Thursday, 14 March 2019

Come away with me...

I carry tiredness in a little knot somewhere in my chest.  I carry tiredness behind my eyes, which at times blossoms into a headache.  I don't want to admit to it, but back in there somewhere, there is a constant dull inner throb which has been with me since..?  For a brace of decades at least... maybe longer?

Needless to say,  though I don't want to admit it (what me?) I am permanently tired.   I fall asleep at meetings (have done so since university days).  Constantly.  Unless I am speaking, and even then, there have been the occasional podium dozes too.

Scan through pictures of me over the last years, and you can often see those narrowed eyes of chronic tiredness...

So last week I had an experience of a life time.

A few months ago, the partner agency who is the major funder of our community development work sent an email saying I had been selected for a programme in early March.

There were few details about what this event was going to be, but I said I would be interested in going, and then shelved it away in my mind.

The intervening weeks have been rather strained for various reasons (maybe one day we will delve into some of them).  Cue early Feb, when some of my inner turbulence was peaking, and that 'shelved away' programme came to life.  I was told that the event was not going to be in cold Delhi as I had assumed, but that the eclectic group selected was been flown to... (deep breath) Goa.  

No way!

Sím Senhor!  (Portuguese via google translate)

And so I found myself pinching myself as I took the red-eye flight from New Delhi with the first of the eclectic bunch of fellow travellers... and a few hours later found myself looking at this:


Amazing Grace.

Five days of paradise.

The agenda?

Finding rest, building resilience, learning to accept deep, deep love of God to me.

Soul work.  Time for silence.  Time for talking.

And a whole lot of beauty.

I came with a lot of baggage.

Not the stuff that I physically carried to Goa (it  all fit in a purple day pack).  But the inner bits  being lugged around.

At onset I charted out what I hoped to get:

Personally - a renewed delight in Jesus.  A true sense of Him as my portion.  Something deeper and fresher than the last few years.  Further up and further in.

Family - a sharp ear to hear what God is saying to us about our next steps.  Totally crucial at this time.  A huge responsibility as we hinge on multiple potential changes.

Work / Ministry / Call  - a rediscovery of the pearl of great price.  The ludicrously amazing core of what we are looking to do, the thing that fills with joy to the extent that everything else can be stripped away, sold, disposed of, with the deep-rooted assurance that what is to come will brilliantly outshine whatever has gone before.

And so began the week in paradise.

I was not alone.

A small eclectic band of eclectic fellow-travellers were there too.  I knew 7 of my 11 fellow participants from the criss-crossing of our lives.  But here was an opportunity to go deeper.

And we did.  Talks and prayers.  Walks and conversations.

Early morning swims in the embrace of the Arabian Sea.

Late night heart-to-hearts.

Prayer alone and together.

Early on I had to face the big G question

Guilt at 'having it so good' while.... 

my dear Sheba is far away in the cold of a mountain winter ... 

my colleagues are sweating it out in Lalitpur trying to get the annual community-based organisation meeting together before Modi announces his election dates...

the sheer incongruity of a bunch of change-agents who work with the poorest and most marginalised, are being pampered in the luxury that the 1% wrap themselves in...

I don't believe in riches, but you should see where I live...  (said ye olde U2 chappies many a moon ago)

I don't think there is ever a fully satisfying answer to the big G question this side of the New Jerusalem.

Things are so shabby for so many.  Yes we are trying to change lives, to be with the poor... but every single day I retire to my beautiful home, and eat my healthy food (with left-overs that sometimes get binned), and have the massive creature-comforts (such as this computer I am tapping away on).

And so there in Goa the question wrestled with my conscience - can I enjoy all this when...

I think that the pricks have to continue - but I realised something too: I was and am a recipient of grace.

No matter what I do, how hard I try, I don't deserve to be in Goa.  Why me?  I don't know.  Really

But I also know that the best response to love and beauty is gratitude.  Acceptance.  Rejoicing.

I don't want to go through life po-faced.  I want to accept the love that as been poured out to me, to us as a family, to the broader body...

And so plunging in and saying a big THANK YOU to God and all His beloved children who were and continue to minister to me is the best response to so much goodness.

I take away a deep gratitude for being loved.  Of realising that we were taylor-made for work and worship and rest.  And receiving and revelling in love.

The G question will continue to nag, and I welcome the tension and necessity And want to give this sabbath-gift to others.

Taste and see...

Jesus knew a thing about operating in the crucible.  And yet He also took time apart.  Early mornings of solitude with Father.  Nights of prayer.  A night garden used so often as a place of prayer and worship with his disciples that the betrayer knew exactly where to bring a darkness-roaming goonda-mob.

And yet we know that our Lord experienced exhaustion too.  Mark records that He was sleeping on a pillow on a storm-tossed boat.  There were times when work crowded in so much that He and His followers did not have enough time to eat.  We see a man of sorrows, acquainted with griefs.  A man who truthfully told someone that He did not have a place to lay His head.

Which is why He told His followers: "come away with me..."

Rest is not just running away from the challenges.  It is not a coping mechanism where you flee from the hard bits that life throws your way.  One of the themes we explored was resilience.

We go through hard knocks.  Lots of them.

One of the exercises we did was map out our lives.  We rolled a long strip of paper starting in 1955 and taking us through to 2019.  And on it we stuck our life mile-stones.  The big events.  The happy events that fill us with warmth when we look back at them.  And the times that were rough.

It was sobering to see our lives rolled out - charted along an axis.  And to see that some of our big life events took place before others were born.  To see that our days are shared with others too.  That the 'red boxes' of our hard times are also echoed by red boxes that others have gone through too.

The 1955 was the year that the oldest person in the room was born.  I realised that my parents years have now slipped into the past.  1937 and 1941 have come and gone.  My 1969 was now one of the older ones, and the late 1970s and early 1980s heavily populated.

Time's arrows quest forward.

And one of the core competences of our lives is being able to work through the desert times. Through days that are dark.  Through nights that are long.   Scripture says that tears may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
But how to keep going when there is darkness at noon?

Some of the most joyful people I know have also seen the depths of despair, but amazingly are still standing. In fact they are thriving.   

One thing that I am realising is that many of my mountains, are actually more like mole-hills.  But that doesn't make my experience just a silly waste of time.  It's more a question of needing to gain a better perspective on the terrain of the soul, and the journey-path that we are wandering along.

What better way than to have others walk along with you.

These days offered some of that.  But also allowed me to look back and be so thankful for those who we have talked to over the phone over the last few months.  For their prayers with us late at nights.  For love received.  

I am particularly grateful for the brave and generous woman Sheba is.  And how much she has helped point me in the right direction.  Over and over again.

The ultimate need of every soul is the Lord Himself.  He spoke these words to Moses, many millenia ago, but they ring out to us today with a freshness...

One of my desires is not to walk alone.  For us to experience again the new overflowing presence of the Lord Himself.

To experience His love in a fresh way.

To be imitators of God as dearly-loved children.  For all the faults that I have seen and know about my parents, I do want to be like them.  Because I have experienced their love.

Life is too short for bitterness.

I carry some wounds still with me, and healing is certainly a process.  But I am so grateful for the amazing grace that has washed into me over the past 3 weeks.

The Goa time with God in solitude and in with fellow strugglers was such a blessing.

I told the main organiser that I sensed that it was as if the whole programme was made just for me - and that the other 11 were receiving collateral blessings!

Obviously each other person was full-brim-overflowing blessed.

And so here I am back in Lalitpur for a bit longer at least.

Sheba and I are in a season of prayer where we seek to hear afresh guidance - as we have heard in past years.  We seek the pearl of great price and are willing to do whatever it takes to live out such a joy-filled life.

The Goa days are a precious gift for me, and I bear the rest within me.  I seek to share the precious lessons learned with my family and others and bear Shalom and rest to them too.

The end of each day marks the beginning of the next.

On the last day we wrote down what we were taking back with us.  

Our facilitator for the session invited us to place all the 5 different small paper slips on our open palms.  And then asked us to blow hard.

A small snow-storm of paper ensued as everyone's resolution papers were blown to the ground.

"You will be stepping back into storms" he said.

What we had written in our 5 day retreat was clearly going to be rattled and shaken by the hard knocks of life.

Then our facilitator gave each of us a big paper clip.  And invited us to pick up the fallen pieces of paper and secure our 5 decisions in the clip.

"God knows what will take place" our facilitator told us.  "He is bigger than the situation, and is a firm fortress for us and our dreams."   

"Put the clip and papers on your hand - and now try and blow hard.  What happens to your papers?" he asked.

The papers rustled in our blowing, but the clip anchored them and they did not fall off our hands.

"When you are back in your places of ministry, remember that God has gone before you.  He is around you and is holding on to your dreams.  He knows the storms that are ahead and is with you in the boat."

I have this little clip of resolutions on my table next to me and a heart full of gratitude for such a beautiful gift to me.

Sheba and I look forward to living this year as a jubilee year, one where the sabbath joy of Shalom is deeply experienced by us and shared with those we are walking alongside!

1 comment:

  1. Andi,I have so enjoyed reading your account of our time at Goa and being reminded oh how God met with me there too.
    By the way, I meant to tell you that your evaluation feedback so powerfully touched 2 of my colleagues that they both contacted me afterwards to say they had read it in tears and were deeply moved by your vulnerability in sharing how God had met with you.