Yesterday I was feeling frustrated with myself for not being able to write even a crust of a first submission for my blog! Will I ever be free of the anguish I feel when I try to express myself in writing? I’m not sure. But I had the idea that it might be easier for me to try video blogging. So, I prepared a nice breakfast for myself outside on a picnic table overlooking the bluff, with the ocean and Rathlin Island behind me – creating the perfect backdrop for my video missive to you.
Let’s just say that I made two unsuccessful attempts at it – and ended up feeling frustrated and defeated. The good news is that I decided not to beat myself up. Though video blogging didn’t seem to be the magic answer, I wanted to take a look at what I had recorded. I couldn’t find the video on my iPhone. I assumed I hadn’t saved it, so I shrugged it off and got on with my day. I had a lot to do. I walked to town to pull out some cash so I could settle my bill with the good folks at Corrymeela and then begin a full day’s travel to Glasgow where I would overnight before hitchhiking to Netherspring and the Northumberland Community.
Later that afternoon I was on the ferry to Cairnryan, and I started to poke around in the photos on my phone looking for stills that I could share, and I came across the video, so I watched it. A few impressions: My God, I could see my brothers before my eyes! Mostly Richard – but some of the ways that I cast my eyes reminded me of my brother Bill, and a few gestures were like Tom. Bob, not so much. I also noticed that I’m a lot older than I think I am! My next thought, however, was how grateful I am to be as young-looking for a 54-year-old man. As I continued to watch myself speak to you, what captured my attention were my facial expressions. I looked so, so serious! People have said to me that when I approach I can look extremely earnest and (overly) serious, especially at happy events like weddings.
I also noticed how truly interested and engaged I was as I began trying to share with you what I was experiencing in the amazing place that is Corrymeela. But the other thing I noticed – this made me feel sad – was the point at which I lost faith in what I was doing, lost faith in myself. There was a moment’s pause – too long – and then I watched myself shaking my head, pulling back, and my face turned away, showing how sad and disappointed I was in my inability to express myself in a way that would satisfy me.
But here’s the other thing: my heart also filled with love and compassion for myself. As I watched myself give up after the second try, it was though I was seeing someone else on that screen – and I began to react as I would to anyone struggling as I knew had. And I said, “Oh my, please don’t stop. You’re doing well. And I love it, and I love you and I don’t give a f#%! about your use of prompts or how dumb you think you sound. Stop it. You will never be able to share this experience if you wait until this is good enough for you. I deserve better than that. I’m a member of your congregation too, I’m a member of your family, and I’m the friend who might never get to Ireland, and you’d better damn well share this because if you don’t you’ll be withholding a gift. You are the person who said you would offer a blog as you traveled – that you would not forget to let me in on the adventure. So don’t hold back, cause if you do, you will have failed to love me and you will have failed to share the grace of God that flows through you.”
Before I get on with getting over myself – and my fear, and my chronic amnesia that you love me and that you are much more forgiving and easy with me and my quirks than I am at present – let me tell you one of the reasons I find it a challenge to write. Words fail to express the fullness of any lived moment – its complexity, its sensory dimensions, the experience of being in a liminal time and place, “a thin place” as the Irish would say, a thin place between this world and the world that is just beyond, underneath, overhead….the world of the Spirit that is just there captured in the farthest edge of your sight.
You see there? Words fail, but not entirely, and to not express it would only be to avoid the deep, deep grief and sadness that it can’t be expressed. I believe that this is why I love preaching – my own and others.
For preaching – the whole of worship – is a fully embodied event. It is for me to receive into my whole self the grace and spirit of God that longs to be expressed, it is to take that into one’s body and to enact the love of God for God’s people, and to “perform” that grace in ways that convey it into the bodies and minds of the people of God. There have been a few times when the only way to preach the Good News is to run top speed around the church nave waving a pin wheel, taking the corners heedless of tripping, heedless even of the anxiety that I know has been aroused by the people who care about me (“He’s going to have a heart attack!”). The point is to show that God loves us, really loves us, and wants us to flourish in our very bodies. God is training us in our worship to be the embodied creatures She created us to be – we are “Human Becomings” and God longs for us to become fully incarnate – fully embodied – so that we may more perfectly become Christ’s body in the world. As some ancient wit (another word for saint) has observed, “God became human in Jesus, that we, through Jesus, may come to God divine.”