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Reform Magazine | December 17, 2017

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On the pilgrim way: “Perhaps it is now OK to be less busy?”

maxeySheila Maxey learns a lesson in listening

I finally got an appointment with the diagnostic clinic about my right knee – and by the time I got there, my knee was largely better. I was unreasonably irritated about that until the specialist pointed out that time, rest and icepacks had enabled my body to heal itself – something to celebrate. For some days I walked on air with a smile on my face

This time of year, now I no longer have to steel myself as minister for another rollercoaster of a church year, seems to be a time for taking stock. The summer pattern of life with longer light, fewer meetings but more barbecues and garden parties, and the stimulating upheaval of the annual visit of our granddaughters is over. I remember how, as a schoolgirl, at the start of each new school year, I felt I had become a different person because of the experiences of the long summer break. I feel a bit like that now, after the intensity of the knee experience with its enforced rest, and I don’t just want to return to how things were before – even if I could.

When I retired I hoped to find that, in spite of my puritan instincts, I could now read a novel in the morning. I never did, but then this period of leg rest allowed me to read books, listen carefully to the news and read the paper a bit more thoroughly. I knitted and reflected. Of course this was not a chosen way of life, and I was full of pain and anxiety, but might there not be something here to freely choose?

My wise spiritual adviser startled me recently by commenting that we were both now in the final room of life and this could be a place of new freedom and radical choices. What did she mean? Something about less control and more trust? Perhaps it is now OK to be more reflective and less busy? Perhaps I could learn to trust the next generation with saving the world and the Church? Perhaps I could stop monitoring my physical decline – or at least learn to joke about it? Could I even learn not to worry, especially about family and friends? That would set not only me free, but also those I worry about.

We visited Greenbelt festival for the first time this year and heard Sarah Miles, an Episcopal priest in downtown San Francisco, describe her understanding of evangelism in the one word: “Listening”. She extolled the virtues of the bustling city where just to be out in the streets with people was to be where God was speaking. Later, out shopping, we were stopped by an old acquaintance. I always have a timetable in my head and so tend not to stop long to chat (part of my lack of freedom) but, after much small talk, the friend began to talk about his daughter’s battle with cancer. I was so nearly not free enough to hear God’s voice that morning. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 
(2 Corinthians 3: 17).

Sheila Maxey is book reviews editor for Reform

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This article was published in the October 2014 edition of  Reform.

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