When man follows the inspirations of grace he finds liberty and peace. In this state we may say that fear renders him free, and that love enslaves him.
~ St Anthony of Padua, as quoted in Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis
Ah, you are beautiful, my love;
ah, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.
Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved,
~ Song of Solomon 1:15,16 (NRSVA)
The sovereign virtue of man is humility. It is that which cures, perfects and keeps him. Without humility we can acquire no other virtue nor attain to perfection.
~ from Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis of Assisi
***image from https://revandy.org/2011/05/05/humility/
It was a relaxed Sunday evening and after we shared a chapter from A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John (which I think is an excellent resource for young people – honest, earnest and never patronising) the girls and I wanted to have a bit of a sing song.
“To be honest,” said Fluff, “the singing is my favourite part of going to church and I miss it when we don’t go.”
Aside – I was actually well enough to go this morning but wanted to finish off inventorying the kitchen with Chip so we didn’t go because it takes an hour to drive there and back and then the service is about two hours, plus chatting to people afterwards – it basically means a whole morning and mornings are when I have the most energy. Our family is currently doing the 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero challenge and the first big task is to inventory the contents of your kitchen or pantry. I needed a lot of help because my energy levels were never going to last me through that one and Chip was a little trouper.
Into my mind popped this old favourite. I learned it about 30 years ago at Warrior Camp and lo and behold my girls loved it as much as we did back then. They are old enough now to appreciate the harmonies so we had great fun.
My small, but heartfelt, prayer lately has been along the lines of “God, I’m so broken and small, I manage so little. How can I possibly do anything for Your glory?”
Seems like God has answered in the smallness of a smile, in the glimpse of the sun in a bright spring sky, in the soft touch of a guinea pig snuggling into my shoulder, even in the voices of two adolescent girls roaring out, “Jesus, Prince of Peace, glory hal-le-lujah!” In contrast to all that the world has to say, God says that small and insignificant is ok. Indispensable, even. Because He is strong when I am weak. I really don’t get it. But that’s ok. As long as it is all for His glory.
What you do for the least of these you do for Me…
But Lord, I am ‘the least of these’.
So be ‘the least of these’ for Me.
I had to fill in a form for my new doctor. I have finally been given an appointment to see a CFS/ME specialist. It included questions that asked me to compare my current state with my ‘normal’ state. I am flummoxed by questions like these. I was diagnosed with this condition when I was 14. I have never lived a ‘normal’ adult life. Then there was the question of employment. I never chose to be a housewife, although I’m trying to do the job well. Coerced away from education and into my first marriage and immediate motherhood at the age of 21 I never had an occupation, as such, so it’s no good asking me about this. I never chose to be a mother (yes, you did read that right and yes it probably does mean what you think it means…) and I never chose to be a housewife, just as I never chose to have this condition or to be abused or to end up with PTSD.
In that moment I understood what it is to be excluded from general society, to be treated as less than human. There was no box for me to tick. The assumptions were already made. Perhaps that is why my response to those whom society has excluded is so strong. I get it. It sucks. It’s wrong. They and I are no better than anyone else, but equally no worse. They and I, like every human being, are made in the image of God. We are all God-breathed.
This morning God spoke to me through His Word and it directly relates. You may find it useful, too, so I share it here:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NRSVA)
So the people that seem small and insignificant are deemed ‘indispensable’? That’s good. I’m ok then. How about you? And how does this change the way we view our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? How does this change the way we view our potential brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Why do Christians follow worldly ideals and create ‘celebrity’ Christians?
No one can acquire any virtue unless he begins by dying to himself ~ St. Francis of Assisi
…regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self… and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].
~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (AMP)
I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God…
~ Galatians 2:20
PTSD? Depression? Grief? PMT? Who knows? All I know for sure is that I have been struggling lately. I know the death of my mother-in-law shook me up (actually, not her death – because she was a woman of faith – so much as the suffering that preceded it) and I know that the flashbacks have returned (PTSD: such fun!) but in a different form, and I know that hormones are a right bugger at certain times of the month (‘scuse me, gentlemen), but I don’t think I’m depressed. Just floundering a bit. Feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though it’s mostly my own brain that’s doing the whelming. Mind you, Prince is poorly again and that breaks my heart because he is in pain and there’s nothing I can do and I can’t explain it to him – it’s difficult enough to explain to a neuro-typical child, let alone a young man with autism Then there’s my dear husband who is struggling with grief at the loss of his mother. I am quite inadequate at offering comfort. He hurts so I hurt. That’s what having a strong sense of empathy does. You feel other people’s feelings, especially the bad feelings. It’s good because it begets a deep compassion, but it can have a down side. I feel too much, sometimes. Other times I feel nothing at all.
So I go back to the bible, back to the words of people who followed Jesus with their whole being. The death of self that St. Francis is talking about in that first quote, above, is not just dying to the old selfish, sinful ways, it’s also about dying to the old negative thinking patterns – that I am useless, unworthy, a waste of space. These are all the feelings that have been floating around my head and the worst bit is that they stop me from being able to think straight. I have the desire to be caring for my family and looking after the house, but my head gets stuck and I can’t figure out what to do and then all I want to do (all I feel able to do) is to curl up in bed and do nothing. But then I feel bad because really I do want to be caring for my family and curating a loving, organised, fruitful family home.
Oh, sweet Jesus! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Bring me once again to my knees as I wholly and completely put my trust in You to accomplish even the smallest of small things for Your dear name’s sake. I am quite useless without You, yet quite marvellous with You. Use me. Give me the awareness of grace – five minutes at a time if need be – and help me to share Your grace with everyone I meet. Help my poor boy to feel better. Show me what I can do for him and to encourage him. Help me to be whatever my husband needs as he comes to terms with his loss.
In Your name I pray. Thank you for this gift of prayer.
I write all this here not as a way of seeking attention. I don’t want attention, although kindly thoughts and prayer would be an encouragement. I hope that this might help someone else going through the same sort of thing to not feel so alone, but the main reason I write this is because true testimony begins with honesty – and that includes the bad… all the while knowing that God is always good.