Looking for a light switch – an advent reflection

We are in the season of advent, a period of darkness and waiting before the light and hope that comes from the birth of Jesus.

Right now, I am in my own season of darkness, season of waiting. A job I’ve been doing for 18 or so months… I didn’t get it when it came up permanently.

This is a terrible place to be and not just because I’m 40 years old, have a mortgage and I’m facing unemployment at Christmas. I’m angry, hurt, humiliated, bewildered.

There’s been much ugly crying. It’s feels like both a blessing and a curse to be an adult with commitments when all you want to do is crawl into bed and stay there.

Mostly though I’m just really sad at the loss of everything I hoped for. And now in almost no time at all having to say goodbye to friends and colleagues.

There’s no one to blame for this but myself. I did the best I could but not well enough. And while we could talk about the unfairness of it all, in the end no good will come from that. All I can do is take the hit, learn the lessons and make sure it never happens again.

The initial shock has worn off now and in between the moments of sheer panic, I’m trying to be philosophical. As a friend described this situation to me as God pulling the portcullis down and saying your life is going in a different direction. That’s great I’m really looking forward to that, but did he have to deliver the message with a blunt spoon?

But Advent just isn’t a period of waiting in the darkness. It’s about searching and hoping and looking for the light, it’s about waiting well and waiting wisely (to quote my vicar). I’m trying to do that.

And in having the worst happen, I’ve found a quiet peace, a determination to look forward, to reassess and find the light switch. I have absolutely no idea where it is but I’m hoping and trusting that I’ll find it when I need too.

All this year as I’ve been learning meditative prayer and I’ve been increasingly frustrated that it feels like it is making things worse not better.  In facing this failure, I see that it has changed me. This time, rather than be bitter, defeated and thinking how useless I am at everything, I’m actively choosing compassion for myself and others.

I’m fortunate that friends, family, colleagues and my amazing network have reminded me frequently that this loss doesn’t reflect on my abilities. And these people whom I love have provided words of consolation and unconditional support. My community are actively praying, hoping and helping me look for the light switch and for this I am blessed.

Despite how this has ended, I mostly have no regrets about the decisions I made along the way. I acted true to myself and I gave it my all. Who could ever ask for anything else? Sure I’ll be more circumspect in the future but I still got to do amazing things this year and for that I’m truly thankful.

So while this isn’t the ending I wanted, maybe it’s the ending I needed. And the light that shines faintly in the distance… I put one foot in front of the other until it’s close.

A closer relationship: a year long prayer journey

At the moment I’m not in a happy place. My life hurts and most of that is self-inflicted. My inability to manage my stress levels and the physical impact this has, is taking a toll.

In such situations it’s natural to turn to whatever you think will help, and for me that includes the assurances found in faith. And yet I find this a constant battle against my basest instincts to control and worry about the outcomes.

I’m sick of this, I’m sick of living like this – being a stress head isn’t what I want out of my life anymore. And yet change is hard. To just say stop worrying is for me like asking the me to move a mountain.

Right now if someone said to me standing on your head in China would be useful, I’d probably give it a go. I need to do this by whatever methods work for me and this includes faith.

There are millions of stories about the power of faith to transform lives. Often these are way more dramatic than my situation – overcoming a life of crime or drug addiction. And yet I believe that I also can be transformed.

But what does it mean to be transformed through faith? What does it look like and how does one do it?

There is only one answer, prayer and a closer relationship with God.

I’m not even sure I know what being in a closer relationship with God means. Let alone how you achieve it. (As I’m writing this the voice of a faith friend is in my ear saying you don’t achieve it, you just show up and God does it).

In my life, prayer has often been the obligatory thanks for everything and could you please make this happen. But prayer is supposed to be a two way communication, a way to build a relationship.

But I don’t have hours a day to spend in prayer, and while Paul says we should pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the reality is, it’s difficult to do so. 

Perhaps the best way for me to know how things have changed is to pray about specific things as part of the journey. This is not a list to Santa of all the things I want,  these are areas in my life where I want to be changed.

At the moment talking prayer seems most natural to me but I want to explore other ways to pray. During Lent I started practicing centering prayer a ancient Christian meditative practice that finds God in the quietness of the spirit.

I find the 15 minutes I spend at morning and night saying my mantra are the nicest parts of my day.  It’s also a massive struggle to stop thinking and just let myself be. I’ll keep persisting with it though, learn and understand it because I’m attracted to the contemplative nature of this prayer.

This journey, won’t happen alone. There are friends I pray with and I have gained a prayer partner. An unexpected gift that I hope will allow us to do great things together.

I’ve made this a year long journey but this is an arbitrary date, useful as a point to reflect on how things have changed. In reality this will be the journey of a lifetime.

In going down this path, there is the possibility that I’ll end up somewhere else entirely. That’s okay. You can’t ask God to take you on a transformative prayer journey and not be open to it ending up where you didn’t intend it to go.

So here I go on this journey: in hope, possibility and prayer.