The Church of Scotland in Caithness is pretty short of parish ministers at the moment. There were about 13 of that breed when I answered the call to be minister of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s in Thurso in 1989. When I left to come to Edinburgh in January 2005, the shortage was already making itself known. I think there are now only 2 parish ministers one of them being my wonderful long term freind, Rev. David Malcolm whose Word and Spirit minstry (in my former congregation) is being blessed with the life of God. I love to hear of God being at work in fresh ways there! The good news is that there are other forms of recognised ministry well established in Caithness now as well; the bad news is that they like parish ministers are equally stretched to the limit! These realities made for an increasingly hectic life towards the end of my time as a minister in Caithness! One particularly busy week in 2004 while I was driving to somewhere or other to visit somebody or other, I drove past a man simply sitting in his car in a quiet country road eating his sandwiches. He looked very relaxed, indeed annoyingly relaxed! The place where he had parked his car had no particular scenic beauty. Somehow there was a pang released from deep within me as I thought of the glorious freedom of driving to no destination; the freedom of not having to get anywhere by a particular time for a specific purpose, but rather enjoying any given moment of the journey fully.
As I look back on my recently rediscovered notebook that I came across and mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I can see that what I felt all these years ago, clearly persisted as a spiritual desire into more recent years and indeed into the present. Here is an excerpt from my notes, amended a bit to help more than me to understand my thoughts:
“I think I want this notebook to be filled with thoughts from times in which my heart and God’s heart have danced together, run beside each other, not needing to get to any conclusion or finishing line, for the dancing together and the running together are a sufficient end in themselves. I suppose the notebooks of ministers should be full of thoughts about God, but I think these notes will be more about my trying to find out what it means to be truly human by remembering times when God seemed to draw near to help my human feet to dance, to run, to walk, to rest and to recover. At some such times of revelation and understanding I have felt “I could have danced all night”; at times the steps have been painful as I seek to follow the lead of God in the dance of true humanity. However, if I think about that properly , the discovery of what it truly means to be human should lead to know God better and to being lost in wonder, love and praise, for as Irenaeus said, ‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive.’ The knowledge of God and the knowledge of me are linked.”
Are you a stranger to you? I’m not sure how many people truly know me; maybe you have felt the same about yourself at times. However, neither am I sure that I truly allow God to help me know myself. I somehow think I know more about Jesus than I know about me. At times I know Paul’s thoughts on things with greater accuracy than I know and understand my own mind. He is less of a stranger to me than I am to me in some ways at least. I am sure of this however: I am not the only one who could use Paul’s words, “I do not understand myself.”
I guess that in some shape or form ministers often ask the question, “Do you know God?” It’s the sort of predictable thing that ministers like me ask. I think I want to ask you today, “Do you know yourself?” Neither of these questions can stand alone. May our knowledge of God and our knowledge of ourselves run together.
By the way, I hope you believe that you are worth getting to know.
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