Tuesday, 28 June 2016

It's personal

It's always interesting to find out how others see us, isn't it?

I wonder how God feels about how we see Him. Amused, I hope, but more than likely He's chagrined fairly often, too.

Yes, I am aware that I am taking liberties by imagining that God has human emotions. But I'm a human being, I can't really imagine Him any other way. So I try not to imagine Him at all.

Somewhere (C.S. Lewis, maybe) I read that there's a difference between praying to the God in our heads and God "as He knows Himself to be". Let that sink in for a while. Big, isn't it.

So it's a good thing we have the Holy Spirit - and I believe we do - at our sides. I let myself lean on the Holy Spirit when, in prayer, I'm at a loss as to how to address the Lord, how to phrase what I want help with, even whether or not it's okay to address the subject weighing on me at the time.

I was raised 'in the church', as they say, but never could wrap my head or heart around it. Prayer was rote and impersonal, prayer was for forgiveness, we were rotten to the core and only prayer would placate the Angry Father in the Sky. Prayer was required to end with "and God bless mummy & daddy". Never mind that daddy was always drunk and mummy was just plain mean, never mind that we never heard them praying for us children. They stood over us as we knelt by our beds, our bottoms still stinging from the spanking, ensuring that their bad, bad children spoke those magic words "if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take" (terrifying to a child).

None of that had anything to do with God.

It's a wonder, a downright miracle, that I have anything to do with God now. That I do is not of my doing but of His. He reached out to me, not me to Him. Not the Angry Father in the Sky after all, but the Kindly One who gives us all Creation, not only to support and sustain us but to give us beauty and wonder and love.

Love itself is so interwoven into Creation that not being able to see it requires supreme effort, or so it seems from here at my kitchen table. But if my only notion of God was the one I was taught as a child, I suppose I wouldn't see it that way. I'd still be running in fear or, like so many these days, avoid the concept all together. How can one love - truly love - without God? I don't know the answer to that.

We went strawberry picking again today, the second time in as many weeks and we might go a third. It is not only the strawberries and all I can do with them that I love, it is the picking. On my knees surrounded by rows and rows of fruit in a field edged with wild flowers and surrounded by forest is about as sweet as it gets.

I love the people, too. Multi-generational family groups, pairs of old ladies, couples. At first there is lots of chatter but as people settle in to the 'task' at hand, it grows quiet. The only sound is the occasional "mmm" as someone bites into a perfect berry. Whether anyone was, as I was, full to overflowing with gratitude to the Lord, I know not. I know that everyone was in a state of bliss, though. Gentle smiles as we glance up at each other, almost embarrassed by the simple joy of those moments.

These are not wild strawberries, it's a farm. It's not a big farm, and it's the farmer himself weighs the berries when we leave the field. This small scale operation is a nice example of man and Creation co-operating, or so I see it. No different than our little patch of Eden here, with the fruit trees we've planted and the wild things that have come up on their own. The relationship between man & Creation is alive and well if we choose to see it.

And it's personal.

There is little that is personal in the typical urban life, I'll grant. So I go around encouraging people to stop living typically. Pick your own berries. Find a wild place or a city park and just sit and breathe it all in. Just because something is planted by humans doesn't separate it from Creation. Planting and tending and harvesting brings us into relationship with Creation. Smelling a flower in a park is as valid a spiritual experience as any - if seen that way. It's simply a matter of allowing Creation to express itself as it knows itself to be.

That is how I get to know God, through Creation. I have no words for it, but it fills me and makes me who I am. Not me as anyone sees me, but the me I know myself to be.

My dear friend and Pastor, Ed Hurst, wrote a wonderful post a couple of days ago that inspired this one. In it he says, "Peace with Creation hinges entirely on peace with God and vice versa. It’s all one thing." The rest of the post is here if you'd care to read it.

Ed writes in Biblical terms, something I admit I'm still getting used to as I battle the scary old demons from childhood. I struggled with the term "Fallen" for a long time, as I know that some of my readers may still do. Yet even if we leave aside the story of Eden and the Fall, no one can argue that we have fallen away from Nature, of course we have. So even if you are not used to parabolic language, or aren't on good terms with (how you imagine) the God of the Bible, the terminology holds true.

Nature - or Creation as Ed and I call it - didn't fall away from us. It's still there. As long as it is, I don't believe the state of separation we find ourselves in now is permanent. Each one of us may be a part of the larger human race but none of us is stuck in that collective. Re-establishing the relationship with Creation (and indeed the Creator) is personal for each one of us. Remember that when next you bite into a strawberry.


  1. I'm in trees right now and at peace! I do love trees! We are visiting The Black Hills.

    I miss the strawberry patch. We don't have any here. I have a few plants in my garden that the bunnies eat first. The patch I knew was exactly as you describe yours. And my kids always had red-stained faces.

    It is interesting that no two of us worship the same God. Yet, we all worship the same God. I suppose I'm a different mom to each child of mine. Hopefully, I"m what they need. :-)

    1. Native people call trees "the Standing People". Apt, isn't it. Do you not have trees where you live?

      We have a small strawberry patch in our yard too; it's robins and chipmunks we have to share with. We rarely get more than a couple to nibble a day, but it's still nice to have them. I made jam from the second batch I picked, no pectin, just simmered them down til thick. Intense flavour!

      Interesting point about being a different mum to each of our kids.

  2. The other day, I was feeling kind of glum, when out from the woods came two gentle does, each with a set of twin fawns. Oh my, how my heart leapt! Father knew it would cheer me up. Oh, yes, He does so know how to cheer me.

    1. Awww. Yep, that's what I'm talking about. Beautiful, thank you for sharing that.