Golden sun sets in blue skies, amber path lighting a way across the sea. Frosty weather means clear heavens – already the first stars are starting to blink into life above. The ocean ripples into land, silken waves gently rolling over the rocks.. Among the troughs of water, clumps of seaweed bob up and down. Somewhere out there the otter is hunting his dinner. No sign of him this evening. But this is perfect otter weather. Time to sit, and watch and be.
The beach is a liminal zone. Neither land nor sea. Constantly moving from one to the other. Each tide brings a new scene, a fresh place to walk. Ever changing, ever constant. A place of contradictions. A place to rest, to walk, to think. To pray. To talk. To laugh and to cry. A place for the tired times and the energetic ones. For trudges in glumness and dancing in joy. A place of exploration. A place of being. Where my deepest thoughts are spoken and my heart’s desires are expressed, spoken into the wind and the tide. For the ears of my God alone.
There are times when the silence from God seems to deafen me. When it seems as though the wind and the tide are the only ones listening. And it’s time like this that God can strike unexpectedly… a word at the right time, an unexpected ranbow, a sweeping sunset that takes my breath away. God’s gifts for me to enjoy. This little shell reminded me that as I walk along the sand, as I practice being in the company of God, he does listen. Even in the silence.
I’ve just finished doing the last two things in my diary – leading a couple of retreats. There is nothing else written in it. It is a complete blank. Nothing I have to do for anyone else. In some ways that is a wonderful freedom. In other ways it raises questions in my mind. One thing I’ve been reflecting on recently is how my sense of worth, of being valuable, is connected to being useful, to doing things for others. At the moment, on this year out, I don’t feel particularly useful. I’m not doing any pastoral work, or preparing services, or teaching about creative worship, or any of the hundred other things I used to do. There is a guilt factor in not being involved.
We’re very much taught by this world in which we live that our value is judged by our usefulness, by our productivity, by what we contribute to society. And my year out to reconnect with God is counter-cultural. Most people initially assume I’m going to go and do some charity work, overseas somewhere. Or that I have a great agenda of things to achieve. This would be normal. Targets and deadlines, doing good. Yet while I’m hoping to do some writing ( I have a couple of books underway), and some more artwork, they will be an added bonus. I’m trying to be, not to do. Trying to conquer my self-induced guilt when I sit and watch the tide come in and tide go out again. Allowing myself to appreciate the wind in my hair, the warmth of the sun on my face. Toasting bread on an open fire. I’ve been spending some of my time crocheting a nativity set. I could say that it’s good as it keeps my hands occupied while I think. But I’ve just been enjoying doing it. They’re fun. I was giggling at one of my shepherds who keeps falling over (I think he’s been at the whisky), and found myself apologising for it. One of my parents came out with a revealing comment ‘you are allowed to enjoy yourself’.
It was an important lesson. I am allowed to enjoy myself. I do not have to be useful to someone at the same time. I do not have to be earnest and productive. I can just be and rejoice in just being. On a walk earlier today I passed one of the older buildings in Port William. It used to be the old slaughterhouse, and the owners have been gradually renovating it over the last year or so. In the garden, there is a herd of wooden pigs (ok, that’s slightly gruesome. A warped sense of humour at work). Just for fun. No other reason. Something that has no monetary purpose, no great artistic message, nothing useful. Yet it makes you smile as you pass by.
Sometimes, God just wants you to enjoy life. He wants you to enjoy being in his company, and he wants to enjoy your company. When you are not rushing around, or busy with other things. He doesn’t want you to earn his love, for he loves you anyway. No matter whether you are doing something ‘useful’ in the eyes of society or not, you are beloved and wanted and adored by him. Full stop.
A herd of wooden pigs
Watches me as I pass by
Eyes seeming to follow me.
Do they come alive at night?
Under the sound of the waves,
Do they grunt and snore?
Do they trot about,
Looking for food?
Or for someone to scratch their backs?
Or are they just content where they are?
Watching the tide
Listening to the wind
By the sea
The pattern for the shepherds can be found on : 6icthusfish.typepad.com . The sheep is my own design and when I get round to it I’ll type up the pattern! NB 5 Dec 12 done it! https://iggandfriends.wordpress.com/crochet-patterns/
More information on the wooden pigs can be found here: http://www.rtby.com/project.asp?7