Since writing that last blog, I’ve realised something; although some of us careen through life from unexpected disaster and bereavements and huge challenges while others have calm and apparently untroubled lives, neither path is easier than the other.
If I had led an outwardly, supposedly ‘happy’ life, would I really have had a smoother path up to the giddy heights of my 71st year? Would I have found these days in 2019 serene and untroubled and completely fulfilling? Or would the very orderliness and the gentle incline of life towards this point have become my challenge? Would I look from my still life to people whose lives were more dramatic and think wistfully ‘Why them? Why not me?’
Then that makes me think of some Bible verses we read last week, words of Jesus, “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”
There are many layers to that image, and it needs a careful mining to uncover them all, but I think that essentially it is about the contrariness of humanity, in so many ways. One way of regarding this image of rowdy children is that whatever God gives us, whatever we witness of God’s goodness, we tend to demand something we don’t have. This passage deals with the way the Jews complained that John the Baptist was ascetic and abstemious, and then they complained that Jesus ate and drank with sinners.
We want. We go through life wanting. We go through life comparing and judging, weighing and measuring. And when we have, then we look around for something we have not, and we want that instead. That’s the royal ‘we’. I mean, of course, ‘me’.
I am a contrary person. I’ve looked at others and my sub-conscious assumption has often been that they must have it easier because their lives are different – easier, they seem to have less spiritual turbulence than me, or they are loved, or they have had long and happy marriages AND I WANT THAT. These days I’m getting to know myself better and I bet that if I had led a life full of all those things, serene and apparently content, if George had lived and we had grown old together, prayed and matured together, then I would look at my friends whose lives were stamped through with huge challenges and I’d very probably whinge and whine “I WANT THAT.”
Why should I ever have thought that the loneliness of being single was harder than the compromises and lessons and sacrifices of marriage, year on year on year? Quite apart from anything else I can watch the telly I want, get up in the middle of the night and hammer away on the computer, eat cornflakes for dinner, get another dog….. no need to ask for agreement from another, equally contrary, soul. My mistakes will be my own and when I make them I can pretend that they weren’t mistakes at all (a yellow Renault Clio springs to mind. Oh, and Wales. Oh, and no garden . Oh, and….) When you’re single, there’s only you to fool, only you to hold you to account, and that’s pretty lonely because you know the truth of it. In marriage (casting my mind back) there’s a vulnerability and an account to balance at the end of every day. Neither is easy. Both have to contend with self.
I’ve also assumed that some people have a calmer DNA, enabling them to step closer to God than people like me. But that’s a crazy and pitiful excuse for being me. Why should I assume that someone who walks close to God has some special gift to take him or her there? When I was a child I simply loathed lazy stories about some magic thing giving a character a special power. It was cheating! I wanted my heroes to be real and struggling and brave, and I know now, but only after a session of some heavy prayer and self examination, that I have given my spiritual heroes, the people I look up to in life, that sort of ‘magic’ advantage. Crazy. And it dismisses their struggles and creates a barrier between us. Sorry, my chums.
I thought some of you had it easy. And I thought some of you had a head start on the rest of us, gifted by grace in your DNA, I was wrong.
While I was praying today I realised that regardless of circumstances, we all face the same choices, that the lessons we have to learn will be different, but for all of us the struggle is to do what our human nature resists so fiercely – to rely on God, solely on God, to surrender self to Him. And whatever our circumstances are, our personalities, we find that hard. All of us.
So, hey, you marrieds, and you wiser gentler calmer people…. you people who seem to have it all together… I get it at last. You don’t have it all together. You’re down here with me, slipping and sliding, and reaching out and grabbing onto God’s coat tails, fighting for a glimpse of Him, and of His glory, daily surrendering, daily failing, daily soaring, daily failing again, just like me. We’re in this together. And He loves us all.
I’m sorry I didn’t understand.