Speechless

I have always been speechless… well, most of the time. As long as I can remember I have had a stutter; or is it a stammer? Or maybe both?

I quickly learned that participation in lessons at school were an invitation to be mocked and bullied, so as far as I could I stayed quiet…

My childhood at home didn’t really help either. There were occasions, just a few, when I would be teased and laughed at by my own parents. Added to which, we were brought up in a religious environment, where the ultimate position was something along the lines of, “This is what we believe; we expect you to believe the same.” Not dissimilar to, “Because I said so!”

As a young adult I made my own faith decisions. The church youth group was big, healthy and a lot of fun. I discovered that I could make people laugh and that people were prepared to be patient with me and listen to me. For the first time ever, my opinion mattered and counted for something.

As time passed, I learnt how to speak in public. It started with very short epilogues and then leading the youth group discussion, and then finally preaching on Sunday mornings. Friends were very kind, encouraging me into church leadership, which I loved… and needed. And then trouble. The thrill of being heard, of being influential, of being in the know went to my head. I became difficult even to the point of arrogance. I fell out with several church leaders over the years until I was shoved onto The Dark Path.

Bullied, threatened, abandoned and ignored.

Only this time I was content to not have a voice. It was my voice that got me into so much trouble, so I learnt to accept not having one. I hid, in the shadows, at home, in the safety of my family and those very close friends who stood by me and supported me.

While on my Dark Path, I had some counselling. My counsellor was a top bloke and very wise. I remember it clearly, the day he asked me to listen to a Josh Groban song. Not my favourite sound, but a song that talked about not being heard, not being listened to, except by The One, My Papa, The God of my story and journey.

My time on The Dark Path became a catalyst for walking, the same route along the beach, day after day, and while walking I learned that I never have to be speechless again, because there is The One. I would pour my heart out to him, day after day, week after week, and now year after year. To start with he listened and he still does. But gradually, over time, things changed, and I became more interested in what he had to say; and then content to just enjoy being aware of him.

More recently, I have been reading and thinking about the mystery that God is, and has to be. If there is a God, then by definition, he has an “otherness” about him. The understanding of him, and the challenges of life that throw up apparent contradictions and opposites and incompatibles, has brought me to a point in my journey and story where I am coming to live with the tension of being known by, and knowing, somebody who is outside time and space, and yet lives within the limitations of time and space. The result? Speechless!

Because there are not enough words to explain the God that I call Papa; because my vocabulary is too limited to describe the outrageous and endless love that he has drowned me in; because I never thought I could love him as much as I do while accepting that I will never love him as much as he deserves.

Only now I am content and satisfied to be quiet and silent and still. Speechless before the mystery and intimacy of My Papa.

Unforced Rhythms

It’s 4.45 in the morning. I’m already up. My sleep patterns are shot to pieces. I get a text from upstairs; the little one is awake and not going back to sleep. That’s not unusual. He is what we affectionately call our latest “drugs baby.” No one response works more than a couple of times, so I have to quickly decide what to do.

Fifteen minutes later and he is asleep in my arms and I am sat in my IKEA rocking chair. I am frustrated: I can’t reach my once hot, now lukewarm coffee; I can’t reach my iPad; I can’t reach my book; I can’t even reach the TV controls – bad planning.

I intermittently hum and “shh” the little one, while gently rocking in my chair. The very slight creak warns me I need to tighten the bolt, top left hand side, but for now it is part of the symphony. He then adds the gentle snoring sound to the rhythm that starts to emerge. And as I sit there, Papa emerges in the darkness. I sense he strokes the little one’s hair and then squeezes my shoulder. And then I get it. The power of rhythm.

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And as I continue the rhythm that soothes the little one, offering him safety, security and love, the words of Yeshua the Christ come to mind. I love that phrase “the unforced rhythms of grace,” and on this morning, in the darkness, I discover the power of them all over again.

You will find rhythm wherever you go – the sea washing up on the shore, the gentle breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, the drone of the plane or the car. Little ones love the white noise of the washing machine or the hoover – there is a built-in rhythm that soothes their fractious hearts.

In the next forty-five minutes I enjoyed the stillness and the gentle rhythm along with the quiet joy of loving this little one back to life. But more than that, I enjoyed listening to the heartbeat and the gentle breathing in and out of my God, who knows me better than I know myself, and who knows that I flourish and live and love when I am living in the unforced rhythms of his grace.

It is part of the The Great Adventure that I find myself facing, a journey of discovering the vastness of my God’s heart and the endless oceans of his love for me. It is not what I expected; no, it is much better than that and learning to rest and settle into the rhythms that he provides for me is part of keeping myself mentally and emotionally safe while at the same time giving me more than enough to share with the next one.