Desert time… not pudding.

Not really a ‘dark night of the soul’ but…

When I was younger and appeared to be getting rather full of myself, my (much) older brother used to sometimes grab my hand in his fist, and hold onto it like a vice -not terribly tightly, but just immovably. I think it was meant partly as a show of strength (he’s that kind of brother) and partly to try and get me to give up… what I was meant to give up, I never quite understood, since my will was, I felt, pretty obedient anyway.

I’d sit there, still, with his silly great mitt round my squidgy fist, like a layer of volcanic ash round a Pompeian citizen, wondering when he’d decide he’d made his point and let go… after a few minutes I’d begin to find it ridiculous and start to giggle, slightly hysterically, and then I’d find it ridiculous and begin to verbally rail against it -I didn’t really struggle, since he was much stronger than me and I’d been told once that to deal with an angry bear, one ought to just stay still… (Turns out this wildlife tip is wrong by the way folks, and will apparently result in one’s being eaten by a bemused but pleased bear).

After I’d giggled, railed and then looked despondent and downcast (because I couldn’t work out what reaction he was waiting for) he’d eventually let go… perhaps my downcast look appeared to be defeat (I doubt that though -he’s not that sort of brother), Or perhaps my boisterous bombast had been sufficiently quelled by the strange intervention… perhaps even he was also beginning to wonder why he’d done it and just get bored.

Even as I type I recall afresh the sense of irritation, ‘Are you just trying to subdue my will? Who gave you the authority to do that? If I’m annoying or you want me to do something differently, just tell me!’ I never said any of that out loud of course -I was too young, at best I might have said ‘you’re not the boss of me!’ but that would almost inevitably have lead to a longer incarceration for my digits.

God, however, IS the boss of me. Of course not just the boss, but a lot of other complicated things as well, and at the moment, I feel like I’m going through a similar process… God is around, I am here, and somehow, he’s got me in a grip and I’m not going anywhere… there’s no point in struggling, there’s no malice in the grip, but from where I’m stuck, the most frustrating thing (and therefore probably the most important) is that I don’t know why God’s doing it.

The parallel with my brother, and occasionally my parents, just suddenly taking it upon themselves to grab hold of my will and put a complete block on it; is surprisingly strong… I never thought of myself as a wilful child, since I was not materially demanding nor spoilt and by all accounts jolly well behaved, hardworking and concerned to be good… except I know that I was wilful -it was not a question of being deliberately contrary or perverse, just that sometimes I would not agree with something, or minded exceptionally about something, or ended up doing something, which made no sense to those around me.

I’ve changed since then, in many ways… But I’m beginning to wonder if there mightn’t perhaps be something fundementally the same about me… something that wilfully insists upon knowing or understanding, at least partly before doing or obeying… and it might be that in God’s (100% accurate of course) view, I am still every bit the wilful and pesky child. I admit, that I have tried the sneaky non-active response to being in God’s grip… the ‘I don’t mind if you do this… I can wait obediently… watch me waiting… see how nice and obedient I am’… whilst being fully aware that I have adopted this as an active response, rather than really giving in. God knows about this though, I can’t persuade God, with a put-on demonstration of my obedient patience, that I am truly being patient and obedient… but at the same time, it’s awfully hard NOT to try to hurry God up a bit, since, unlike my brother, God is not going to get bored or hungry, or old or tired and let go before he’s really achieved what he wants to… this could actually go on until I die, and that thought is pretty miserable!

So here I am, trying to second-guess God again, and work out what he’s trying to teach me in order to impatiently show him I’ve learned my lesson, and then get going with the next thing. But I know, with the same sense of glum spiritual dread as someone who previously succumbed to the temptations of a dodgy kebab and who is now drooling over the lavatory-pan, that there is nothing I can do to speed up the nauseating waiting, I just have to let things take their course.

Eventually, perhaps, I will have learned,  or perhaps taken on, the patience or self-lessness or obedience or timing or whatever… and if and when, God does eventually release his grip, then I will be in the palm of his hand.

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About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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