Friday, 22 August 2008

In passing (1)

Thoughts of sandy beaches have taken me back to the time when I was being emptied and refilled, perhaps (hindsight again) in preparation for eventually being filled to the brim.
An important part of my own journey was played out on a beach, and if the greater part of what I write here is drawn from words uttered within myself, then I should overcome the reluctance I sometimes feel to, as it were, utter those words aloud. Having recalled those now rather distant days, perhaps it is right that I should share more of my own journey with you.

My life was transformed by an ongoing experience of the presence of Jesus, and later, by His apparent absence which led me into a previously unimagined and impossible level of faith without any dependence on feelings of being in His company. This absence of further experiences has continued for many years, but I have the irreplaceable memory of His companionship to lift my spirit whenever life tires or troubles me. I no longer have any real sense of His being right here beside me: no feeling, no sensation, no actual experience to infuse or overwhelm me, nor to delay or distract me, but the undying echo of my previous experience has anchored a deep awareness of His presence within me. I know that in my efforts to follow Him He is always walking with me.

My experience had three parts, two of which are clearly remembered as living factual events. I have never been as certain about how the third occurred.
Walking with Jesus was real. Losing him was real. Meeting a particular stranger was real to me, but I later doubted its reality: I feared that I may have imagined it, until I understood what had happened.

For some time I had been increasingly drawn to one particular place in Ireland, and at some point in the narrowing down of my awareness to that one spot, I had gained a friend. Jesus had become an almost tangible presence. It happened so quietly that I do not recall any stages in the process. There had been a time when I had not been aware of his presence, and then, when I was, I could not remember when it had begun: it seemed so normal a part of my life.
He walked with me wherever I went, but it was when I sought the peace that I could find only when alone in the west of Ireland that I really felt his presence; and the place where he came closest was on that same beach.
I would talk aloud to him at times; not saying much, but rather as one would to someone who shared the love of solitude and who was close enough in friendship to be allowed to share one's secret experiences of peace. I had never shared such things with anybody: they were not for sharing; they were mine. But Jesus was there, and his presence enhanced the solitude and the peace rather than detracting from it. He brought it into a new dimension.

He was always in the same position, slightly behind me and to my left. I would glance over my shoulder when speaking to him, and at times would find it impossible not to smile, or even laugh aloud through the pleasure of his company. He was so real at times that I would stop and turn with the expectation of seeing him beside me. I never did see him, and, (and this surprised me when I first realised it), I never heard him utter a single word. I also have the clear but contradictory memory that, although I never saw him, whenever I looked at him he was always looking straight into my eyes; he never took his eyes off me.
My quietest and most peaceful moments were when alone with him on that beach.
My saddest day was when I found that I had lost him.

Just as I am unable to remember when Jesus first arrived at my shoulder, so am I unable to fix the time when I first missed him. I sense that it was probably during a particular period of emptiness and confusion, as that helps me to make sense of why I sank deep, when everything else in my world was wonderful. All I know is that suddenly the feeling of being accompanied was gone; he was no longer there.
The sense of loss was immense, and the sorrow continued for a long time. Until that glorious day when I realised that I had not lost him at all; - he had moved in! That day too is lost in terms of ‘when’, but the day lives on as the experience of light and joy. Jesus the man - the real living friend - had gone from beside me, but now, with the Holy Spirit, he dwelt within me. That was where he had wanted to be. That was why he had been walking so close for so long. He had been waiting for me to let him in.
I had enjoyed his company without ever giving a thought to why he was there, and had failed to see that both his presence and his apparent disappearance were part of what was happening to me. I had felt the two experiences as part of my love for the place, and it was only as yet more time went by that I learned I had to put two previously unconnected realities together (unconnected in my own mind that is): the longed for experiences of Ireland, and the changes going on in my life at home.

My trinity of experience in that place was completed by a further meeting that occurred when Jesus still walked with me.
It is a place I love and which draws me into thoughts and dreams. It is a place (as all places are) in which to pray, and, for me, one of the places where I was first confronted with sorrow and injustice tied up in the memory of places: anguish and despair that leaches from the land itself long after events have receded into history. An unlikely sounding lesson it may be, but one that drew to the surface my need to find a means of expression for emotions that would not let me rest, as though finding a voice for those who could no longer speak, and through that voice enabling some of their restless sorrows to be stilled.
A place to be alone, and when the shore was deserted I felt almost like an intruder, so lonely did the place feel; - as on that day ...

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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