A healing journey: Reflections for January 2021

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A healing journey: Reflections for January 2021

The Revd Dr Gillian Straine

Week one: A healing journey

It is a dark time of year, we’re in lockdown again, and in any case January in the UK is a tough month for many as the Christmas sparkle fades and we find ourselves still in winter. Those who walk the Way of the faith know that the celebrations continue into Epiphany and beyond, but the pandemic is yet unwithered and it is hard to know how 2021 is going to work out. Perhaps you are a fan of New Year resolutions and the fresh start of a clean calendar, but how do we look ahead positively when the uncertainty and loss persist?

In these meditations over the next four weeks, I want to take us on a healing journey to explore how to flourish faithfully in 2021. After all, God calls us to live the resurrection hope, and to be a positive force for good in the world, irrespective of what we are going through: whether we are young or old, healthy or living with illness. So, our question is this: how do we bloom in 2021 for the sake of ourselves and our community in the name of God?

We begin this year in the dark shadow of the Covid19 pandemic - but there are well trodden spiritual paths that lead from darkness into light as we seek to flourish for God. I suggest that we think of the journey as the growth of a seed in the dark earth and that we are waiting through this difficult part of the year, and indeed human history, and ask God to help us grow into the light and be part of a flourishing spring.

In the soil beneath our feet, as we walk on frozen ground or across muddy parks, there are millions of seeds and bulbs waiting in darkness to break out and stretch green shoots into the light when spring arrives. So, let’s take our cue from nature and from our spiritual and biblical traditions – and begin by preparing the soil.

To flourish faithfully we need to be brave and we need to be honest with ourselves. What do you feel about yourself? What holds you back from being the person you know you are? Are you prepared to grow and burst into the light – what do you need to let go of, or start believing in, to make this possible? There is something deeply liberating about this honesty, because God knows us entirely – all the good bits and the bad bits – so how do you live with a deep sense of your value in the eyes of God? Ask these questions confidently because the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s assurance that each of us is absolutely worth it.

This week, why not sit with this question and the affirmation and see what God is saying to you.

Question of the week: God thinks I am worth it – do I?

Affirmation of the week: God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4.16

Week two: Seeds

Let’s continue this week to meditate on the seed planted in the darkness – the seed is beginning to push down roots as winter progresses inevitably towards spring. But it is still waiting in the dark earth, and without this period of apparent inactivity there would be no growth and no chance for it to mature into a plant. Nature knows that growth takes time and often happens in dark places.

We live in a society that values acquisition, beauty, achievement, and instant gratification. Our world today is less attuned to handle things that take time to emerge, and less willing to face up to the reality of suffering, death and things that go wrong. Covid19 has offered a real challenge to a world that demands quick answers, and easy solutions to problems. It has been a particular challenge to our society’s unease and unfamiliarity with death. Media and the government have struggled to present the pandemic in terms of easy solutions; perhaps because there are none. It will take time.

In the Christian spiritual tradition, there is a well-trod path through darkness and silence that gets to God – the via negativa. One hero of this way is St John of the Cross, a 16th Century Spanish priest and mystic.

St John of the Cross followed a spiritual path that enables Christians to locate God in experiences that go beyond human description, and that when we strip away everything that we think we know we will find God as the foundation of everything. So rather than sitting with accepted ideas about God (such as God who is forgiving, loving and eternal, all of which are true), we rather just sit, clear our minds, and instead try not to project ideas on to God. It not about ignorance, but rather about openness. This is a spiritual approach best done in the darkness.

The openness to God is at the heart of the via negativa, and it is a way that helps us pay attention to what is happening around us. Take the parable of The Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite ignored the injured man and missed an opportunity to experience God in the care of another, because they had their religion neatly sorted out – God was in the Torah, and the temple, in the law and in the buildings. And so they missed God. The Good Samaritan, who doesn’t ‘know’, is open enough to respond to the other in need and to provide healing – and he finds God there.

Question of the week: How open am I to God and to finding God in my experiences this week?

Affirmation of the week: In the inner stillness, where your meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. St John of the Cross.

This week, why not sit with this question and the affirmation and see what God is saying to you.

The Revd Dr Gillian Straine is a priest, scientist, theologian and cancer survivor. She runs GoHealth a Christian organisation focused on holistic healing.