January 28th 2019. Just another ordinary morning in a quiet little town in a rural corner of Wales. “Nothing ever happens here.” I help to edit a free magazine for the community and getting stories out of people is quite a bit harder than getting a decent Barolo from a boulder. Getting blood from a stone would be easy by comparison.
People are born and people die, and they have great love stories and adventures and achievements in-between, but over and over they say to me “I don’t have any stories to tell”. We are different and crazy, people are eccentric and difficult, funny and wild, lives are risked at sea, and saved at sea, we have people who have survived two World Wars, travelled all over the world, beaten all sorts of apparently hopeless odds, people who have received fabulous and life transforming gifts, but “There’s nothing special about my life.”
There is something special about every life. Something amazing. The average body is made up of over 37 trillion cells. There are 11 main systems in the human body, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous, endocrine, immune, integumentary, skeletal, muscle and reproductive. Those are just the ones I googled (you know I did!) but there will be others, systems within systems. When I was a nurse I was fascinated by the cells of all our major organs, but especially the kidneys and the heart. When a kidney is removed from the body for transplant, it lies inert but when it’s transplanted the whole surgical team watches as the blood supply is restored… watches as the amazing cells of that small organ fill and do their job, and there is always a moment of silence… waiting for the sign of success… and then, at the end of the ureter (which will then be attached to the bladder) there emerges a drop of glistening urine, and then another, and then another… and each member of the team feels fabulous relief. The new kidney is already doing its job.
And the heart! What an amazing organ the heart is. I may use the word ‘amazing’ quite a lot in this blog. The cells of the heart are the only cells in any body (animal and human) that will continue to work and live outside the body for a period of time. Excuse me while I rob a website: A feature that is unique to cardiac muscle tissue is autorhythmicity. Cardiac muscle tissue is able to set its own contraction rhythm due to the presence of pacemaker cells ……however, even in the absence of nervous system stimulation, the pacemaker cells can produce a regular heart rhythm.
There are 20 different sorts of cells in the human body, but within each sort there can be 20 variations in structure and function. That tells me that not only is there something special about every life – there’s something special about each one of those 37 trillion cells. Flip me, my little mad March hares, 37 trillion miracles.
So, don’t tell me that you are not special. You came out of nothing, for pity’s sake. You came out of nothing! In the beginning .. hang on… “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Where were you then? You weren’t! Not a single human cell existed. Not a single animal cell. Nowt. Zilch. You came out of nothing. God breathed and there we were, mankind. And right back there, beyond time, in eternity, you were known and loved and planned. So, don’t tell me you don’t have a story. I don’t believe you.
Why did God make you if not to have a story? You have a story. His story. Even if your story of what He is doing in your life is ‘only’ about this morning, of a moment this morning, of a thought this morning… you have a story. A story to glorify God. What a waste if you don’t. The world is created to glorify God. And it does. But we have to open our eyes to see it, we have to be consciously aware, deliberately looking for the signs of God’s great love and his continuing presence. You know, Poppit Sands is not a magical place. I don’t believe there are ‘thin’ places and special places, that’s all a bit voodoo -oodoo to me. I think that everywhere God created is filled with Him. But Poppit is where I steady my soul every morning and so I can’t stop seeing Him at Poppit.
Here is a Poppit story to glorify God.
That’s my shadow in the dunes this morning, on a crisp bright day, with the grasses shimmering and waving, the wind buffeting. I’ve been thinking such a lot this week about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, the woman who had been menstruating for 12 years. Three blogs ago I went on and on about it. And then – blow me down!- last night we heard a message (church-speak, oops. Must be contagious) about that same woman. When that happens I’m always a bit taken aback that of all the stories in the Bible (hundreds of pages) the same story (barely half a page) crops up twice in the same weekend! It sharpens my senses, focuses my attention. I know I’m being told something, so I pin my ears back and listen, and try to live the story, and so this morning I thought about that woman, about that healing.
I was thinking about how isolated she must have felt, imagining her washing those rags in the river, away from the other women, ashamed of her sexuality… and then I remembered the morning sermon (see how spoilt we are here in West Wales?) which touched on the fear of loneliness. I am lonely. I’m not proud of the fact. It’s a stupid thing to be. It’s a wrong thing to be. Being alone is undeniable and it’s where lots of us end up, and it’s hard but there you are. He never promised you a rose garden and sometimes loneliness kicks in. But being lonely and staying lonely, wallowing in it, is a waste of time, it’s a self indulgence, and just plain wrong. Whenever I’ve thought about the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s robe, I’ve recognised that this woman is me. She wore a deep and ingrained shame – a shame she had carried for years. I could identify with that. And that Jesus didn’t recoil from her, but accepted her… I could just about accept that. But it had never really touched me, affected me before, that as she came up through the crowd, she was so alone. Maybe what she wanted to be healed of, as much as her physical condition, was her loneliness.
When you’ve lived alone for a long time, you forget how to be with other people. Maybe she had. Maybe I have.
This morning, as I watched my shadow in the dancing grasses, it was as if I was there in that swaying, jostling crowd. Everyone around that woman was part of the great big creature that a mob becomes. The world and its dog, a big happy party. And her, separate, low down in the dust, bending… . Yes, I think if I was her I would feel that alone-ness as pain. You can feel so lonely that your bones ache. You can feel so lonely that you think they will break. But that isn’t what God wants of us. We weren’t born to be lonely.
This morning I was so conscious of the life given to me, of the sky above and the distant crash of the sea, the howling wind, the wailing gulls, and my God, there with me. The God who breathed me out of nothing. Less than nothing. The nothingness of non existence.
I wonder if, when that woman was healed, did she rejoin society? What a waste if she didn’t. I wonder if she found an end of loneliness? What a waste if she didn’t. I wonder if she knew from that moment on that she was no longer alone? What a waste if she didn’t. I wonder if she looked up at Jesus and saw how beautiful and how powerful He was? I wonder if she picked up all the broken pieces of her life and gave them back to Him?
I wonder if I’ve done that yet?
When Jesus heals the broken heart, he doesn’t patch us up, He gives us a new heart. He gives us His heart.
This morning, looking up.
The last few days have been very windy, and the high seas washed up a great shoal of shells and cuttlefish, so there were hundreds of seagulls on the shore, and my new little dog, Pip , just can’t abide birds. She ran and ran… the gulls wheeled away, laughing, and I stood watching, alone but not lonely. Remembering that all I had to do was reach out and touch Jesus. Just reach out.
That’s my story for today. All about a God who loves and heals. Even her. Even me.