reclaiming our lives - remembering
Sometimes we get to a point on life’s journey where we seem to have mislaid the map. We are either going round in circles or going nowhere in particular. If you are at this point on your own life journey, please don’t give up. Take a little time to get re-orientated. Take stock of things.
Actions and choices made in the past may now no longer make sense, or the journey has been difficult or painful and you do not want to revisit it. You do not want to remember. You may be uncertain or anxious about the future. At the same time, you may wish that you had something like a faith to help you make sense of it all, past, present and future. Or perhaps you are simply disillusioned, looking back on a life of disappointment or failure in which God, if he existed, seemed absent or disinterested. You may have belonged to a church and then left either out of boredom, or out of conviction, as I did. By the time I reached early adulthood, the Church in which I had grown up, along with its beliefs and mores, seemed wholly unrelated to the real world I was beginning to experience. I was living in Franco’s Catholic Spain at that time from whose churches, as far as I could see, God was completely absent. Churches were dark places which felt alien and threatening. If there was a God, I would be more likely to meet him in the lighter warmer world outside their doors. But I did not meet him in either of these places, not because I did not seek him in a half-hearted vaguely intellectual way, but because I had failed to notice him bound up in my own self, in what I really believed and felt not only about God, but about myself and my life so far, rather than in what I told myself I should believe, and try to feel and ultimately become.
It is very easy to confuse silence with absence when it comes to a relationship with God. There are times when it feels as if he cannot hear or see us. But this is the silence in which the seeds of faith are planted. Faith often begins to grow in the silent darkness of our own life experience and we often do not notice this until much later. When my first marriage ended I felt as if I had descended to the bottom of a pit. I was alone and without recourse to anyone, an isolation which was largely of my own making. I came very near to thinking that this life was not worth carrying on with. But I also sensed a solid and silent presence occupying this dark void which I had chosen to remain in. Looking back on that time, I sense that it was this solid but unseen presence which gently pushed me out of this dark place, to emerge eventually into the light and love of an enduring second marriage.
It took me many years to learn that a person does not meet God suddenly in congenial surroundings, but that they meet him first in their own inner being where secrets, longings and fears are hidden and where memories are buried. Sometimes we don’t even know what these longings and fears really are, or have not dared to revisit painful memories, and as a result, we don’t really know ourselves. We are waiting to have all these things, and ourselves as well, revealed to us. It sometimes helps to step out of our lives and read them as a story written and read to us by someone else. Stepping back from the enduring pain of certain memories allows another author, the author of life itself, to read it to us and help us make sense of memories. This does not make them less true. In fact it has the opposite effect. Allowing God, as the author of life, to read our lives with us will sometimes reveal forgotten but crucial details. These details might change the way we think about another person, and so allow for the possibility of mercy. They may throw a clearer light on particular events and circumstances and reveal the pain more sharply, making it easier to own it and begin the work of healing.