beer from our local bottle shop today. In the compassion that strews Martin Place with flowers. In the love that tends to a 90 year old woman to ensure she is held safely in our small community.
Sydney to Perth is roughly 2000 miles. From one side of the country to the other. Which is how I feel about my spiritual travels over the past six months. I’m in the same country, but on the total flip side.
Which puts this coming Christmas into a whole new perspective. So far, I’ve had 42 Christmases upon this earth. Yet this will be the first where I get it. Yes, I’d been called to ‘get it’ before – there was a reason why a practising agnostic would creep into midnight Christmas Eve services and be moved to weep, after all – but 2014? 2014, I suspect, will be very different.
It may have ‘felt’ like Christmas those 42 times before. But only to the extent that I recognised it as a a religious festival, happily accepted the public holiday, and, in a silent midnight eve moment, paid quiet attention to the pressing on my soul. That there was more to this day than turkey, brandy butter, wrapping paper and wine. Before pushing that attention into the ‘too hard’ basket and looking away. Telling myself that it was only the carols that called me…nothing more…
No-wonder that God tired of the subtleties. I wonder how many others He sees at Christmas services, all drawn towards the quiet joyfulness (even when they are unaware of what they are drawn to) and decides, “No more gentle prods. You, you, and you. This coming year, you’re all on the Wake-Up To Me Fast Track.”
Yet, we have free will. We can stick our fingers in our ears, ignore, look the other way. God meets us where we are at. Jesus extends a hand. It’s up to us whether we join the dance. But if you have that pressing on your soul? That you want to ignore because it’s too damn scary and who knows what could happen if you opened up that feeling and peeked inside? Or perhaps, like me, or my hubby Big T, you carry such a Christian hangover you could never imagine the ache in your head being less important than the ache in your heart?
May I just say, it’s a fairly awesome dance. Even when you have forgotten the steps or are worrying you are going to tread on someone’s toes. And, for those who know me well, they recognise it is ASTOUNDING that I am about to write an invitation such as this:
If, under the tinsel, the cheer, the busyness, your heart is whispering for more…. then I invite you.
If you are asking, “Is this really it?” as you fight the Christmas shoppers, as you wince at the credit card creaking… then I invite you.
If you feel like you are stumbling into this holiday period with a sense of having just made it by the skin of your teeth…. then I invite you.
Not to throw yourself in the doors of your nearest church (unless you wish to).
Not to join me at a variety of Christmas services (unless you wish to).
Not to do anything except pause. Take a breath. Listen to the quiet whisper in your heart. And then, just pray. Or meditate if it makes you feel less freaked-out about the whole thing.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be ‘right’. But just give it a go. There is a structure to ‘right’ prayer but I don’t think God and Jesus are going to get that bothered; if they’ve not heard from you in a while they’re going to be more excited about the fact you’re ‘phoning home’.
Keep it simple. Hi there. Thanks for everything. Show me.
And, if you really fancy changing up your 2015, you could pray for your own SAP.