I’ve had a conversation with two friends today, all about the books we read, and the therapies some of us believe in, and all the theories out there about mental health and self-realisation and mindfulness and all the rest of it. We talked about that old idea of REM sleep therapy, we mentioned all sorts of things from happy pills to ‘talking more’. We touched briefly on millionaire preachers who live in walled compounds to keep the riff-raff out and employ bodyguards while teaching a simple lifestyle and peace of mind. The conversation was, as you will have gathered, a bit scatter-gun and no conclusions were reached.
I think we were talking a bit too much about us and not enough about who really matters. Three Christ followers babbling away, and we barely mentioned him. If I replay the conversation in my mind, I don’t find the name ‘Jesus’ in there at all.
That’s the trouble with the busy world and with navel gazing. All we see is the busy world and our navel. We don’t look up to see anything that might bring real enlightenment. Today we didn’t remember Paul’s advice to the Philippians “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.” Oh, no. We just splurged about cabbages and kings and let all our random thoughts tumble out.
Here’s a confession – no hair shirt and ashes, just an admission that I don’t think about Jesus nearly enough. Which is strange because when I do, there is excitement and peace and happiness right down to the marrow of my bones. You’d think that those two emotions, excitement and peace, would be incompatible, wouldn’t you? But when I think of Jesus Christ, I find both, just as I find two other opposites; contentment and impatience, not impatience as in ‘hurry up, hurry up’ but impatience as in ‘I just can’t wait for the next chapter!’
I think that with age we come to accept that we can’t neatly tabulate our thoughts to create a flow chart that would make sense to anyone else. With age and wisdom (!) we begin to accept that some aspects of our relationship with God just can’t be shared because we don’t have the words. And it’s only when we get over the frustration of that (I’m frustrated only 99% of the time these days) that we can reach real intimacy with our Creator, God, Father, our everything. And then …and then… forget the books and the gurus…. look up and beyond, and realise that we are not important, that we are not unique, that we are not special…. that we don’t have to have all the words and all the answers because we’re only us…. we are less than specks of dust in a million deserts in a vast panoply of universes. Now, all that could be a bit of a downer, it could send us into a dark corner with a tub of ice cream and a Leonard Cohen song, but gradually we come to realise that this is all good. It is! It’s good because in God’s eyes whoever we are, whatever we’ve done, however grumpy and grungey we are, we are all he longs for, we are the apple of his eye, we are the desire of his deepest longing. Warts and all. He looks at us with the eyes of love, because he is love personified.
Hah! Even me.
I’ve been thinking a whole lot about God’s love. I love the Song of Solomon in the Bible. It’s also known as the Song of Songs, which I translate as ‘the best of all the songs that were ever sung’. And for me it is absolutely the best song ever, just as the Gospel is the best truth ever. It’s the closest we can get to portraying the unending perfection of God’s love.
The Song of Solomon is the most passionate poetry – I hesitate to say it’s erotic but dammit, it is! It’s the truest account of pure love. It speaks to us in both the male and the female voice, and so it embraces everyone, full of longing for fulfilment, desiring only your love in return, whoever you are.
The bride speaks …..
‘My beloved is mine and I am his;
he browses among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the rugged hills.’
And the male voice answers….
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How wonderful. I want to live in those verses. I want to turn down the white noise of this world , to quieten my mind, to talk less of daily troubles and more of God.
And after a conversation like the one I had today, I’m so happy to turn to God to whisper,
“PS Lord, I love you. I meant to say it, but I didn’t, so I’m saying it now.”