The Way It Is by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I’m wondering what thread you are following in your life?
And I’m wondering if it’s connected to the something that draws us to this place.
What is that something?
What is it that draws you back here week after week, in all kinds of weather? In all the different states of heart and mind….
Is it the company?
Is it the desire to gather with others in worship?
Is it the services?
Some sense of duty?
Is it Simon’s cake and biscuits?!
Maybe you don’t know. And I say it’s ok not to know. Maybe there isn’t a clear answer. Maybe it’s just the unvoiced knowing that here is where I’m meant to be, where I belong…. where I experience some sense of belonging – a sense of home…
Whatever it is that draws us here – that keeps bringing us back – and I can imagine that if we were to hear each other’s responses, we would hear a range of differing yet similar answers.
And I suspect that behind the known and the not-known answers, lies a desire or longing in each of us. I think that it might be that we are each drawn here seeking connection.
Connection to a community.
Connection to each other.
Connection to our deeper selves – our better selves.
Connection to spirit.
Connection to God.
The American researcher, Brene Brown found that Connection is why we’re here. She says that, We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.
If you recognise yourself in this, then I wonder if we can also recognise ways in which we block connection? I wonder if drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, face-book, apps etc – the things we believe we do for connection, might only create the illusion of it. I suggest they may actually block us from it – hold us back. And I have to be careful here as I might sound like I’m moralising – I certainly don’t intend to.
Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.
And I wonder if this desire for connection doesn’t also run deeper than the intimate connections we make with others in our lives. If we are able to acknowledge it or not, I wonder if we don’t all carry a sense of longing? A sense that we may struggle to put into words. And I wonder if this longing might just be a longing for God in whatever your unfolding personal experience and understanding you have of the name – for it is yours and yours alone and may just be your most intimate relationship of all….
I long for you, O God.
Come, pierce my heart with your darts of Love.
Let me know the sweet pain of submission.
I long for you, O God, as the seagull longs for the updraft, that I might ride the eddies of your Love.
Let me find rest in you.
Short circuit my desire for revenge.
Still the stirrings of my ego.
Subdue my shortcomings.
I cannot help myself.
I succumb to the lure of finding fault with others that I might improve my own standing.
I long for you Beloved.
Come, break my heart – again and again, that I might learn to love again.
If this sense of longing sounds familiar to you, then I wonder if we might not call this a thirst or a hunger for God? And that this hunger or thirst calls to us by our deepest name. Herbert Alphonso maintains that each of us will hold within us at our very deepest point – some reflection of God. We will have an understanding, an experience, a connection – represented by an image, a quality or phrase or scriptural reference – that awakens within us our most personal and deeply seated connection with God. He says, that this is where we are most alive. This is where we give and surrender ourselves most naturally.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense
So, I invite you into a time of meditation. Let us come together in prayerful stillness.
Close your eyes if you choose.
Direct the focus of your attention inwards.
Bringing it to your heart – penetrate its walls and breathe into it deeply.
With each out breath, let go:
- of tension in your body – let it soften
- of thoughts in your mind – let them go – don’t follow them – let them move off.
Let us linger a while in this place – breathing into our very centres….
In this quiet place, O God, help us to find quiet for our souls. For we need quietness. Shouting and tumult are always about us, and the noise of the world never dies down. Even in the night-time when we seek rest, the voices of the day go on. But in Thy presence, there is quietness. O God, let us find Thy presence now!
Resting in God’s presence, allow yourself to be bathed in the healing light of unconditional love – breathe it in….. breathe it out, filling the space around you with it.
Without judgement or criticism of any of it, I invite you now to look back over this day as it draws to a close. Gently recount events right up to this moment here, now.
And as you do this, ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are most grateful.
If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
When were you most able to give and receive love?
When did I feel most alive?
When did I feel most connected?
When did I feel most fully myself?
Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so special. Breathe in the gratitude you feel and receive life again from that moment….
Ask God to bring to your heart the moment for which you are least grateful. When were you least able to give and receive love?
When did I feel most drained of life?
When did I feel least connected?
When did I feel least myself?
Ask yourself what was said and done in the moment that made it so difficult. Be with whatever you feel without trying to change or fix it in any way. You may want to take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are….
Give thanks for what you have just experienced.
Now, gently bring your attention back to your breath – be aware of its movement in and out of your lungs and bring your attention into this moment here and now – the present.
And when you’re ready – open your eyes.
Closing words from Mary Oliver
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.