Sometimes I just like to write an old fashioned blog post in Advent. So here’s something from a writing session I had with lovely friends last Friday. I’ve been thinking about covenants recently…
Last week on my course where I am training to be a Spiritual Director we sat and traced the thread of Covenant through the Old Testament. Initially we reflected on the nature of covenants in general, when I was reminded that I’m in a marriage covenant and also in a friendship covenant. We generally concluded covenant brings clarity to a relationship, and good ones can bring safety and assurance in our lives.
We looked through the moments when God restated again and again the life long eternal commitment to what they had created. To the people, to the creation, to everything. No matter what. Even when it turned out that humans are pretty fickle creatures and wander off to the nearest shiny actual physical thing. Even when the humans treated each other appallingly. Even when the humans promised fidelity one minute and then turned away the next, time after time after time.
These moments of God restating the covenant made are buried deep in my DNA, they have been bedrock of my soul for many many years. In my 20s I would read them again and again and again, in the desperate search for hope, the desire to find someone who would really love me, the me deep down, the dark me. In these words I found a hope of someone who would come and fight down through those depths to bring me home, who would sing over me in the darkest nights, I found a love which would not let me go.
They told me of a lover who would be faithful over and over again, a Presence that would not ever be taken from the creation, a never giving up, never stopping, never failing love. They brought comfort on long dark nights.
In my 30s and 40s I think I’ve got a bit less intense about my inner world. I’m less inclined to beat myself up now, less inclined to wallow about bemoaning how sinful and awful I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m clearly not perfect, I hurt those around me and act selfishly, I lie sometimes, I get jealous, I gossip, I judge. But. I beat myself up less about these things, I am slowly learning to believe this love I longed for so desperately, I am kinder to myself, I say sorry and am forgiven. I move on.
I’ve also had less time to think about myself, I’ve had 7 years of sleep deprivation, a small world, a full on world of need. I’ve thought about God in different ways. I’ve wondered if there is anything there at all. I’ve become more relaxed about what I think and felt less need to nail down everything tightly, I’ve breathed in and out and sometimes forgotten about God altogether. I measure my relationship with God less in terms of external things, although sometimes I have got very lost because the methods I used in the past to relate to God have changed.
Then last week’s session happened and I read the old old words in a different time and context. I read these words and realised that this is what covenant means. It’s not about my systems of reaching out to God, it’s not even about my engagement with God and how I feel that’s going. It’s about God carrying on being God, carrying on holding onto the people created, carrying on drawing us back, wooing us back to our Maker, providing ways through the Spirit that we can dwell in love, giving us the ability to be kind, patient, good, generous, self controlled. I read the words again of God promising a new heart and a new Spirit. I read words again of God restating love to broken stupid people and I remembered.
I’m in covenant with God.
Nothing can change that, things may change around me, my thoughts and ideas will change as life moves around me. Humans have had so many conflicting thoughts and ideas over time and yet the one immovable thread through the whole of history is this solid unchanging ridiculous commitment from Creator to Creation. I’m safe, I’m held, I’m seen, I’m known because of that commitment. I am in covenant with God.
It will sound obvious to some, it will sound bonkers to others, it will sound wrong to still more but to me this reminder was like a cool drink on a hot day, a cup of tea on a sofa as the rain and wind swirl outside, the feeling of being woken up by a swim in the sea. Something slipped back into place in my soul and I could not stop smiling. I am in covenant with God. End of story. No taking back. No returns.