So, in church this morning (I was in Linden! For the first time for ages. I was late as I didn't wake up until 10 o'clock but at least I was there.) Dan was continuing the series on prayer. I say continuing: it's the first one in the series I've heard.
Detour 1: Dan lives in his big brother's shadow. I wish he could believe that his shadow is just as big, separate, distinct and unique.
Back on track. Dan said a number of things that made me think and I pondered some more while walking in the woods with George this afternoon.
Detour 2: I sometimes wonder if George is a proper dog. He stood at the top of the steps and looked at me as I were an idiot, standing there, in the rain, waving his lead, saying, 'Come on, we're going for walkies. This is for your benefit: I'm not doing it for the sake of my health you know.'
Dan quoted from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. (I read the book a long time ago and remember being confused by it then too.) And he asked us to spend a few moments thinking about which parts of our lives we were living independently and which we needed to rely on God for more.
I sat and I thought. I turned over the stone in my hand (we'd all been given stones - I can't remember why now) and thought. I thought really hard. And I couldn't think of any answers.
Then Dan spoke about humility and read a Catholic liturgy he'd come across - and that hit home.
One of the problems of being a Christian is awareness of sin and guilt. Another is that there is a tendency to encourage self-analysis, therapy, loving yourself type stuff. And it can all leave a girl of little brain with what brain she has confused.
I'm selfish and vain. (Oooh, saying it aloud hurts.) I know my faults only too well. I want to be liked; I want people to think well of me; I want people to think better of me than they do of others (that was in the liturgy). I know my motivation for doing most things is for these and associated reasons and I hate myself for that. And I've tried to change. I say, 'I'm rubbish and I'm going to change.' A week later you ask me, 'Have you changed?'
'Because I haven't tried.'
'Because I'm rubbish ... I'm rubbish and I'm going to change.'
And so the cycle continues.
One of the points Chris mentioned when he introduced today's talk was the idea - that I'm sure a lot of people can relate to - that we can be aware something needs doing but we're always too tired/lazy/indifferent/busy playing computer games to do it. He was talking in his roundabout way about praying. We all say we should pray more; we should follow Jesus's example. We know our lives would be so much better if, in the words of the old song, we took 'it to the Lord in prayer.'
So this afternoon I did. In my usual distracted way.
Detour 3: how do you listen to God? I find that within 10 seconds of trying I'm thinking about something else. And sometimes I try too hard and make things up. Like I passed a house and could smell wood smoke and said to myself, 'Ah, that's God telling me my sins are burned in his holy fire.' Then I laughed at myself. I mean God could have wanted to tell me that but not in the forced way I imaginatively created it.
But strangely maybe God did speak to me - or at least helped clarify my thoughts. Take your mind back to half an hour ago when you started reading this post. I mentioned being independent and relying on God. That's what I wasn't doing. What I'm not doing. I'm trying - or more usually not - to change. Instead of living in the wonder of God's grace and allowing the change to happen
naturally organically. I'm still trying to do God's job for him.
Does that give me permission to continue being selfish and vain? No, of course not. But maybe if I spent less time beating myself up for it and more time listening to him then I'd become less so.
I can only hope.
(Naturally isn't the word I want - 6 sentences ago - but for the life for me I can't think of the word I do want. Protein and biology keep coming to mind but that's not right.)