Did you know: the word ‘companion’ comes from the Latin, ‘com panis’… ‘with bread’ -one with whom one shares bread… ?
When I went to University, I was already a committed Christian, and, coming from fairly strict parents (though not both religious) I wondered at first what I would do with all the new-found freedom… could I be trusted, I asked myself?
…I decided I just try and discover what sort of person I was, and joined clubs and societies, took up sports, got drunk a bit, danced and clubbed with friends and made suggestive jokes; stayed up late and wore unusual clothing; ate weird food combinations and skipped meals, went on day trips by myself and to the cinema alone just because I could -and I took baklava instead of popcorn.
I didn’t end up doing anything that I could later regret -because as it turned out, I didn’t really want to -I didn’t want to hop into bed with people, as I was not in love with them and didn’t trust them with my heart and soul, and had plenty of friends just to hang out with.I didn’t do drugs, as the more I talked and shared with people, the more it turned out THEY thought my mind was a wild and wonderful place, and even drug users suggested there wouldn’t be any point messing with my head as it was already a great place to live. I didn’t get a tattoo as I don’t even wear clothes with words on, as I’ve said elsewhere in this blog -I’m not a placard. (Though I still like to see a good tattoo on someone else -like people say about other people’s children: they’re more fun since you don’t have to live with them all the time!)
Even when I spent a year in Germany working, as part of the University course, I never did anything inappropriate. Though looking back over my life, I realise there were times when innocence or naivety, and a bit of heavenly care, were probably protecting me from getting into more dangerous situations… I think there were certainly times when I didn’t realise that other people had an agenda… and other times when it was up to the angels to keep me out of trouble.
But despite my life being very open and, for want of a better word, ‘wholesome’… I still struggle with temptation. And since ordination to the diaconate, and with ordination to the priesthood approaching in the future… I’ve been more aware of it.
Now if you’re hoping for juicy nuggets of gossip about attractive parishioners, church silverware or gin and gambling dens… save yourself some time and stop reading now… all that jazz would be too obvious… nope, most recently I’ve been struggling simply to be faithful to God.
What do I mean? Is the call of an alternative religion or lifestyle beginning to tempt me?
Nope again. It’s always going to be God… the Ancient of Days, ‘I am’, -he of the burning bush, of Abraham and Isaac; as Christians have come to know him: ‘Emmanuel’ the Christ, the one through whom all things were made and who would not let our sin or death come between us… the passionate God, he of the still small voice and of the pillar of fire; the first and last and living one who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, who washed the feet of his disciples and told them -‘now you’ve seen what I’m like -do likewise -and love one another with gentleness and humility’.
The temptation, is ‘the job‘… it’s the worst kind of temptation… the easily justifiable but totally wrong desire to ‘do the job well’ to become a ‘successful’ priest… it’s terrifying, it’s the kind of judgemental, tactical approach to discipleship that blindsided Judas to the Beloved in the midst of the group.
This ‘role’, this vocation, is really so laden with freedom -it could feel like trying to carry the wind on your back if you weren’t careful… a perpetual impossible struggle. Or if you stand up and allow yourself to be borne along by the Spirit of God, then it’s… well, a little scary still, but a delight, and not a burden.
Anyway, I realised yesterday afternoon that I was beginning to fret and consider and even try and ‘plan’ stuff, that I thought would help me to be ‘successful’ in my vocation…
… and then I realised I was accidentally sinking into the world’s madness, and instead I asked my companion if he would please call me again because I was beginning to forget how much I love him, and to worry about what the world, and the Church and other Christians and fellow priests thought… and none of those people could save me from death when I finally lie helpless in the grave… and none of those things were going to set me free, in the present or the hereafter…
And he called me, and I went, and I sang to him about how much I really do love him, and it uncluttered my sight and made me remember who I am, like Kay’s tears in The Snow Queen…
…This relationship is always going to need work, on my part, but I couldn’t ask for a more loving or trustworthy companion, I just hope my life brings him half as much joy as his life, death, resurrection and companionship bring me…