Lent is a time when we traditionally take a deeper look at ourselves and our relationship with God and others. We confess that we’re not the people that God made us to be and that we need God’s help to be different. Judith, a member of St Godwald’s congregation, recently sent me one of her reflections that ‘hit the mark’ for me and I share it here hoping that it will do the same for you.
She writes -
‘At our Monday evening prayer group we say the Lord’s Prayer, but have a short silent moment in between each line to reflect on the words we have spoken.“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” is one line which always gives me food for thought.
I don’t think I commit any great sins if I think of sin as violation of the Ten Commandments. But the meaning of the word sin in the bible is “to miss the mark”, the mark being the standard of perfection established by God. And I know I miss the mark many times. On two occasions recently I have experienced almost “missing the mark.
I was hurrying through Bromsgrove one Morning when I saw coming towards me one of Bromsgrove’s “Characters”. I almost missed the mark that day as I didn’t really have time to speak to her other than a quick hello. However she was having none of it. Waving a library card at me she said “Can I still use this?“ I said, “of course you can”, and she told me that no-one else would bother to tell her. I asked how she was, and she replied, “Not too well. I had a fall recently and hit my head.” And then she said “people keep bumping into me, but they don’t see me. So I’ve bought myself this,” pointing to the High Viz jacket she was wearing. We all miss the mark when we don’t appreciate someone who longs to be noticed and loved.
The second occasion was a few days later when I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about a crowd of us who worked together a few years ago. My friend asked, “Do you ever see Chris now?” I replied, “I do, but she doesn’t really speak to me anymore”. Four years ago ago when we were selling our house and she was selling hers, Dave and I put an offer in on her house which she accepted. We then changed our mind which upset her and her husband greatly. This bad feeling had festered for years and I did think how foolish it all was and how I wish I had an opportunity to put it right. The next day Dave and I went for a walk on Kinver Edge. We parked by the Old Rock Houses and had a lovely walk along the ridge not meeting many people at all. On the way back to the car we saw a couple coming toward us with a dog all wrapped up against the cold..........you’ve guessed who it was - my old friend Chris and her husband. We talked as if all the bad feeling between us had been lifted. We had both “missed the mark” a few years ago but this chance encounter enabled us to put things right’.
We think of the many ways we ‘miss the mark’ as we fail to love and respect God, others and ourselves. When we miss the target it’s not just others who get hurt. We hurt ourselves. Good Friday holds before us the appalling image of Jesus tortured and crucified by human failings. We see God’s love, hope, peace and justice destroyed because of our ‘sin’.
Easter Sunday tells us that all is not lost. Love and goodness are not, ultimately defeated. New life is possible in the power and strength of the Spirit of God. But we have to face our ‘fallen’ selves in the horror of Good Friday. We need to hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness from the cross and forgive ourselves and embrace the joy of resurrection.
May this Easter be a time of great blessing to you; a time when you enter deeply into the Easter story and become changed by it.
And if you would value some ‘one to one’ help in deepening your relationship with God through every day all through the year, can I encourage you to read the article about Spiritual Direction that Margaret Woodgates has written for the magazine this month
‘For most of my life, I see now with hindsight, there was a large and solid wall, firmly dividing my experience of God from my experience of every-day living. God, as far as he figured at all in my scheme of things was ‘Sunday business’ and the business of Monday to Saturday had a considerably bigger share of my attention.’(Margaret Silf in the Preface to her book ‘Taste and See’.
This maybe something which we also have been conscious of in our own Christian journey. Indeed we may still be aware of that spiritually empty Monday to Friday feeling.
Throughout my own journey towards ordained ministry, I often felt a longing for a much closer relationship with God, and one which had to go beyond Sunday. I discerned a calling to ministry fairly late in bringing up a family, and having a career. Consequently, many things both in my daily life, and in the past, needed to be made sense of. I needed to understand where God had been in it all.
Whilst prayer, reading scripture, and other faith related activities were all very helpful, I wished I could share, and explore, my thoughts, and feelings with another Christian who would listen, and give me some guidance. I needed a companion, or guide, to journey with me along the path of my Christian life, who could help me make that connection between God and daily life, and remind me that more than ever before, I could not leave my faith in a jam jar at the Church door, until the following Sunday.
Since I began to discern a calling to ministry, I have had what is called a spiritual director. Directors can also be called companions or guides. My experience of having such a guide has enabled me to come much closer to God, and what he wants for me in my life and ministry. With the help of a director, I have become aware of not only how uplifting, and wonderful my relationship with God can be, but also just how much by going my own way, I can grow away from him, and exclude him at those times when I most need him.
It may be that some of what I have written is familiar to you, and you feel you might benefit from having someone to accompany you in your Christian journey. If so, you may find it helpful to ask yourself some of the following questions.
Do I want a much closer relationship with God to make my Sunday experience real, and relevant, to the rest of the week, but I am not sure how I do this on my own? How can I talk to God in prayer, beyond using familiar set prayers which do not seem relevant to whatever else is going on? Do I want to understand where God is, or has been in the complexities of my life? Do I want God to be the focus in all I do, all that I want to do, and all that I want to be, but could do with some else to talk to about this?
Finally a few facts. Spiritual direction or guidance is not confined just to those who consider they have a calling to ministry. It is open to anyone wishing to deepen their faith. The word ‘director’ can be misleading. The director never ‘directs’. The director is there to guide, and assist the directee in finding his or her way with God.
After an introductory conversation, either party decides whether it would be appropriate, and beneficial to continue. If either side does not feel comfortable in continuing, there is no obligation to do so, and no judgement of either person is intended. This also applies to the relationship at any time. Director and directee, meet at intervals negotiated at the start of the relationship. Finally, the content of all conversations is entirely confidential.
If you think you would like a spiritual director, companion or guide, whatever you may wish to call it, would like to discuss the possibility further, and find out more about me, and what is entailed, please free to get in touch with me. You can ‘phone on 01527 577785. For those of you who haven’t met me, I am a retired priest, having been ordained for thirteen years, and worked as Non-Stipendiary Minister at St. Godwald’s.
With every blessing
Rev Margaret Woodgates