Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve been using the processing of my recent difficult news as an opportunity to have a clear out. As part of that I’ve been going through wardrobes and getting rid of things that I haven’t used in a long time. On Saturday I found myself trundling, dragging and juggling an eclectic mix of suitcases, suit carriers and bags on the apparently short journey through town to Oxfam.
Since surgery I have tried to quite literally, and indeed metaphorically, carry a lighter load and so I’m sure that was some of the reason why I felt such a relief to get rid of that collection of bags. They seem to represent a different part of my life: the supposedly practical ,and certainly, capacious suit carrier; the very strong and smart ( but incredibly heavy) holdall bought mid trip of my American adventure some 9 years ago; the little chestnut brown leather business laptop/ overnight bag and the i pad bag -the latter which , I’m not sure I ever used. They all seem to represent a part of me from the past: a time when I carried too much, rushed too often and rested too little. A time indeed where I tried to do all for God but often didn’t stop to listen for His voice.
Just the week before I was also reminded of just how much I had been carrying as I found myself back at Papworth being filled with radioactive gloop to have a follow up CT scan. As I lay on the scanning bed my mind flooded with the traumatic images of the moments before surgery last year , just as my body flooded with the potent liquid.
Perhaps that’s why I felt such relief when I came out of the charity shop: to have been released from that burden of past. Anyone that knows me will be surprised to ever see me out and about bagless- I always like to be prepared with an umbrella and notepad/sketchbook – digitally or otherwise. But on this day I was indeed walking totally free of clobber. It’s a simple thing, but it was immensely liberating to be walking without hindrance and I found in that moment being thankful to God of the reminder of the invitation He gives through Jesus to unburden our load.
Indeed, just the evening before I had been at St. Clements for a Taize service- a service of reflection, prayer, repetitive chant and silence – all accompanied by candlelight . In that time there was an invitation to come forward for anointing with oil of healing. It was particularly poignant for me as the service was being led by Kathryn , the wonderful curate at St Andrews who I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the last six months. As I looked into her eyes, as she anointed my forehead I could see her care and recognition of my sadness.
Afterwards I did feel a little lighter even though stepping into the cold rain was a rude reminder of the elements we face on our journey.
So on the Saturday morning as I walked freely along the street that I once had responsibility for as the councillor and also had struggled to walk along just 12 months ago, I was aware of the busking saxophonist who with ornamental enthusiasm was playing out “I did it my way”- yet another example perhaps of God’s wonderful sense of humour.
Lent is traditionally a time of reflection, of unburdening and yet also preparing the way for the cross to come. Last year I was on a physical & emotional journey of recovery, perhaps this year it’s a spiritual one.
I don’t know, though I can certainly hypothesise , why one person in particular in my selection process was unable to, or chose not to see the calling that so many have confirmed and encouraged in me over the last months and indeed years , but as good friend of mine would say “it is what it is”
I’ve shed a great deal of tears since receiving the news a couple of weeks ago that I wont be sporting a dog collar anytime soon, but I think I’m being invited to shed some baggage too. Perhaps the advisors at the selection panel saw that too. Perhaps there’s something else that I need to do first. – I had hoped that stepping down from public office and life saving surgery and recovery was sufficiently Jobian a test for one chap to face, but maybe not. Or perhaps all of this pain and joy, tears and laughter and everything in between is to take me to whole different landscape, yet to be discovered.
What I am certain of ,however, is how blessed I am to have such dear, supportive friends and family and this Lent I am taking up the invitation ,all be it tentatively , that is open to us all, to rest, reflect, pray and travel lightly to the cross and beyond.