As I was getting ready for the course today, my friend came into my room to let me know that there was a deer in the garden. What a beautiful start to the day!
The deer was tentatively creeping around the bottom of the garden, stopping occasionally to nibble at a plant and then pausing for a while to gaze around. It would then take a few elegant steps, nose at a new plant, nibble some more and then pause to look about again. It was so calm and still, so graceful and meditative.
Today I shall try to learn about contemplation – and about living – from the deer: to be still, open and fully alive in the place where I am; to find a pure and simple joy in the pleasure of being and eating and gazing.
A quiet day at home today, catching up with my husband, kids and the washing…
Although I spent some time out of the house, the photo I have chosen today was taken from an article in the Church Times as I was very struck by the image and the symbolism of this work of art. This cross – which is hanging as an installation in a church for Easter – was made from an opened-out cardboard box which some local homeless people had been sitting on to protect them as they sat in the street.
It is a complex and painful piece. On one level it reminds me of Christ’s bias to the poor, his compassion for those on the margins, his love for all of humanity. But it also challenges me deeply on a personal level: I realise that I would find it more comfortable to welcome this piece of cardboard into my church than some of the people who may have sat on it. I don’t want this to be true of me or of the church, but I recognise my awkwardness, embarrassment and inability to relax and be myself with people who suffer on the margins of my community and have an experience so very different from my own. I long for a world that is more fair and equal, but recognise that the barriers to this happening run straight through the middle of me, just as they do through the ‘system’ in which we all live.
Today I took my kids to the Good Friday family service at church. At the end of the service I chatted to a friend who had been there with her family, all of whom had been sitting in the quiet corner at the back. My friend showed me a prayer that her daughter had written during the service. The text is as follows if you find the photo too small:
It was really nice of you to let your son die for us though I don’t know why you bothered. My mum said to think about suffering. I did a bit but I prefer to think about Icecream.
Apart from finding this funny, I am in awe that children can be so wonderfully, whole-heartedly honest. My own daughter is just a few short years older than the girl who wrote the prayer, but she said afterwards that although she thought it was the sort of thing she might have done a few years ago, she would now feel very guilty for saying or thinking it.
I suppose this links back to my previous thoughts on transparency. Perhaps a key part of the spiritual journey is to get past our need to learn the correct answers, to toe the party/doctrinal line, and to return to the awesome honesty and openness of childhood (maybe with a deeper understanding of the importance of both suffering and ice-cream thrown in).