Oh, man, I have been at death’s door. I have suffered. Let me count the ways…. let me give you the gory details, at length, of my suffering on this Earth. No, maybe not. In shorthand, then, I have been quite ill. Proper poorly as they say up north.
The point is not the suffering (man, it was bad!) but my reaction to it. We (dogs and me) have been housebound for days on end, blinds down, door locked, unseen and unseeing, and it was only yesterday that I managed to take them out so that they could at least get a change of scenery, even if an actual walk wasn’t involved.
The sun was shining, the sky was huge and wonderful, it was a Bank Holiday so there were quite a few people around and, sometimes, West Wales is lovely.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? But as I left home, my soul wasn’t in a good place. I felt ill, in pain, tired and alone and just plain fed up. I couldn’t see the point. Of anything. Seriously. You know, I never imagined that I would end up here. I didn’t. I’ve been a wife and a mum and a grandma, busy busy busy, living in England, up and down to London, working with huge teams of people, supporting parents and daughter and employing people and all that, a helter-skelter sometimes messy life, and now I’m alone and doing nothing. For no one. With no one. In six years it’s all gone to hell in a handcart. Weird, eh? But this is where God has been leading me, so am I going to complain and moan?
Well, yeah. Of course I am. Don’t be daft.
I have my moments with God. He gets an earful occasionally. And a mega earful yesterday. Five miles of steadily building complaint, as I drove through the village, along the main road, through the town, down towards the sea.
When I arrived at a shingle beach, parked up and found a nearby rock to sit on, I was in full flood of righteous indignation. I had no sense of his displeasure as my rant grew. There was no guilt trip or thunderbolt from heaven. He just let me rip, and then brought one single verse to mind that sorted it all out for me…. it was as I looked out over this scene….
that I remembered a verse from Isaiah
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
And I remembered God. Simply, I remembered God. And the gripes, whinges, moans and wheedling went…. what did I have to moan about? In this world, on this shore, on that day, with my dogs… what did I have to moan about? Out of nothing God created everything. As a writer I respond to good writing, and when it springs into my mind, it’s as if I’m reading the words… this is Psalm 19, not good writing but great writing
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
Let me tell you about the scene down there on May Bank Holiday; I think that it’s easy to buy into the myth that all children now are interested only in screen time but yesterday gave the lie to that – there were youngsters in wet suits larking about in the muddy channels of the estuary, others on paddle boards, a multi-generational family was crabbing on the pontoon, teenagers were kayaking, and of course there were children of all shapes and sizes running with their dogs, and playing in the rocks.
There were more mature people too; in the distance on the mud flats, there were elderly men, ‘mucking about in boats’, some were washing decks, some fiddling with engines, two chaps in the harbour master’s rib were trying (for hours!) to get the outboard going. Three elderly women passed by, one was like a character out of Miss Marple, all flowery cottons and a floppy sun hat (it wasn’t that hot!) and white sandals, and the others were in bright pink and starling electric blue tops and white trousers. They talked and laughed as they picked their uncertain way across the shingle, grabbing at each other for support. Lovely. Made your heart glad to see them. Like a Beryl Cooke trio. They found a place to sit, on the grubby old pontoon and proceeded to unpack an elaborate picnic. That scene was a gift, dropped into my lap. I’m so glad we have moments like this to enjoy. We don’t have to be part of it, just seeing those moments can be enough, hearing laughter, distant shouts, the splashes and yells of children, their delight as another tiny muddy crab was caught, the chatter of three old ladies, the blokes doing blokish things… it fed my grizzled soul.
When I came home I looked up that verse – it’s Isaiah 40:12, but that whole chapter is so full of Theological truth, so full of God, so full of life. Man, it’s amazing. I’ve just read it again. So good.
Isaiah is my go-to Old Testament book but I also find myself returning time and again to the Book of Job. Job, now there was one totally honest man! No side to him. He probably wouldn’t have been a revered elder in a local church, far too honest. Too spiky. Not for him the pious ‘right thing to say’. He wasn’t great with words, he didn’t set out to put anyone right, he didn’t swerve and dodge, or present his best side to the world…. and he was ready to have a serious word with his Creator. Listen to what he says in chapter 24
“Even today my complaining is bitter. His (God’s) hand is heavy even when I cry inside myself. If only I knew where to find Him, that I might go where He is! I would tell Him how things are with me, and my mouth would be ready to argue. I would know His answer, and could think about what He would say to me. Would He go against me using His great power? No, He would listen to me. There a man who is right could reason with Him. And I would be set free by my Judge.’
I love that Job is unafraid to complain, knowing that God listens, hears us, and sets us free. Free of what? I suppose of whatever is grinding our wheels right then.
“ So I am afraid to be with Him. When I think about it, I am very afraid of Him. God has made my heart weak. The All-powerful has filled me with fear. But I am not made quiet by the darkness or the deep shadow which covers my face.”
Don’t you just cheer at the honesty of the man? Yep, he’s fearful of God, he’s in awe of Him, but he’s ‘not made quiet by the darkness’. Kind of undefeated.
When I arrived at that shingle beach yesterday, I was full of rebellion. I even told God that I have lost enough people and been to enough bloody funerals and that the only one I will attend in the future will be my own. All snarled up in a mare’s nest of confusion and loneliness, but by the time I left, he had set me free.
This all might seem like I’m great at remembering Bible verses but I’m not. I’m not a Bible scholar, it’s just that some passages resonate. There’s a verse in Jeremiah 15 that I’m taking out of context, because the imagery is so strong that I can’t resist it ‘
When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
Lord God Almighty.
The Word of God is more than great poetry, or writing, or wisdom. It’s life. It’s now.
Hey, something really strange happened last night. In an email to a pal I said that I hoped his road ahead was becoming clearer to him. Our thoughts are prayers, eh? Maybe that was what I was thinking about as I fell asleep, I don’t know, those last minutes in the day are lost in drowsiness, but this morning as I woke up I had such a clear thought, something outside of me, simply saying “The road will rise up to meet him.”
That’s an old Irish blessing for a journey ‘May the road rise up to meet you”
Was it my all too human sub-conscious, or was it an assurance from God, an answer to my prayer?
So there you go, bloggers all, may the road rise up to meet you.