Monday, 20 January 2014

Creaking with Grace

The following is the merging of two posts - and a collision of two very different emotions.

I have a confession….
I’m a cynic.

I entered 2013 cynical and angry.

But at the same time, I’m a bit of a Pollyanna too and always have been.

The cynicism has crept up on me - slowly - insidiously. It’s taken me by surprise. Me, the usually irritatingly happy and thankful optimist. And it’s been slowly stealing my joy.

What made this happen?

Well, it’s not been one thing - it’s been a lot of things.

I may well blog on some of the individual things in the future… but I may not. I don’t want others to catch the cynicism.

But here’s a glimpse of one of those things:

I got fed up with some of the more theologically conservative brands of churchmanship that I am involved with, that seemed to worship theology and then judge those who didn’t match up to their views. I was angry that getting this theology right appeared to be more important  than caring for the vulnerable in our communities. I was also very angry about their view of women, and their seeming lack of interest in making churches accessible. I got fed up with seeing good and Godly friends knocked and their gifts belittled because they were either women, or disabled (Or both!)

I was more than cynical - I was angry, and it showed.

On days where I was in pain and struggling to worship the cynical side of me grew and the pollyanna side of me shrank

All through my life I’ve been given reasons why I shouldn’t be doing what I do. When I first started out as a children’s evangelist I was told I shouldn’t be ‘galavanting around the country’ I should be stopping at home and trying to find a husband. I didn’t listen! When I eventually did get married I was told I shouldn’t be ‘galavanting around the country’ I should be stopping at home, cooking and cleaning for my husband and having lots of babies (Very painful when you can’t have kids!) At the time, I coped with all of that with good grace, but what tipped me over the edge and mega spiked my cynicism was a recent continuation of this: Apparently I shouldn’t be ‘galavanting around the country’ I should be stopping at home resting because disabled people don’t do that sort of thing.

Well - this disabled person does! Tough!

So what changed? I’m obviously writing this in the past tense - so something must have changed.

The first thing was preparing for our team conference. Our theme this year was thankfulness, and we asked our membership to submit 3 things that they were thankful for over the last year.

What came back was amazing.

Not just those I printed off to display, but those sent back to me privately - by those who had had to dig deeply to find something to be thankful for when life was collapsing around them. A real sacrifice of praise in a life of pain.

I hadn’t submitted anything. I'd had a lot of horrible stuff happening, yet managed to find stuff I was thankful for, but I was trying to be aware of the feelings of others. Celebrating what an amazing hero of a hubby I have seemed unfair to those who are single. Being thankful for a gift towards having a holiday seemed wrong when we have members who find it difficult to pay their rent. My thanks went unspoken. But in doing that I robbed my friends of the opportunity to celebrate with me. I had assumed that my friends were suffering with the same cynicism I had - and I was wrong.

The wonderful Ruth Valerio was our speaker. On Saturday morning she showed this picture of sculptures from Michaelangelo - the unfinished slaves. As I looked and meditated on the picture I could relate to them and the look of writhing pain, and I realised something else about my cynicism.

Coming to terms with a disability isn’t easy. It’s hard to accept all the changes - changes in appearance, not being able to do what you once did.....etc. The way you view yourself changes too. I also realised how ugly the cynicism was.

I looked at the picture and realised that what God saw and what I saw in me were very different - the grief of coming to terms with disability was also fuelling my cynicism.

My conversation with God about this has been quite short…. 
God: “Got it?” Me: “Yep, Got it”
That’s all it needed (I’m not a pour it all out on my knees for hours sort of person)

But on talking to one of our lovely members later I could honestly say in response to her “How are you?” question: “I'm Creaking with Grace”. Hence the title of this post.

I’m still a little cynical - I think it’s healthy to question and stir things up occasionally. But I hope I can still carry on “creaking with grace”.

To close - here are my three things to be thankful for in 2013:

  • My husband Steve, without whom I couldn’t do half of what I do. The man who patiently walks beside me and behind me…. and makes me laugh until it hurts to breath!
  • Our holiday - a chance to just ‘be’
  • A plateau in my illness - I don’t know how long it will last. It could be 50 years or five weeks, but I’m going to be thankful for the moment.