Vicar's Letter 18.10

    An old vicar’s letter


“Patience is a virtue” my mother used to say to me when I was four or five, and always hopping from foot to foot, telling my sister to “hurry up” and constantly asking “are we there yet?” on every car journey. It seems that today for many of us, life is lived at an ever faster pace; changes, ‘leaps forward’, happen at ever increasing speed. Many of us find it hard to keep up.

I remember a bishop preaching in St Saviour’s some years ago telling us how fortunate we all are in Brockenhurst to have the level crossing! He told us that this gave us a wonderful opportunity to sit quietly and reflect on the loveliness of the world around us and to be quietly thankful. At the time I was singularly unimpressed with this sentiment, and felt this was all a bit of a waste of time. I just wanted the train to come quickly and get to the other side as soon as possible.

However, there is an important lesson to be learnt here. Putting the mobile phone down, stopping for a few minutes, simply being quiet, creating some space in our busy lives can be truly enriching. Just being, and being content is a good place to be. One of the passages in the Bible I find very helpful as an older Christian is this: “Even youths will faint and be weary, and young people will feel exhausted: but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” (Isaiah 40: 30 & 31)

Some years ago, a theologian Gerald Vanstone wrote a remarkable book titled “The Stature of Waiting”. In this book the author stresses the richness of waiting and challenges our attitudes to illness, being out of work, retirement or other events in our lives that force us to slow down and perhaps stop. He shows how we so easily evade, repudiate and resent these times of waiting, and yet they are able to be agents of transformation in our lives.

When we read through the life of Jesus in any of the four gospels, we see that the whole of the first part is about Jesus being active. He preaches the good news, he heals the sick, he feeds a vast crowd of people with five small loaves of bread and two little fishes, he prays, he washes the feet of his disciples. Then in the second part, Jesus is totally passive as things are done to him. He is led to the high priest, and then to Pontius Pilate, he is tortured, he is mocked, he has a large piece of wood put on his back and forced to carry it up a hill, he is crucified. This brings us back to the suffering but creative love of God shown in waiting and passivity. I believe we all need a time for activity and a time for being passive in our journey through life.

With every blessing.                                                           Francis Cumberlege