My recent initiation into the global community of those living with ME/CFS has inspired me to see God and those he loves (all humanity) in a fresh new way.
I’ve often struggled to empathise (or indeed sympathise!) with people who have hidden illnesses. If it wasn’t something I could see, or if I didn’t know it to be fatal, the ‘sufferer’ was probably exaggerating. But months of lying on the sofa, barely able to move, watching the world walk past my window, or Netflix’ best offerings on the small screen, have made me rethink.
For starters; who are all those people walking past my window? And how come they’re around in the day? I began to recognise the ones who walked slowly, no doubt carrying their own hidden afflictions, and those who walked at speed (usually mums and dads on their way to and from the local school). And I became familiar with the high-vis jacket that walked past every lunchtime.
Living in a terraced house, I’m ‘snuggled in’ by my neighbours on either side. The noise of their daily routines gave me a comforting sense of community; tiny feet running across next doors floorboards on one side, later followed by cheers of ‘Daddy’s home!’, and on the other side, energetic yelling at the daytime TV (I don’t blame him!), which contradicted the frail body that would later, slowly, pass my window.
In church I began to realise what it is to see and hear perfectly well, but to be too unwell to show passion or to be able to really join in. How many of those we think of as pew-warmers are actually just holding it together until they can get home to their bed or their pain relief?
To be aware of my surroundings in this way is a new thing for me; it takes time, it takes a clear head. And it takes practice (in my case enforced!).
As part of my treatment to further develop the art of being ‘in the moment’, as opposed to worrying about where I’ll live when I’m 80 or reliving my fashion failings of the past, I was enrolled onto a Mindfulness course recently.
Obviously I was dubious; the words ‘mindfulness’ and ‘being present’ have been overused of late. And then there are those who see meditation as equal to putting out a ‘Welcome’ mat for Satan. How would I explain myself to them? But on doctors orders off I went.
How my suppressed and silent laughter didn’t drown out the words of the teacher when I was asked to listen to a raisin, I will never know. But the whole experience was revealing in a way I hadn’t expected it to be.
Not only did my observations of said raisin silence all other thoughts, but for five minutes all that existed was the raisin; I held it, watched it, smelled it, listened to it (it said nothing!) and yes, eventually I ate it.
I learned that it is entirely possible to focus on just one thing, in this case a raisin, to the exclusion of all other things, and that this ‘rest’ from other thoughts was really refreshing.
It got me thinking; if I can focus on a raisin for five minutes and be refreshed, how might the same focus on God transform my whole day?
So often we run through life on autopilot, even in our worship. We know this because when the worship leader goes for another chorus, we’re already singing the next bit of the song (or is that just me?). We’re not watching, or listening, we’re somewhere else; we’re on autopilot.
Colossians 3 verse 2-5 remind us to ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.’
Try it, especially the next time you pray or sing a worship song, read your Bible, or listen to God; switch off your autopilot and exclude all other thoughts.
Setting your mind takes practice, so don’t berate yourself when you find yourself totting up how many calories you’ve already had by 10.30am during the chorus of ‘10,000 Reasons’, just recognise that you’ve strayed and return to the words on the screen and embed them in your heart.
Imagine if for even five minutes a day, there was only you and God.