Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure… We are not saved by any formulas or theologies or any priesthood extraneous to the human journey itself. “Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can help the brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr
I went through a ‘Peter’ experience a few years ago. I promised to love God, to be His child, to follow Jesus with all of my heart – and then I went and did something I was immediately ashamed of. I didn’t just do it once, either. It was a very messed-up time. I think I wanted to show God how unworthy I was of His love. I had been on the receiving end of so much hurt that I truly believed, deep, deep down, that no one, not even God, could love me, and that my behaviour would prove it. What did God do in response to this display of weakness and pain? He brought me, within months, to baptism by immersion (an amazing experience) and a few weeks later to the man who seemed to see the ‘me’ underneath all the hurt and loved me in a way that I never knew was possible (of course, I came to love him too, but Frank loved me first, in so many ways that I could never even have imagined). It was truly a match made in heaven.
When I read the words above by Richard Rohr this morning, I recognised their import and impact on my life. Suffering – for reasons I don’t claim to understand – and shared suffering, are essential for growth in Christ. Maybe we human beings can only truly appreciate (and participate in) the Light when we have experienced darkness.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14 (NRSVA)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.
Sometimes when I look at the sky I am astonished by the otherworldliness of its beauty. No wonder the great painters through history have imagined it as the heavenly realm! The fact that it changes so quickly, can go from a sheer, dull bank of moist grey to this:
~ View from our bedroom window ~
When I look at the sky, which you have made,
at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places—
what are human beings, that you think of them;
mere mortals, that you care for them?
Yet you made them inferior only to yourself…
Psalm 8:3-5 (GNT)
I know many people think the beauty and wonder of the world and the processes of life can’t be argued to ‘prove’ God on an intellectual level (I personally would disagree, although I haven’t figured out how to express this coherently yet) but when I look at the natural world I see God at work. And His work is exquisite.
I love the way the leaves change from green to gold to red. I love how the wind plays with the leaves, making them skip and flutter. I love watching the silver birches at the end of the garden as they bend and shake in the wind. Autumn is well and truly here.
Maybe it’s the blustery weather, but today I am reminded of one of my all-time favourite pieces of music: Wagner’s overture to Tannhauser. I know Tannhauser is an opera, but I’d love to see ballet performed to this particular piece. It is so bold and vivid, from the timid to the grand – just like autumn I suppose.