Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Tale of Two Fridays

One Friday in mid July of this year, I was driving across Christchurch.
We had recently moved back to Christchurch, after having lived in Australia for the past 10 years.
I had never driven in Christchurch. I only learnt to drive in Australia.

I was driving through the Merivale-Fendalton-Bryndwyr area. 
This was where I went to school. I knew these streets through school friends etc.

I was on my way to visit a parishioner who is suffering with cancer. 
Healing is very important in my ministry. 
It is something I was called to very early on in my ministry. It is a place I am my most comfortable, and where I know the presence of God most clearly.

As I drove those streets on my way to go about this work, 
I began to be filled with a sense of right place right time.
It was clear.

A song came on the radio:

I've always kind of liked this song. Great late 70.'s keyboards, catchy rhythm, really nice vocal by Michael MacDonald, and wonderful falsetto backing vocals in the chorus. All good.

As the song played, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of elation. 
Through my body, a great calm light filled me. 
I realised I was smiling, singing, laughing.

Pure joy.
It was joy in the work, 
joy in where I was, 
joy in where I was heading.

The presence of God was clear. 
He had lead me to this moment, and everything was right.

I arrived at the parishioners house, and we went about our work. 
We heard from the scriptures, we shared in Holy Communion, I laid hands for healing.
Our work began, and continues today with progress.

One Friday in late August, I was driving through Christchurch.
I was now more used to the roads, the Christchurch way of things.

I was driving through Somerfield-Barrington-Cashmere arera, on my way to a pastoral visit.
This was an area I knew from a later part of my life. 
We lived around here just before we moved to Australia.

Things in the parish had been rolling along; busy, lots going on.
In recent weeks, things had taken a very dark tone.
Divisions in the parish had arisen due to a decision I had had to make.
There was an ongoing campaign to discredit my decision. 
It had become quite nasty.
I felt incredibly alone.

On this Friday, several things had all come together, making my ministry feel untenable.

A song came on the radio:

I've always kind of liked this song. I remember it coming out when I was a kid.
It is classic early 80's Queen, with a great Bowie vocal.

As I drove, I eagerly waited for my favourite bit, just before it really rocks out. 
Bowie and Mercury exchange lines and verses, both voices at their best:

Bowie:     Keep coming up with love but it's so slashed and torn
Mercury:  Why - why - why?
Bowie:     Love love love love love
                Insanity laughs under pressure we're breaking
Mercury: Can't we give ourselves one more chance
               Why can't we give love that one more chance
               Why can't we give love give love give love give love
                Give love give love give love give love give love
Bowie:    'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
                And love dares you to care for
                The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
                And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
               Caring about ourselves

At this point, I was consumed by the utter hopelessness of my situation.
It was overwhelming.
I pulled over so I could get myself together.
It felt like there was nowhere I should be, 
nowhere I was useful, 
nowhere I was wanted.
I have never felt so lost and alone.
Under pressure, indeed.

Pure desolation.

No presence of God, just absence.
It felt as if I had taken a very wrong turn.

I arrived at the parishioners house, and we went about our work. 
We heard from the scriptures, and sorted what needed to be sorted.

I don't know where or what all this means.
I trust in God's guidance.
I understand that what I understand as his absence is my understanding, not the reality.

It is time to take time and be still.


Unknown said...

Thank you for your open expression. It is hard sometimes to believe that you are still totally in God when everything feels bleak. I am so sorry you have been having a rough time. Bless you. And may God restore in you the joy of your vocation. I trust you have good support. Kia kaha, brother.

Father Ron said...

Dear Father, ALL clergy have their down-times. This is one of the risks we take on ordination. God is always at hand - people are not always understanding of the pressures we're under. I pray your discomfort will ease as you continue in your ministry aming us all at SMAA. Prayers and Blessings. Fr. Ron