#32: Slow work

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, satisfy your needs in parched places, make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, a spring of water, waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:6-12)

Not everything is quickly restored.

10am on Jan 1, 2020. The year started abruptly at our house: we awoke to the shock that one of our family’s treasured guinea pigs had escaped. Fortunately, years of wrangling chooks together as a family had stood us in good stead and with the able services of Jindi the ‘Sniffer Dog’ extraordinaire, we swung into action as one.  We started working coordinated patterns in the native plant bed, bravely fossicking amongst the bushes and rocks whilst Jindi went to work picking up the scent. Half an hour and a few failed attempts later and we had our ‘treasure’. ‘Blossom’ was found and returned to her friend and wholeness was restored.

By 11:30am that morning however, things had gone pear-shaped again. Elvira and I were sitting in the Emergency Department at Warrnambool hospital, the result of my now ‘infamous’, New Year’s Day, crowbar incident! The smashing of my left ring finger between the head of the crowbar and the adjacent post resulted in a significant laceration and the break in the bone at the end of the finger.  To add insult to injury, all the plastic surgeons at Warrnambool were off on leave, probably ‘swanning around’ Europe, so I had to travel to Geelong the next day to have the surgery. Two thoughts have been swirling around my head since then; first, how one split-second action can leave lasting, painful consequences. Second, why does restoration and healing so often end up being more time consuming and painful than the incident itself?

The truth is, save for this latest incident and a couple of other ‘minor’ surgeries over the years, I’ve been healthy, I’ve not needed much physical healing! Yet for much of my adult life, I’ve been concerned about brokenness and acutely aware of the need for restoration and healing both for myself and for the world.  For myself, certainly in terms of my ‘poverty of spirit’ and as described in the Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5:3), this is the place I’ve needed to return to again and again, sometimes willingly, but most often reluctantly. To acknowledge that I can’t heal the world on my own, to acknowledge that I can’t even heal myself and to acknowledge and confess that in the process of seeking to be a healer and restorer, I’m constantly breaking things too.

I’ve also become increasingly concerned for the healing of the creation that is groaning all around us. For the work too of healing and restoration of local communities where people can find belonging and a sense of place and for the healing and restoration of people; for those who come to visit us, often with a pain or a struggle; or those in our local networks dealing with the pressures and struggles of life. At times I’ve felt so heartened to be involved in these types of work, seeing new life and possibilities emerge out of despair, grief and loss, but the reality is that most often I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted by the enormity of brokenness, suffering and damage that exists in the world.

Yet still within me I find a voice, I believe it is the Holy Spirit, calling me to work for healing. This is at the heart of why we moved down to Cudgee 13 years ago, to work for the restoration of the earth and local community. This is what kept inspiring me over the years to work with TEAR in partnering with communities around the world grappling with the impact of poverty and inequality today. And this is why Elvira and I are so passionate about committing to faith communities such as Sanctuary, that tell and practice a story of hope and healing in our broken world.

Sunday 17 February, 2020. Unlike the restoration that came in finding ‘Blossom’, my finger is still not ‘healed.’ This reflection, as with all other typing I’ve been doing for work lately, has taken considerably longer due to the ‘cap’ on my damaged finger and I still don’t have full feeling and movement in the finger itself. But things are on the improve, slowly the scarred and damaged tissue is recovering and my finger is starting to feel ‘part of me’ again. So, this Lent season I recommit myself to be someone committed to the work of healing and restoration. I confess again my ‘poverty of spirit’ and pray God lead me in the ways of heaven. Ω

Reflect: Imagine yourself walking in a cool lush garden with God at your side. As you stroll, tell God about a slow work of healing in which you participate. Look around you. What do you notice growing in the garden? What is growing inside you now? Or, if you struggle to name a slow work, ask God to reveal one small step you could take towards love and justice today.

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020.


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