Maybe

Many years ago a little girl planted a seed. Buried in the damp dark the little girl forgot about it. When she did occasionally remember a fleeting sense of a – something – she assumed she must have been mistaken. That cold nubbin must simply have been a tiny, impermeable pebble. So what? That’s life. Hardly even life because it never lived in the first place; it just existed. And it was just a stone.

I’ve always had the odd habit of attaching a song to whatever I’m doing at a particular time. I know it’s odd because when I asked my husband whether it ever happened to him, he just looked at me with that patient look, the one that says okaaaaayyy… Yeah, he plays role playing games and gets all Big Bang Theory geeky over the difference between a troll and an elf. He can look at me all he likes. We’re a good match 😉

I wonder if the song thing’s related to synaesthesia? Anyway, sometimes it’s a hymn, sometimes a rock or pop song, occasionally an aria. Sometimes it’s just a phrase of music, minus words, especially jazz or big band. The overall effect is a bit like the dreaded earworm, only this thing comes and goes, and does not linger beyond its wantedness. It is a useful reflection of my unfiltered subconscious reaction to whatever is going on: my very own mental musical score. Woohoo.

As I lay down to sleep yesterday it was this:

Last night I went along for the first time to a local mental health theatre group. I told them I didn’t want to act – at least, not at first – and they were fine with that. I was astonished by what I found. Not ‘astonished’. That’s too forceful. No, it was a beautiful surprise, like realising that what you thought was just a plain old lump is actually an egg, and that the cracking, the apparent breaking, is what’s supposed to happen. That keen-edged shard is just the first, hesitant glimpse of a little chicky beak.
I am equally astonished – and there I use the word advisedly – by my own response to this blossoming. I could have been triggered by some of the subject matter. A few things were rather close to home and I have an overactive sense of empathy. Ouch. But the simplicity of the delivery, the raw honesty, the writing, the direction, even the screw-ups (the group is, after all, still in rehearsal) were a call to something that I had almost forgotten existed.

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
All your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

And the ‘trigger’ didn’t happen. The expected ‘ALERT! ALERT! DEFCON 1! IMMINENT ATTACK!’ PTSD response just didn’t occur. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I didn’t want to hide under the table, or run away vowing never to return. I didn’t look at any of the group and ‘see’ someone else, someone threatening and crazy and powerful. Instead, I was touched by the enthusiasm and talent of the actors and felt genuinely inspired, something I barely recognised.

Maybe last night that little girl’s seed began its first, tentative creep towards the surface of the soil. The tiny, tender sprout is still in the dark, but the seed’s no longer dead. Maybe.

Beginnings

…Cells began to divide and re-form, as they do, and something new was made. As the weeks went by and the woman began to feel odd and sick, the new thing took shape: a comma, a tadpole, eventually the bud of a brain and a spinal column. Suddenly, in the shallow darkness of a summer night, a heart completed itself and began its iambic beat… At last, one bright April morning when white clouds drifted high in a blue sky and leaf-buds beaded the tired grey trees, it was time for the woman and the new thing to part, a painful work that took many hours, into the cold night and through the next morning… 

The child was a girl, but the most important thing about her was that she was herself. She was someone new, someone who had not been before and so, like all babies, she was a revelation…

~ from the opening lines of The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss. I was struck by the beauty and rhythm of the words. I hope the rest of the novel lives up to this early promise.

 

Big Head

“Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the icon.

“It says who it is across the top.” said Frank, pointing to the Greek letters. He spelt out the name. I knew part of what he said meant ‘John’. It sounded like yo-annis.

“John the Baptist?”

“No, John the Theologian; the one who wrote Revelation.”

“Ohh.” I nodded. “But why does he have such a big head? He looks like an alien.”

Frank raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “There’s no mystery with you, is there?” His eyes crinkled. He smiled one of his rare smiles, one that is just for me. I thought how much I love this man.

He picked up the icon. “Oh, look. It has writing on the back. Let me see…”

He began reading the Greek and translating, “I think that means ‘Byzantine’…”

“I bet I know what it says,” I said and took it calmly into my hands, “This… icon is… a replica of…”

“How are you reading that?” Frank said, puzzled.

“Er… It’s got the English translation directly underneath…”

Frank chuckled as he said, “I honestly didn’t see that!” And he gave me the same look the girls gave me when I solved their wooden puzzle in a couple of minutes the other day. As if I needed to let them in on the secret. Only there wasn’t a secret; I just figured it out.

I think the bible can be a bit like that. We expect things to be somehow holy and mystical and somewhat obscure, but when you take it for what it is, and you don’t take random bits and bobs all out of context, there are a lot of things that are very clear, and very direct (and that all hang together, with a common theme), yet are still often ignored, even by those who claim to take the bible literally. I almost want to say ‘those who take the bible literally literally’ because there are some of us who, although we take the bible at face value, don’t take it absolutely literally and don’t believe it takes itself absolutely literally. There are those of us who think that to try to take the scriptures literally literally is to do the bible, and our Creator, a grave disservice.

So what I’m getting at is this: if Jesus says it, maybe we should do it, don’t you think? You know, all the ‘love one another’ and ‘forgive’ and ‘don’t hate because that’s as bad as murder – even if you don’t think it is, I (Jesus) say it is – because hatred in your heart kills you‘. And other stuff like that. Let’s cut the cr@p and get down to business. Jesus says His ‘yoke is easy’ (Matt 11:30). So why do we make it so difficult? In the words of – um – someone: take a chill pill, Bill. And don’t cry over spilt milk.

St John005

Also, these icons really do show saints with enormous heads (this is not the exact same icon*, but is very similar).

 

*NB Icons are not intended to be objects of worship so much as expressions of prayer, and if words can be prayer, why not art? I love art history, it’s like the world expressing the essence of humanity generation after generation. I love architectural and engineering history for the same reason. Christian imagery can be incredibly beautiful and it is arrogant to think that because some of us, e.g. Baptists, choose not to have it in our churches it is somehow worthless (or worse). The desecration of the Reformation did nothing to change hearts and minds. I think that the Roman Catholic desire for imagery and the Protestant desire for lack of imagery arose from the same motives – a yearning for purity, for beauty, for purpose, for prayer and, most of all, for communion with the Divine: a genuine and honest expression of God. Here endeth today’s sermon(!). 😮

Dance

When I was a little girl, I loved dancing. I was never more myself, and never more happy, than when I was dancing. So happy, in fact, that I convinced myself (by some weird childhood logic) that if I gave up the thing I loved the most then all the bad things would stop. So I stopped dancing. But the bad things didn’t stop. By the time I figured out that the bad things wouldn’t stop it was too late. I’d already slipped into a very dark place. 20+ years later and only now am I seeing these things for what they were. Too late. Too late.

Not that I think I would ever have made it as a professional dancer. But I could maybe have been a choreographer. As a child I used to boss my friends around be the ‘director’ of multiple plays and performances in our back garden. I loved it. Nowadays, dancing, performing and drama have no place in my life at all, other than what my little Chip does. Que sera sera. No good worrying over spilt milk, as they say – and it really is true. The past is the past is the past. Gone. No amount of mourning will bring it back, nor will it change the future. Live for today, that’s all that matters. It may all be gone tomorrow. I wonder if we will dance, like I sometimes imagine, when we get to heaven? Can you imagine dancing before God?

 And David danced before the Lord with all his might… 2 Samuel 6:14

Anyway, taking my own advice: today, I love to watch dance. I imagine the sheer joy of the dancer in the synaesthesia of music and movement. Like this:

Weird lyrics… but I like the choreography, especially the leaps and jumps. They are phenomenal! How I would love to watch this dancer in real life. Beautiful.