The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Dorothy Neilson 

Sunday - 6 March 2022

Relax.  Settle.  Draw close to God.  Be still.

This Lent, let us take time out to reflect on and celebrate how good God has been to us.  This is a ‘do it yourself’ reflection today as you think back in a very personal way on your journey through life with – or sometimes without – God. 

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Settle down with a cup of tea.  Let your mind drift back over the years.  Remember good things and say thank you for them.  Remember times when life couldn’t get any better.  Be thankful.  Remember things that got in the way of your happiness and the path you were walking on.  Ponder.  What were these things all about? 

Jesus in the desert.  Remember the story?  Picture it in your imagination.  Jesus had just been baptised, aged around 30 years of age. (Matthew 3;13-17) It had been a special moment when he experienced the wonderful comfort and love as God said to him, “You are my beloved son and I am so proud of you.”   As you sit there thinking, can you remember a moment of God’s presence?  Ponder it.  Be thankful.  Take time  just to relive it.  Pause.                                                                            

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But….so often after special moments in life we find we need to take time out just to ponder the event and its significance. Time to live in the memory.  Time to take in its significance.  Remember a time like that in your own life?  To do this Jesus went away on his own into a desert place where he wouldn’t be disturbed, an empty place, a sparse place with no water, no people and no toilets! But when he got there, he suddenly experienced great loneliness and depression feeling lost and abandoned by God.  He had felt so blessed.  And now he felt so lost.  What was all this about?  Read the story for yourself in Luke 4;1-13.

Can you recognise a situation in your own life when you had a bit of difficulty seeing where God was and what He was doing in your life?  Times when life went pear-shaped.  Losing a job?  A health issue?  A fall-out with a friend or family member?  Often things that were just plain ‘not fair’.  Things that nobody actually deserves.  Jesus had a hard time in the desert with only himself and his demons for company.  And yet God had NOT abandoned him although it must have felt like it at the time.  Jesus learned valuable lessons in the desert.  I’m sure when we encountered our own desert we also learned valuable lessons.  But why does God sometimes make it so hard? 

And the truthful answer is that I don’t know.  I had just such a time in my own life.  Things were going really well.  I had just written my book and was beginning to look for a publisher.  I was doing a lot of consultancy work in spiritual direction.  I was enjoying fabulous conference times teaching the Enneagram.  I was loving life.  And within the space of 48 hours I had descended into a huge black hole of depression again and I was lost there for a very long time.  Why?  I don’t know.  I will never know.

And so it will be for many of you. For some questions there are no answers.

But God was in the desert with Jesus.  It was hard.  He survived.  He hated it, I would imagine.  But he grew into the wise teacher, healer and Messiah that we know today.  Is it too strong to suggest that the time in the desert ‘made him’, equipped him for what lay ahead?

A visual exercise for you.

The wee painting below might be a picture of life.  It has a general picture of a life going forward but…. What are all these lines and shapes that obscure the clarity of our path?  What has blind-sided us in our lives?  What are the things that came out of nowhere that knocked us off balance?  And yet these things have merely added to the picture.  Would our lives have been so rich without these times?  Ponder for a while.

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“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him;   I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”  Psalm 91; 14 – 16

From Dorothy Neilson