On the pilgrim way: Sprits high
I have been surprised by how some kinds of good news can lift my spirits sky-high. I don’t mean the sigh of relief when a medical investigation reports nothing untoward, or when a friend’s son, undertaking a dangerous long-distance cycle event, comes safely home, or the shaken gasp of relief when I have had a near-miss in the car on a roundabout, or when my husband’s lost wallet was found with all its money and cards intact – although that last example has echoes of what really lifts my spirits.
One recent uplifting piece of good news was that two very dear family members who had fallen out and cut off all communication, were back in touch, sending Christmas greetings and presents. After walking on air for a day or two I suddenly remembered I had prayed often for that situation and, rather belatedly, I thanked God for the outcome. But I expect my walking on air was sufficient thanks. I know no details but clearly the spirit of forgiveness is in there somewhere.
Another event which lifted my spirits high was when I had steeled myself to ask a friend if she would take on a responsibility and she said “yes!” immediately. No hesitation, no “well, I suppose I could perhaps manage it”, or “well, if there is no one else…” She went on to suggest how the job could be done differently, and how she would like to try out some new ideas. A real example of joyful service.
And then there is sheer kindness. A nephew of mine lifted a buggy off a train for a mother with a baby in her arms. She suddenly realised she had left her bag on the train, put the baby in his arms and rushed off! She instinctively knew he was kind and trustworthy – and we have laughed a lot at his being “left holding the baby”.
Sadness, like good news, also has different levels. A dear old German cousin, aged 88, is now in a nursing home hardly able to speak, seeing and hearing little, yet recognising visitors. Her condition is sad, but what is deeply sad is that she no longer takes any pleasure in visits, in flowers, in food – just waving them away. She can no longer appreciate the kindness offered to her.
But the sadness which weighs me down, seemingly blotting out the light of God, is encountering broken relationships where each side seems only able to believe the worst of the other and the best of itself. There is no kindness and no trust. In that helpless place, where any good word I put in for either side is met with a cynical smile or anger at my apparently taking sides, prayer seems the only place to go. And perhaps, one day, when I least expect it, I will find God’s spirit of forgiveness has been at work.
Sheila Maxey is book reviews editor for Reform
This article was published in the February 2014 edition of Reform.
Read more articles by Sheila Maxey