Our early morning walk today was miserable – rain and mist and cold, the dogs muddy before we’d even stepped onto the sand. Head down, stomp stomp. But we’re hardy creatures in West Wales so we did a circuit of dunes and beach, sat on a wet log for a while, tried to pray (not ever so heartfelt, sorry) and agreed with a few other trudging walkers that we were all certifiable and only in the UK… and came back after only half an hour.
It’s been a weird week. God is telling me something and I’m kicking and screaming and have my fingers in my ears, so I can’t quite hear what He’s telling me. And I can’t take my fingers out of my ears because – well, you got there before me – I jolly well don’t want to hear what He has to say. And that, you know, bloggies, makes for a very tiresome week and a low level headache and a desire to poke someone in the eye. Anyone. I was really glad it’s Sunday and I could go to Church and somehow, maybe, get back into a calmer place with my God.
And Church this morning was lovely. Great singing, a sense of worship, Communion, new people to welcome. Great. How good it is to go to the house of the Lord, etc etc etc. I even stayed behind for ten minutes and was sociable. No mean feat, that, but a neighbour was there and I couldn’t walk out on her, so I was stuck. The cinnamon buns helped to keep me in my place. You can’t scurry out when you’re eating a sticky bun.
I came back from church and kicked off my shoes in the porch… sand everywhere. This morning’s wet coat still dripping. A smell of damp and dogs. Came into the living room… still musty, still doggy. I looked around at a house that’s getting just a bit (!) the worse for wear… and there was silence. As usual silence. Just me and the dogs… no one to talk to… nothing to do… the day stretching out featureless before me… No call on my time, no schedule, not needed, not wanted… boo hoo. That’s how easy it is, my little sugar dumplings, to plunge from misery and grunge into worship and joy and life, and then straight back into self-pitying grunge.
Grunge, I tell you. Grunge.
I’m a creature swayed by emotions. They wash over me, overwhelm me, and I fall for it every bloody time. Every rotten time I believe them. I won’t burden you with the self-pitying, envious, covetous thoughts that slipped through my mind, like one of those chasing neon signs. I won’t mention that those thoughts were so mean and petty that they included words like ‘smug sods’ and ‘selfish swines’ and ‘it’s alright for them’. And if you think I’m going to admit that those words included ‘Sod the blinkin’ church, anyway!’ you’re wrong. I will never admit to that. Suffice it to say that I was awash in misery.
It’s so easy when there’s no one there to say “What the hell’s wrong with you now?” to shut down completely. Lock the door, pull down the blinds and enter a personal stew of lonely unhappiness. But I don’t have that choice any more.
Well, I suppose I do have that choice but I know it’s not an acceptable choice. So I recalled a hundred sermons and gritted my teeth and I said, so reluctantly, oh, so reluctantly, “Here I go again, Lord. Please put me in a bag and shake me. Hard.”
And then I choose other. I ate a muffin, drank some strong sweet coffee and set off for the beach to give the dogs the long walk they didn’t have this morning. Was I all tra-la-la and winsome happiness by now? Don’t be silly.
The beach car-park was packed but I know that this is deceptive. Our car park can be heaving with 60 or 70 cars but when you get on the beach……
This is what we found, Percy, Pip and me. God’s good Earth and sky. That’s looking into the sun so it all looks very dramatic ( ignore the little green spot). Turn the camera the other way and this is what you see:
Same beach, same day, same time, same pair of eyes. It’s all about choice. What do we choose to look at?
Surely by now I was all sweetness and light? Nope. But I was getting there. I was remembering a song from my school days, ‘All In The April Evening’ which is about the price Christ paid for us, and I was thinking about the communion we had just shared at church, and thinking too about the metaphor and reality of the Lamb of God. So no, maybe I wasn’t yet all sweetness and light, but I wasn’t railing against the heavens, either (of course, those you who know me may be adding a subtext of your own “When is she ever all sweetness and light?” )
We found a huge tree trunk, washed up, and I sat reading Philippians 4:8, one of my go-to verses when I’m at my most foul and self pitying: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
So, I did what I was told, for once. I thought about God’s goodness and provision, about His sacrifice, about His love (starting to feel a bit better) and then I thought on His power, evident in the clouds and the sea and the wind. And then I thought about His kindness, about the teaching we have now, the fact that I can turn on my phone to hear David Suchet reading Isaiah to me… there, on the beautiful beach. And somehow, by now, I was mended. I thought about my church, my Pastor, my friends, and then I remembered the woman who scrambled through the milling crowd (bet she didn’t like crowds either) to Jesus and managed to touch, just to touch, the hem of His robe. And I laughed aloud, there on my damp old log, to realise that I’m not just touching His garment, I’ve got a whole fistful of it and with His help I’m never ever letting go. He’s reaching down and His hand is firm around my wrist…. and He’s quite a bit stronger than me.
The woman who came back from the beach was a different creature.
Praise be to God.
She still has her fingers in her ears but she sort of knows, and accepts, that she’s going to have to take them out some time soon, and listen.