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Reform Magazine | September 24, 2018

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On the pilgrim way: ‘How could I be so blind?’

Sheila Maxey opens her eyes to positive things

It feels as if I am drowning in sad news and sad situations at the moment. A 50-year-old person I know has separated from her partner of 15 years. A 20-something year old’s rheumatoid arthritis is now attacking her eyesight. A transgender grandchild has dropped out of college with no job and no money, and is deeply depressed. A 90-year-old cousin cannot find peace in the midst of increasing incapacity. A grandchild is not only sad but devastated not to have got a lead part in the school show. And that is just within my family – never mind the sadness among friends and church family, and in the wider world with its problems including homelessness, debt and war.

I have been foolishly tempted to try and cope by grading the various sad situations – working out which of the situations are seriously sad and which I can, perhaps, shrug off. There is the obviously trivial. Then, the ‘after all, it was their choice’ argument. Then, my irritated: ‘What does she expect at 90?!’ I am dismayed at how hard-hearted I immediately become. Jesus’ stern but liberating words sound in my ears: ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’

Chastened, I remember how brokenhearted I was, long ago, when I did not get a job I believed was made for me, and how sad I was when our cat died. I confess to even being briefly miserable when I lost a favourite earring.

I find it is St Paul, in the letter to the Romans, who speaks most helpfully to me in my present state. ‘Weep with those who weep.’ Not ‘weep with some of those who weep’. And then, having got my attention, St Paul reminds me that I have failed to see the first half of the text: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice.’ How could I be so blind?

A wise counsellor advised me a long time ago, when I was in a low place, to keep a daily record for a few weeks of the good things that took place. I was forbidden, for those weeks, to write down anything negative, sad or bad. I found it surprisingly difficult – but looking back at the end of each week on this special kind of diary turned out to be an uplifting experience. In my low state, I had been unconsciously screening out the good things in my life.

Today, the sun is shining, the goldfinches are all over the bird feeders, one daughter and granddaughter are celebrating their birthdays, and the other daughter and family are revelling in the beauty and peace of the Scilly Isles. This is the day the Lord has made; let me rejoice and be glad in it.

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the September 2018 edition of  Reform

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