Do you remember, way back in the last century, a film with Olivia Newton-John, and the song Xanadu? Well, it’s seeped into my mind and will not budge. That in itself would be bloody annoying, with so many better songs to sing, but – adding insult to injury – my ear worm insists on singing not ‘Xanadu’ but ‘Sag aloo… Ooh, oooh, ooh-ooh…. sag aloo-ooo-oo……’
Hah! Distractions, how they snarl up our thinking. I’m reading a book about the monastic life – advice and wisdom of them ole desert fathers hundreds of years ago. Interesting enough, but I prefer to learn from today’s teachers, people who live in my world, who know about road tax, house insurance, water rates, and roof repairs all landing in the same month.To add further distractions to my internal world…. today I have taken my Mac computer to the repairers because the damn hard drive has failed. So, forgive me, Lord, if I seem a bit distracted, if my quiet time this morning was a bit sweary and hot and bothered.
This monastic book – it’s all well and good and wise and all that And has loads to say about prayer, and how to cope with distractions, but I don’t want nice neat solutions from some old geezer living in a cave in another era, who wouldn’t know a council tax bill from a scroll of parchment. The life they chose then isn’t open to us. The society we live in makes demands we must obey, taxes we must pay, forbids life in caves, insists on health and safety, on drainage and boring vital stuff like that. And it’s bloody cold in West Wales for most of the year, plus you’re not allowed to burn logs. The desert fathers could let go of everything and own nothing. We don’t have that luxury. Yeah, ok, I’m being flippant, I know it’s about the internal, not the external.
So, your task for today, Luce, stop mucking about and ask yourself , ‘when everything goes wrong like this, is God teaching me something I need to know?’
“Yes.” That’s the answer. I don’t think that anything in my life is a happenstance. There are lessons and truths to be found in everything. My job is simply to listen to the peace and love of God, not to the insistent earworms of a hundred distracting thoughts.
I live very very simply. I’ve let go of much of the unnecessary stuff, giving it away or letting it lapse, my only luxuries being the computer, a phone, a 6 year old car, my dogs. I wonder if I should give some of these up, too (not the dogs) and if I do, lose even my contact with you bloggers, lose the tools of my trade, the car to take the dogs to the beach every day, would that be too painful? I don’t think so. I think it would be fine. I’m not sure how I would pay the bills, or how the hounds would cope with village treks, or how my body would cope with hillwalking but if that’s what will take me a step nearer to relying totally, totally on God…. will I sign up for that?
I’ve spent the last few years deliberately simplifying my life. I’ve stopped doing so much, dumped possessions, dropped pastimes and habits, lost who I used to be socially, and I regret none of it. I was beginning to think that life couldn’t get any simpler – not here and now, in 2020. That it was pared down as far as it could go. I was wrong. This week we were asked what the crucified life means to us, and it’s really shone the brightest most startling light on all the dark corners of my mind.
You see, I know that I am not being asked to give up everything. God takes no delight in the blood of bulls or the trampling of his courts (couldn’t resist one of my favourite Isaiah quotes) and certainly not the abandonment of small lapdogs like Percy. But I know that God takes great delight in our willingness to put our love for him before all these things. All things. I am not being asked to give up everything but I am invited to be willing to give up everything. And so to be truly free. Sign up, Luce, for God and him before all things.
Sign up daily, hourly. We need to sign up again and again because before the metaphorical ink of our metaphorical signature is dry we are distracted by this temptation, or that expense, this opportunity, that possession, that failure, this idea, this hurt, that friend….. by Covid….. by the daily run of life. The daily run of life slipping between us and our closeness to God. The insistent clamour of ‘sag aloo’ intruding when we simply long to sing songs of worship.
So, come on, time to put your money where your mouth is, Luce. Do I again sign my life over to Christ? All my life? Is there anything I refuse to give up for him today? When I jokily wrote ‘not the dogs’ was I recognising a limit? There’s a wonderful liberty, a lifting of our spirits, when we see that the trappings of life have just been tethering us to the earth, the mud, and that letting go of everything but God’s love is real freedom. The only real freedom. That the more we let go, the higher we soar.
O Galatians 5:1 tells us ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’ and whilst I know that Paul was addressing our love of ritual and works and man-made law, I believe that the essential truth of that verse is that freedom in Christ is freedom from every tether, problem, limitation and possession. Total freedom. Sky blinkin’ high.
Do I trust Christ with my life? Can I really depend on him for all things? Give up all I have and rely on him? Give me the pen… where do I sign?