Desert Wisdom III
Abba Anthony said, "Our life and our death is with our neighbour. If we gain our brother or sister, we have gained God, but if we scandalise our brother or sister, we have sinned again Christ."
I've just come back from the wonderful treat of four days on retreat. Anyone though who thinks that a retreat is about simply putting your feet up has got the wrong end of the stick!
When you find yourself stripped away of the distractions of work, family, friends and entertainment, the effect can be to make yourself pretty vulnerable.
After the fun of the new experience wore off I was left simply with myself, and I began to notice the sorts of thoughts and emotions that naturally arise.
I have to say it was quite shocking! Memories of past hurts and slights surfaced, old unfinished arguments reemerged. I even found myself rehearsing future conversations - what would be a knock-down comment? how can I win in that encounter?
Am I this kind of person? Yes, sadly I am. And it seemed that most of it stemmed from insecurity. It was a salutary experience.
On returning I resolved to keep a journal where I can try to honestly reflect at the end of each day what sorts of emotions and thoughts I have been carrying around, and then to offer them to God.
Abba Anthony here reminds me that I cannot 'ascend' to God without my neighbour. If I am often in the position of being in anxious rivalry with my neighbour (my fellow Christian, my family member, my colleague) then I have missed the point of the life of faith.
Quite simply I am called to ask God to help me to find healing in myself
and my relationships.
(PS the image on the book cover is of a 1992 sculpture called I It Am by Olivia Sanders. It perfectly images my experience of prayer - I'd love to see a full picture, or the real thing - has anyone ever seem it?)