As I approach my 49th birthday in two days, I have woken up the the realisation that this will be the start of my fiftieth year! In the Jewish tradition this seven times seven year cycle of cycles was known as the Year of Jubilee. This was a periodic time when any parcel of land that had been bought and sold over the half century was restored to its original owners. No matter how long the current owner had owned it and what had been paid for it, it would be freely restored. Of course during the term of the fifty years, pieces of land would often change hands. Whenever a piece of land was sold on, its value would be based upon the number of remaining harvests calculated to be “in the land “until the next Jubilee.
What an interesting way to think about our lives! We are born with the potential of up to two sets of 50 harvests, some meagre, some abundant. These harvests are affected by circumstances and especially by one’s outlook and willingness to self- invest. I wonder if we were asked how many potential harvests there were “in us” we would know? What if we don’t know? Or don’t believe? What does that say about how much attention we are paying to the ground and the conditions we inhabit?
I have a sneaky feeling that there really is going to be a harvest that outstrips my expectations and brings a huge return on the last “owner” of this fifty years. In fact the last seven of these I took a sharp turn and experienced some ongoing pretty damning circumstances. At 42, I didn’t seem to be a very good investment to anyone. Yet with the desire to find a way where there didn’t seem to be one, great friends and fundamentally strong faith in the inevitability of change, time has been my friend.
These days we aren’t very good at waiting. And of course waiting in and of itself is not enough. A sense of having been given an allotted parcel of time and a potential maximum harvest to secure is a great motivator. Nevertheless there is a mysterious and spiritual principle engaged when we humbly appreciate that it is only all on loan and that as we “die empty”. In doing so we are not merely spent like the exhausted soil that has to lie fallow. When we die empty, we are actually returning something fully alive and fertile and full for the next Jubilee and its own stewards
Face the music we say, and mean, that its time to admit what everyone knows we have been avoiding!
I had a spontaneous moment of disclosure on Saturday in which I was hosting my parents for the day. We sat in the window of my airy kitchen on a beautiful warm day for early April. In one of those lovely moments that kills a few birds with one stone, they were cautiously investigating my ipad after years of Luddite resistance to encroaching marginalisation by technology. Would there ever be an easier time for them to indulge in this technology? Dad had difficulty disguising his amazement at the simplicity and the fingertip accessibility to just about anything he ever needed to know. However it was the realisation that they could read and view unfolding stories of their offspring’s lives that was compelling them. On this neat little screen laid bare the unguarded honesty of Facebook, their grandchildren’s selfies and off-the-cuff captions. The moment had dawned when they realised life had moved on without them.
I stretched my courage to give away a little more since they were finally out of their comfort zone. I showed them my new website and then they eagerly scrolled through my online manifesto. Mum shifted uneasily in her sunny chair as she absorbed the abstract reflections.
” I can’t say I ever felt like this!” she puzzled until I explained the sense of frustration that inspires my story.
Disconcerted and personally slighted she asked “And where did all that start; how far does that go back?!”
I hesitated to go that far! But I had better get used to disclosure. Every writer has to overcome their inner resistance to divulging cherished perceptions to the world…but to one’s parents? It couldn’t get much more squirm inducing could it? The benefit though is that now we stand together viewing the world from an adult platform as peers and partners in making sense of the world. And I think that they are actually a whole lot more curious than they realised! So I thank them for the music, “the songs I’m singing”…. Out of frustration comes fulfilment.
Out of pain comes purpose and from the earliest incomprehensible curtailing of childish curiosity comes a passion to know and understand that will always eventually find expression . Even if it is the neglected desire to interact virtually by touchscreen technology suppressed until one’s 82nd year!
No, not that romcom film with Sandra Bullock on a farcical trip to Alaska! I mean a book proposal. Narrowed down from six ideas this is going to be the first! It’s decided…the work of the last two years has officially been conceived and in only seven months I’ll be launching (splashing out my true colours) as a published author!
Yes I began crafting a book proposal today! Like many things I have started, there have been numerous angles I could take, many leads I could follow. I have often identified the traits and tendencies that side-track me time after time, repeatedly deferring hope and causing my heart to sicken. Not because I’m self obsessed!! I passionately desire to apply reflection and thoughtfulness, curiosity and perceptiveness to help others understand themselves. Frustration was once the byword for my life. It marred everything and I have analysed it so thoroughly I am familiar with its knotty patterns and tangled interpretations that cloud judgement, obscure potential and strangle one’s joie de vivre. It certainly did mine!
So, it is……
Time to unravel. Time to interpret; time to decipher and decode.
Time to find out what we’re really made of and what we’re really made for!
Identify the wounds and be healed.
Point to the scars with pride.
Celebrate the vulnerability as courage!
Take this as a vantage point for those who are totally winded by the relentless resistance they experience.
It is time for resilience to be harnessed and not bound!
It is time for true genius to be understood and manifested in all its glory!
And so we call Frustration what it is and face it in all its stifling, jeering redundancy.
We are the Tangled. We are the subjects, survivors and thankfully, the supporters or Unpickers of the ravages of disappointment, cold shouldering, obscurity and misrepresentation. We call the mess, the loss and the necessary detours. We cut the losses, we unravel that we may recast, readjust and re-vision. That’s OK. We know now that we have no remaining fear of setback because we have stared it in the face and still stand.
We are only the richer for it.
Maintaining a strong platform
Yesterday the network rail line connecting rural Cornwall to the rest of England was re-opened. The great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railtrack had suffered devastating damage in the winter storms and lashing waves. Sagging tracks now hung precariously above a cavernous hole where the sea embankment had collapsed. Teams have worked twenty four hours a day for weeks in foul weather conditions to have this line repaired in time for the Easter holidaymakers. So when I read the following quote this morning by my hero Watchman Nee, the rescued railway story began to speak powerfully to me.
“Our prayers lay the track down on which God’s power can come.
Like a mighty locomotive, His power is irresistable,
but it cannot reach us without rails.”
This speaks of the vulnerability of a prayer-less life and as a woman of faith I certainly take that warning literally. However there is a wider implication for us all about a poorly maintained inner life. One particular fateful day a catastrophe may suddenly reveal what has been a slow and imperceptible eroding of the inner fabric of character. Lives and assets are threatened and what may have seemed to be utterly remarkable now is called into question. One day you may be a plentiful supply or generous example to family, dependents, friends, clients and populations. The next day, all of this prosperity has been violently disrupted overnight.
It may be possible in the cartoon world to lay a track as quickly as the train that is advancing upon it but is simply untrue in reality! If we desire to be reliable, powerful influencers and providers of hope, strength and inspiration to those who come after us, we have to be ready and stay ready and stable in adversity. Adversity is not the time to lay a foundation! Midnight is not the time to go shopping!
Our recent six week transport disruption cost the Cornish economy two million pounds a day! What personal momentum are you risking by overlooking the importance of everyday, mundane responsibilities of life? I include non-emergency prayer, everyday relationship nurture and all those things that are on a par with revision and practice and habit?
This is what enables the power to live coming toward us like a mighty locomotive!