It’s Friday. The small ones are engrossed in tv and I’m in a positive kinda mood (must be that happy point of the month). I don’t think I’ve written anything since half term. November is moving by too fast.
The last three weeks have all had their own unique flavours. The first post half term was full of preparation for a sermon on self image (Which I mainly hated preparing for because. Well. You know. It’s been 40 years and I still haven’t quite got the hang of this being kind to myself, believing the stuff God says about me thing). It consumed my mind for about 6 days and then I did it. It went well and the Maker of us all seemed to be up to their usual tricks of reminding us of the brilliant reality that we are loved and have a call to freely love those around us. Phew.
The next week was obviously spent in a dark cave of angst about my self image and the annoyance of life not being a lovely nice neat linear progression thing. Hmm. The hangover after pouring your soul out is pretty immense. Thankfully this week was mostly spent in peace remembering that God is at work and that this job I have is a rather good one.
I’ve been helped out of the black cave by being able to download my brain onto a couple of lovely people who offer me an hour or so every 8 weeks to listen to my rambling thoughts and help me order them. After talking things through I’m able to remember God in the midst of life and the things which keep me sane. This time round one conversation reminded me that living life slow and with margins is a Good Thing and much needed in the kind of job I do. The other reminded me that God is at work, I’m in safe hands and that there is hope because we have one in the dark cave who is our Emmanuel. (Spoiler alert. Advent blogging is about to start around here.)
I’ve also run some more, put the SAD lamp on, eaten less sugar, got outside lots and participated in the act of getting up again each morning and doing it all over again. The end of this week finds me looking at life with hope and joy (that may just be where I am in the month with my hormones but dammit I like being positive and if it all goes to pot tomorrow it doesn’t deny today’s joy).
My conversations in the last three weeks have also been full of the tension of living with long term struggles and yet experiencing the joys of life at the same time. Husbandface isn’t doing great lots of the time. He has good days and bad days and good weeks and bad weeks. There isn’t a quick fix and sometimes we cope ok with that and sometimes we don’t. The pain of that doesn’t block out the good stuff though. Just as the good stuff doesn’t block out the pain of life.
There is a whole load of tension in experiencing both the pain and the wonder. I reckon it’s because we couldn’t cope with just experiencing the sadness all the time. Our brains like normal plodding on and the wonder of the world around us pushes through the gloom.
It’s hard to know what to say when people ask how we are. Mostly I say bad and husbandface goes for the optimist approach (because that’s just who we are). The reality is complex. We are held, supported, known, loved, in awe of the good. We are also battered, bruised, tired and weary. Some days I’m confused and wondering what God is up to, the next full of faith that Good is being brought out of the crap.
I fear people will forget things are hard (especially when I post idyllic pictures of bacon sandwiches out of the van on Instagram) but I also don’t think these hard times are the only defining things about our life right now. It’s a complex picture. The best chats we have with others are those where people are kind enough to acknowledge that things might be hard and who then can laugh with us and be normal with us (I’m super grateful for all our friends and the way they love us like this.).
On Sunday Dave, our lovely minister, preached an excellent sermon on Pornography (link here, it’s definitely worth a listen) and, amongst other things, talked lots about complexifying (clearly not a word) issues. So we don’t just tell people to stop doing something but we look for the deeper reasons and meaning behind why they might be doing it. I’ve always loved the idea of not just taking things at face value and searching for the wider, deeper, more complex picture. Life is made up of nuances after all.
I like to think about complexifying the answer to that question of how we are. Our life is full of nuance, of complex answers and of tension between wonder and pain. The problems seem to come when I forget that or when holding that tension gets too tiring. It’s ok for me to stop and rest. It’s ok to be knackered from life and it’s ok to be bowled over in wonder and joy all at the same time (and the vast array of just plain normal in between).
It’s ok because through it all we have One who holds our hands. Who is with us in the dark, who comes into our caverns we have got lost in with a big fat flashlight. We have one who finds us in the tangled messes we get ourselves into. We have one who gets into the mess and helps us slowly start to figure it out.
And there we are.
Ready again for the wonder and waiting of advent.
Ready for the Light who did not take away the dark but who shone bright in it and whom the darkness can never overwhelm/overcome/appropriate or understand.
Advent is just around the corner.
Can you feel it?
Emmanuel is here.