I’m sitting in the garden again. It’s breakfast time. And with my journal to hand, I’m asking myself the question: Am I closer to God than, say, five years ago?
I know, maybe it’s too deep a question for breakfast-time, but there you are. And, it’s a rhetorical question really.
I hope that I’m closer to God than, say, five years ago, but how do I know? How do I know what ‘direction’ I’m moving in: closer too, or further away? What is my measure of being closer or further away?
When I was younger, oh so much younger than today….I would look around at (local) mature-in-the-faith people for clues as to what being close to God looks like.
One person would love archaic language. His prayers were ‘peppered’ with so many ‘thees’ and ‘thous’, and though I do like such language sometimes, when it’s in the context of an old prayer, it did seem to ‘distance’ me from God when I did similar. It may have been okay for him – and maybe for him that was proof that he was, indeed, closer to God, but it didn’t work for me. And, no one really speaks like that, anymore, do they? It did sound odd.
Another person would use so many names for God at the beginning of her prayers, that it seemed more like she was trying to catch God’s attention. She might spend three full minutes reciting all the Biblical names of God, then ten seconds asking God for something, and then one second by concluding the prayer with a loud’ Amen’.
When I was alone, I tried it. In my prayer time, I called out twenty-two names of God, and before I could go on to ask for sometime (or give thanks etc), it was as though God, in a gentle whisper, had said to me, ‘You had me captivated when you used the first of my names…’. And, it did seem as though all that name-calling did put some ‘distance’ between me and God. Good for my friend, but not for me. And, it did sound odd.
One of my Druid friends, and this is many years ago when I was naïve, invited me to one of their ceremonies. Most, though not me at that time, were in brightly coloured and flowing regalia, lovely costumes and very sparkly jewellery. For my friend, it brought him closer to all that is holy, but for me, at that, time….. Well, to me, then it just looked odd.
I mentioned this to a Vicar friend at the time. He agreed. Druid costumes, as I described them, did seem odd to him. This puzzled me, that he should also think this, of all people. And, after the service, I helped him disrobe, and verbally made a point of asking him for his chasuble, his alb and cincture, his stole, his staff, and his amice and placed them neatly in the vestry wardrobe. He got the point, and said, ‘I guess all that paraphernalia looks strange to others?’. It seemed strange to me, at the time.
It seems to me: and just a few embryonic thought-notes follow:
– it is difficult to gauge whether we’ve moved closer to the Source or not, especially as some of life’s ‘curve balls’ that challenge us and seemingly take us away from God, do actually bring us closer. Maybe, just asking the question about whether we’re closer to God or not, is a ‘sign’ that we’re on the right track? And,
– maybe how we come closer to God varies from person to person, as God works in and through them? What works for them may not work for me, and I should extend grace to them and not judge them by my standards. Hopefully, they will allow me to come close to God in a way that works for me and not judge me (or you) – though be prepared for some to be judgemental. And besides, at the end of the day God does work in mysterious ways, and
– it doesn’t matter what others think. Jesus performed miracles from a distance, by touch, with a word, with an action, by encouraging visits to the Temple, and by spitting in some mud and putting it on someone’s eyelids. Can you imagine how odd that must have looked at the time? Don’t be overly concerned about others views.
The question: ‘Am I closer to God’, is a good one, and is rhetorical in many senses. Avoid the ego-based, quick answer of ‘Yes’. It isn’t the whole story. Ponder.
And, might you look or sound odd as you come closer to God, when others who maybe aren’t so close look on? Probably. But, does it really matter?
And, so I’m sitting here in my pyjamas, the ‘t-shirt and shorts’ kind (maybe that was too much information?), looking decidedly odd…..but no one can see me. Thankfully.
[Note: Hopefully, somewhat more mature know, I value the example of my fiends, mentioned above – and have ‘grown into’ their words, their liturgy, their dress etc (when appropriate and useful) and love it – and use the aforementioned a lot in ceremonies I’m involved in. I’m indebted to them.]