So, spring has definitely come to Suffolk. The daffodils have come and are already ‘dead heading’, the crocuses have bloomed and been nibbled down to stubs by the bunnies (dear little things) and the Magnolia tree has exploded in beautiful blossoms …and has begun to drop them already!
Spring comes quietly here in East Anglia. It starts with snow drops in February, greenery never really disappearing entirely and then flowers begin to appear in March and it just keeps on – all the while birds singing every morning! Amazing! When you come from a country where spring takes so long to come, the consistent reminder of new life is really different. I wonder if people here become used to it?
I was reading a book the other day. It is called Landmarks – An Ignatian Journey. The back of the book describes it as a book to “help us find ourselves when we think we are lost”. In the part I was reading the author gave an illustration of a narrowboat, the canal and locks that it navigates. It describes our journey to a ‘t’. It’s a little long, but here it is, my comments are in bold:
I realised that I myself feel rather like a narrow boat in the lock chamber with the lock gates firmly closed on me. Because I have no real knowledge of what came before the lock chamber, if anything, or what will follow after, the lock chamber itself seems to be all there is. I believe, in faith, that there is a canal that has brought me here and that will, in some mysterious way, take me further, but in my lived experience it usually doesn’t feel like that. It often feels as though I am here in a deep, dark prison, (ok, that’s a little extreme) facing brick walls on every side, and with no way out that my mind can guess at or imagine. A pointless and a daunting place to be. If I think about my condition at all, I start to examine every brick or stone in that lock chamber, as if it were the whole arena of my living, and in the hope that a minute examination of its walls might reveal some meaning in it, or some way of dealing with it. (Our experience here isn’t as bad as this sounds, but when thinking of the ‘aloneness’ of the life we live here, it echoes some of the solitude we feel)
This process, of examining my prison walls, though it may be absorbing, is ultimately rather futile, because it completely lacks Perspective. The lock chamber makes no sense at all unless you know about the canal. Without the canal the boat is, truly, just a prisoner in a pointless place. But when the reality of the canal is felt, and embraced, then the transformation happens. (Isn’t this true about situations in life?) The lock chamber is seen to be the place, and the only place, where God’s grace might be inflowing, to raise me to the place where I must be, if my homeward journey with him is to go on into what is still unexplored.
To raise me? Or to lower me? Sometimes, as I look back, I can see that grace has flowed into my empty lock and lifted me up, on its tide, into God’s presence, with no effort of my own. But sometimes it seems to do just the opposite. Grace seemed to be draining away, and I felt myself sinking lower and lower between the dark, damp stones, to be left alone in the very darkest depths of myself, until God opened the lock gates and set me free to journey on. Downstream, or upstream? Either way transforms the dark imprisonment of the lock chamber of our life into the very place which is making possible the onward movement on a journey that is infinitely larger and greater than our caged hearts can understand.
My fallenness, it seems to me, has something to do with this loss of perspective. It is about my feeling of the radical separation of myself from the flow of life and of love and of God that alone makes sense of me. But the flow of love and of God never ceases to be there for me, and even as I sit captive in my lock chamber, not knowing where I am or why, God is already manning the lock gates and bringing me, in his own time and his own way, to the point of readiness for moving on.
And so we wait, and trust, that God is in control – something that we have never doubted. He alone knows our purpose here and what needs to be accomplished both here at Quiet Waters and in our own hearts. Until then, we –
“Fix our eyes on Jesus”. Hebrews 12:2
Thanks for listening to all the blathering. Miss you all.