Encouragement for the Journey
Greetings fellow traveller,
Last Monday, upon opening my emails, I received this quote from the Grateful Network:
|Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.|
I reflected on this for a second or two, and then filed it away in my laptop. Yet, somehow it kept reverberating within. Then later in the day, I was in a long queue at the Post Office waiting to post Christmas cards to the UK. Standing in that queue, I had chance to look around at my fellow waiting humans, and this quote came to mind. I wondered what battles they were fighting? What might be happening in their world? Of course, unless I knew the person or we had a conversation, I will never know. It remains a mystery to me, but not to the person, for they know their world.
The words of our quote; for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle, might upon an initial reading seem wishy-washy in light of current world events. However, it is a metaphor, which seeks to catch our attention, inviting us to pause, reflect and to see each other in a different light.
When we go through moments of uncertainty, especially around our physical wellbeing, or we enter the valley of loss and grief, or we go through the pain of a relationship break – up. These are battles we fight, usually within our selves.
While the battle rages, we will respond in different ways, some will, rage, like the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas who writes:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
While for others, there comes a gentle acceptance that the inner gap experienced by loss and absence, is very real and will not be filled. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, pastor, prisoner of the Nazis executed 6.00 am 9 April 1945 at Flossenburg Concentration camp by Gestapo. Writes in his book Letters and papers from Prison:
The Unfilled Gap
Nothing can fill the gap
When we are away from those we love and it would be
Wrong to try to find anything
Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between us.
It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.
He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion
With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain
So let us be mindful, that those we meet each have their own inner battles, let us be slow to judge, quick to offer kindness, and let our words and thoughts be laced with compassion and filled with love. For this is the way of Jesus, who invites us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. I leave you with these words from John O Donohue in Benedictus:
May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence,
that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere, where the presences that have left you dwell.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow of presence.
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.
May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one.
May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging.
Meanwhile Peace and kindness towards others and yourself