“Seek first the kingdom of God… and all these things will be added to you”
‘… and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God,
It’s the end of the summer and I’ve just said a very relieved ‘goodbye’ to the kids as they head back to school and nursery. I find myself looking back at my own childhood. From this somewhat vast and hazy distance the summer holidays seemed to go on forever. As a parent struggling with energetic kids they also seem to last an eternity whereas the school terms seem to fly past!
Over the holidays I’ve managed just one blog. The paperwork was been piling up and the garden needs some serious TLC. There are phone calls to make and my wife has recently reminded me that I’d agreed to paint the dining room once the kids are back at school.
The still, small voice
I’m a person who loves to get things done. I hate having long to-do lists hanging over me and I can get quite anxious if I’m not on top of things. So as soon as the kids are safely deposited I find a strong compulsion to charge right in and start clearing the backlog.
But there is also a quieter voice that I could easily miss. It’s the voice that reminds me about ‘seeking first things’; about what it is that really matters. It’s an inner ‘stop’: it tells me that I am a called, not driven, person. It reminds me that I want to be a Mary rather than a Martha; someone who sits at Jesus feet even though there is so much work crying out to be done.
So I grab a few things, jump on my bike and head off to the Common. It’s a 10-minute cycle, the first part up a muscle-achingly steep hill. The road is busy. People are heading for work. But very soon I’m off the streets and the hard edges are being replaced with soft curves, concrete with grass. As I look up I can see trees instead of tower blocks. Soon, I can hear birds instead of the traffic.
I begin to relax and take in my surroundings. I become aware of the breeze on my face and breathe a soft ‘thank you’. As I feel the sun’s rays I welcome it as the warmth of God’s love poured into my soul. The vast dome of sky arches over me like a cathedral roof.
I chain my bike and take a walk. I feel the ground solid under my feet like the faithfulness of my heavenly Father. Walking through the silent woods with the branches swaying above and a lattice of interwoven roots beneath I feel God’s embrace above and below and all around. As I touch a tree trunk I sense God’s strength and endless creativity. I am ‘dipped again in God and new created’.
After a while I sit beside a pond. The sunlight is diffused through the leaves and dances on the water. Above my head the branches sway in unconscious adoration. There is joyfulness in nature in quiet delight in its Lord.
For a while I turn inwards. I read a passage of scripture and reflect on it’s meaning. I allow my mind to drift back over the last day or so and say both sorry and thank you. I record some thoughts in a journal. I lift up needy friends in prayer.
But the Lord I meet within me is also outside. Once again I become aware of His presence all around me. I am loved. I am known. I am sought.
The elasticity of sacred time
I am also ready now to start my day. As I make my way home the demands of the day slowly intrude. An anxious thought suggests that I’ve got to rush around to make up for lost time. But I’ve found that time is mysteriously stretched when I am in that eternal Presence. Sacred time has an elastic quality that enables me to do more with the rest of my day with less. With God there is always enough.
And when I reach out to the Divine Centre I am also getting my bearings. I can find that ‘still centre in a turning world’, as TS Eliot puts it. If I neglect this centre I can easily think that it’s all up to me or that everything thrown my way is of utmost necessity. But there is a deep joy and security in knowing that you’re not that important really; that God is in control and that the only thing that really matters is love.
So how about starting this ‘new year’ with a resolution? The holidays are over but the ‘holy days’ can now begin. Before we charge into the whirlwind of schedules and work and socialising and church and all the general craziness of life let’s find that sacred space where heaven and earth meet.
Carve some space out of your day. You don’t have to go far (silence and solitude really help though) and it doesn’t have to take very long- just long enough to connect and come away feeling loved.
Let’s do it daily. Early if possible but better later than never.
And let it be the first thing and not the last thing.