It is almost Christmas Day, and this week I am taking my day off today, pausing in the midst of the rush and taking some time out to clean, to prepare and to gather myself together. Over the last few months I have made some big decisions, the one that will bring about the most change is that I will be leaving Blackpool and moving to Sheffield this summer.
It was a big decision, and the first decision that I have made on my own and for myself in over 30 years. I say on my own, but I am grateful for a number of wise friends and advisors who have walked the path with me, it has involved a lot of prayer and some holy listening, but ultimately the decision lay in my hands.
I have loved being in Blackpool, but it is time for me to move and to let go, in doing so I acknowledge that not only is my “nest” now empty of children, but I am now on my own, and while I would not have looked for it I can say (at last) that it is OK.
Some of you who know me well will know that I have tried out one or two other changes, I tried out going back to my Maiden name, but have decided not to do that, I have been a Coleman much longer than I have been a Richardson, and the experiences of family life and relationship that those years have brought me have made me who I am, even my mistakes ( and there have been many).
It is these big decisions, both to move and to retain a name that I have carried into advent this year, and it is these that have called me to let go in what feels like a radical way. Radical because in letting go I am including my own brokeness rather than running or hiding from in, and in doing so I have discovered the God who holds me and loves me not inspite of it, but more because of it.
I have spent much of my life in black and white thinking, in either accepting or rejecting, but rarely including and holding things in tension, and yet it now seems that this is necessary if we are going to be able to carry out Jesus command to love others as we love ourselves. Let me unpack that a bit, there are things I don’t like about myself, mistakes that I have made and things that I have done that I wish I could hide, and while I am not about to air my dirty laundry, I now accept that those things have made me who I am. If I reject them I reject myself and refuse to learn from them, so I am learnigninstead to hold them gently and to bind my wounds in the forgiveness and grace of God.
Julian of Norwich saw the compassion of God in relation to sin by seeing our woundedness, and in Christ the one who entered into our pain to rescue us. She spoke of the abyss into which we fall, and the incarnation as God’s choice to enter into that falling:
” Christ suffers because it is only in the imitation of our suffering that the divine can come to us in our genuine need.” (Saving Desire: The seduction of Christian Theology )
This of course means that we have to both know and acknowledge our genuine need, which means letting go of our egos desire to wear masks, to appear to be strong and capable, and to allow the Spirit of God to be the strength in our weakness. The words “I am not longer my own but yours” from the Methodist Covenant Prayer then become words of release and empowerment, challenging yes, but so much more for they unlock the potential of deep communion when I release myself to the holy and divine possibilities that lie within each one of us.
So in my moving on and letting go I am including my whole self, warts, wounds, past, present and future possibilities, and placing my whole self ito the hands of the one who holds the end from the beginning, and there I am finding grace, grace to begin to love myself as I should, as Christ has commanded me to, and through that love I might just begin to become a part of his light and life for the world.
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5)