‘Today I am on a quest in a beautiful and dreadful jungle called The Universe. Dreadful because, in order for the dignity of love to exist, you took the risk of allowing for hate. Having done that you brought me (and all my fellow humans) out of your very heart. But we fell under a curse and were enslaved until it’s power was broken on a ‘blood stained killing tree’1 by a mysterious lamb that had (paradoxically) been ‘slain from the foundation of the world’2. So it is that this curse no longer has any real power over us, but it does have that last resort of all bitter and defeated foes: mind games, which means we still live with the after-effects of a broken curse.
And then there is the burden of our normal human compassion, which is often appalled, and even furious that you should allow this horror in the first place. But we can’t say you didn’t warn us, and it would appear that—although you yourself have been wounded by it and have drawn the sting into your own body of flesh—you are unapologetic about this nightmare that rolls like a loose cannon on deck. So, rather than sit on the fence and wait, we have chosen to ‘bet our lives on one side in this great war’6 and to join with you in the spirit of the following words …
‘Love’s as hard as nails, love is nails
Blunt, thick, hammered through the medial nerves of One
Who having made us, knew the thing he had done.
Seeing with all that is, our cross—and his.’7
This brings me to the second risk: where I allow what is true to become real in me by surrendering to you, the Great Spirit of Life. For truth un-lived might as well not exist, like a beam of light in space. But it becomes ‘real’ and vibrant, when for example, it surrenders to rain in the sky and colour floods the day, creating something new. So it is, that my obedience to you, rather than being negative and destructive, is a liberating act, which joins us together as co-creators.
I unleash this power now by surrendering to you—the one I am so proud of and absolutely adore—the Messiah of Calvary, knowing that even here I am on dangerous ground, for that word ‘surrender’ invokes grovelling slavery, which is not your way. So I stand in your presence, look to your face, and say with you that this is us going out into this day together. Me and you (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), preparing this world for the great day of it’s resurrection and the return of its King by growing little gardens of goodness.
Love and truth is what I hope for in this twenty-four hour journey, especially as expressed in the right kind of restraint, which really listens carefully to those around me, asks good questions and understands those I am attempting to love and serve. I want to not only hear their words but to ‘hear’ their feelings and their non-verbal language.
You know my back story, so I don’t need to go into details, but there have been words used—often gold-plated and untouchable, and sometimes cruel—by others over the years and months. Or was it yesterday? I ask that if I have unfinished business here that you would bring it to my attention and give me the grace to at least begin a conversation with whoever may have been responsible, or if not that, to at least harness the hurt to serve me and you through the habit of thanksgiving or even to drop it entirely. As Joseph said to his brothers, ‘You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’3
On the other hand, perhaps I am the one giving the grief and they have been trying to tell me something for a long time but I would not be told: just didn’t get it. Take me to a place where I can listen well, ask good questions, see their point of view and ask for forgiveness.
I include those who manage me in this too: my partner, my friends and work colleagues, my boss or maybe even one of my children. Communication is a problem for us. I ask for protection from the recklessness of second-guessing them; from not even noticing when I am to blame and have caused grief and misunderstanding. We need faithfulness, creativity and honesty in our words and we need resources, people and skills to build helpful communication processes.
When we are communicating, help me to know and observe myself and at the same time to be genuinely interested in those I speak with and to immerse my thoughts in theirs so that I can ask relevant questions and can feel and know your love for them. Show me how to love others in a way that translates as love in their language. Yes! You heard me say it. I do want to be ‘quick to hear and slow to speak’.4 And yes … save me from the curse of an unbridled tongue disguised as transparency.
I ask for grace and patience to wait and to sense where you are in the situation and to cooperate with what you are doing. Be that a joke, a song, a hard scrabble fight or a sweet day of cafes and laughter. I also ask for awareness and understanding of the arts of ownership, participation and servanthood; the expectancy of faith; the focus of ambition and the joy of learning.
If I am to be the manager and teacher today, I ask for skill to train and teach well so that I would develop a life-time habit of inviting participation rather than passive admiration, and that the ‘with-him’/’with-her’ principle would be a natural instinct, enabling deep ownership in those I lead and teach.
Transform me and fill me with your goodness, wisdom and grace in such a way that my demonstrating will be inspiring and arouse curiosity rather than yawns; that my supervising will be encouraging; and that the hearts of others will burn in that deep and strong way of those two friends on the Emmaus Road5 whose gloomy afternoon walk was catalysed by you: the surprising stranger. This will take much more than learning and training and systems, and this is where I confess I am lost, for it is an impossible mystery and requires that you make me into a sacrament. Amen.’