Let us be wise like these men
Knowing the times
Knowing the ancient promises
And following them beyond our comfort zones.
Let us go on a journey to seek Him.
Let us expect to find Him in humble and unexpected places.
Like these men who followed the light
To find a refugee child in a filthy shed
Fleeing a blood thirsty dictator
Born to a shunned teenage unmarried mother
A vulnerable child who’d become a radical world changer.
Do we have eyes to see
the sacred in the unimpressive and the unlovely?
Do we have eyes to see?
To not despise the day of small beginnings?
To find Him in unexpected places?
– Copyright Hilary Murdoch 2015
I’ve just read a wonderful blog post by Sarah Kewly Hyde about how to deal with pain. I thought it was pretty relevant to share on Good Friday, when we are asked to wait a while with grief and not rush to Sunday too quickly. She writes about not rushing from our own pain and grief, otherwise we just repress it and store up trouble for later.
I’ve been really challenged on that recently – challenged to write emotional rants to God on scraps of paper which I will rip up and chuck (I realised my journal was getting a bit sanatised for fear of someone reading it one day!). Giving time to expressing my emotions, even when they are ugly. Reminding myself that God loves me as much in that space as when I’m feeling hunky dory. I sometimes then take a new page in my journal and start the page ‘My dear daughter Hilary’….and then write what comes to mind as a letter to me from God. And sometimes what comes is of great comfort and truely does seem to be from Him.
Sarah also writes about being present with those in pain and not rushing away for fear of not knowing what to say. I couldn’t agree more. Also something I’ve really learnt in my own life and actually wish I’d known earlier.
She mentions this passage in Isaiah, a verse God has really spoken to me through, in terms of finding treasures of revelation and intimacy with Him, hidden in the dark secret places of pain and struggle. Which is a different and new take on that verse for me.
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3.
Another theme that echos what I believe God’s been teaching me is that God never promised us an easy life with no trouble, in fact Jesus promised us there will be trouble (John 16:33). When there is trouble, it’s not evidence that God is not good or personal, it’s evidence that the world is broken and evil is present, as the bible says it is. Let’s be angry with evil rather than angry with God. Although he can take it if we are angry with him. He’d rather we wrestle with him than walk away from him. In fact he called his people ‘wrestles with God’ (the meaning of ‘Israel’) so that’s the amazing kind of relationship we’re invited into with him. He’s not distant and unquestionable but close and wanting us to engage with him. (I would emphasise that I don’t believe God brings pain or suffering to teach us lessons, its Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy.)
So he doesn’t promise a trouble free life but what he does promise us is that he will be with us in trouble and that he will give us peace in the midst of it. And I for one have experienced those promises to be true.
Having said all that I am definitely a believer in Jesus’ power to bring transformation and healing, I’ve seen it in many people’s lives including my own. And of course we move towards that but sometimes we need to pause to be real along the way.
In her post she writes:
“Tragic, awful things happen to good people all the time. We need to get our heads around that. Life is not fair. Some people have an endless rollercoaster of heartbreak, others skip through with a platinum credit card, a fabulous job, a model family. But always, always God is present. To me, and to the Syrian orphan in the refugee camp. The one we serve didn’t get off the cross until he was done – until God’s will was worked out. That’s the blueprint for dealing with pain: stay with it until God says it’s done. We can’t rush these things. And know that as well as the promise of presence, after the agony of the cross came the healing and wholeness of new life.”
I highly recommend reading the whole post here.
The other thing I would recommend which has helped me hugely is a series of sermons at St Barnabas Kensington, London on going through tough times in February 2015, particularly ‘wrestling with God’ and ‘Desert’. http://www.stbk.org.uk/Media/AllMedia.aspx
This Christmas I’ve been thinking about how surprising it is (if we reflect afresh, ignoring the familiarity of the story) that Jesus did not come as a powerful king with a palace, riches and an army. He didn’t have to enter the world as a baby but he chose to. As I look into the eyes of the babies in my life, I’m struck by their powerlessness and dependency on their parents. How radical and shocking that the creator and king of the universe chose to enter the world like that. Chosing to strip away all power and privilege he had every right to claim, to be a vulnerable baby to an unmarried mother. Born to a family travelling away from home, with no place to stay and then fleeing for their lives, refugees if you like.
Even as a grown man he was a homeless wanderer, a controversial vagrant who owned nothing and encouraged his disciples to also go out into the world with no bag or possessions. He chose to hang out with people on the edge of society, the people others shamed and rejected. He didn’t do anything to elevate or justify himself in the eyes of others, in fact quite the opposite. He was not a king who dominated people but who chose to serve and invited his followers to do the same. He didn’t demand obedience but invited people to walk with him.
If we look at Jesus as a person and if he is the exact representation of God as he claimed to be, it gives a very different view of God than if we take our view of God from the fallen and broken groups of ‘religious people’, who obviously and continuously get it wrong and misrepresent His heart, as we all do.
So I’ve been thinking, for us who follow him and seek to emulate him in our lives, maybe we shouldn’t hold onto entitlements to a steady life, comfort, wealth, people’s good opinions or worldly power/influence. He could have chosen to have all those things but instead chose a life with none of them. That in itself is such a challenge to me. What am I expecting from life and are those expectations consistent with emulating the one I claim to follow?
Rolls and rolls of brown tape
Stuff of life contained
To be reclaimed
timing to be confirmed
hopefully not too far away.
Unpacked into a new season.
So much stuff.
How much does one really need?
Very little if we’re honest.
But we keep it
as a security blanket.
There’s a freedom and lightness in simplicity
but I’m rarely brave enough
to shed enough
to experience it.
In the air
and yet living my life
in this moment.
I’m not alone
flying with my constant companion.
Knowing I’m loved and known
held in hearts
in both places I call home.
Copyright © 2014 Hilary Murdoch. All rights reserved.
Plane over Cape Town image: Reuters
On scarves, tea cups, note cards.
Distinctive silhouette against blue skies.
And yet here
It can mean
A fair weather tourist
Taking just the sunshine
Of both hemispheres
Exits when it gets cold
When it gets hard
I don’t want to be a swallow.