An End in Itself

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As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us… John 17:21

One measure of a healthy life of prayer is that it never seeks a sign.  Prayer should never be an effort to control or manipulate how God acts in our lives. It is not a means to an end but an end in itself.

from The Little Way of Lent by Gary Caster (emphasis my own)

Prayer is the deliberate and steadfast action of the soul. It is true and enduring, and full of grace. Prayer fastens the soul to God and makes it one with His will.

from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

Beloved, pray for us.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 (The Life with God Bible NRSV)

Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Fiery Darts

‘Fiery darts’ is how Paul puts it. Abba Anthony described being tormented by demons while he was in the desert. Teresa of Ávila talks about snakes and reptiles and ghastly creatures prowling and snapping. On these days, when my nights are filled with nightmares and general nasty stuff, I wake to the ugliness of unrelenting flashbacks, a barrage swift and sharp, just like those fiery darts. They claw at you. I can even smell the ‘event(s)’.

 

When I went to the Celebrate Recovery conference in 2012, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, John Baker, spoke of those so broken that the only thing they respond to, the only thing they can do is to sing songs of worship. Here again is another paradox, another moment when God turns the world on its head. I remember that Thérèse de Lisieux says that, although we are so small, we possess a God-given dignity. She also wrote:

 

‘My will is to endure, by Love,

The Darkness of my exile here’

 

So then, it is love that makes me choose to get up from this table, to do the things I need to do, in love, for my family. And I will lift my head and sing praises. Because God is good. And God is always.

 

Thérèse looking pensive

Thérèse looking pensive

You can read more about Thérèse here: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/meditations-on-little-way-epilogue-dark.html