This last week has been an interesting one. I started the beginning of the month reflecting on the fact that it marked the beginning of my sabbatical last year. I hold many fond memories of this period, not least a week’s silent retreat, whereby the pace of life slowed down, enabling me to be aware of stuff both outside and within which would usually pass me by. Fast forward a year then, and as a result of hurting my back on Saturday, I’ve been forced to take things much slower than usual. I was frustrated, not only in having to miss church, but also having an inability to work, and look after the house and family. For those who know me best, you’ll not be surprised that this was compounded by my reluctance to ask for help when needed. However, overtime, I got accustomed to my new (thankfully temporary circumstances) and grew to appreciate a slower pace of life, almost welcoming the limitations and learning something about myself and God in the process.
Last Sunday, we commenced a new series looking at re-generation of different kinds. We thought about the seasons - the means by which the earth is sustained and not worn out, but also a possible feature of our own individual (and perhaps church) lives, whereby we might find ourselves in different seasons and circumstances at different times. All could be OK, and perhaps the challenge is to live in the now, rather than wistfully spending all our time and energies trying to be somewhere else. In whatever season we find ourselves in at the moment, may we know God with us in that place. To close, a poem from a poet I have come to appreciate in one of the less busy periods of my recent life, written by Gerard Manley Hopkins who incidentally trained for the priesthood and re-discovered his poet’s voice, at the college in North Wales set in the glorious countryside where I spent my silent retreat. A poem where in a world that is often obsessed with perfection, Hopkins found something to celebrate in the seemingly imperfect parts of nature.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change: