As we approach the end of British Summer Time, and we prepare for the clocks to go back, I am conscious that as my granny used to say, “the nights are fair drawin’ in.”
Of course, we will all soon enough experience the darkness of winter nights, but I am aware that there are many of you who are also experiencing an inner darkness. Those experiences of life that cast long dark shadows over you – the illness of a loved one, a bereavement, and financial worries.
Parker Palmer is a contemporary writer and teacher who plumbs the depth of the human spirit and sinks deeply into the darkness of the Holy Spirit. It is there, in the darkness, that he most often finds the light.
Palmer wrote often of his own shadow experiences – years when he lived in the dark pit of depression. As he withdrew and wallowed in the darkness his friends tried to ‘fix’ him. All their best efforts failed. They intended well, but they were avoiding or denying his suffering. They were unable to be ‘with him’ in his suffering.
Finally, a friend came to see him and said nothing. Instead, he sat at Parker’s feet, took off Parker’s shoes and rubbed his feet. This friend returned often in the next few week – just to touch Parker – and to be ‘with him’ in his suffering.
That story reminds me that serving others – touching others when they hurt most – is the call of Christian discipleship. I am reminded through my own discomfort, that the world is full of suffering and pain that makes my own troubles fade in comparison. Recognising how much I need to be loved when my strength is at a low point opens me to hear Jesus in a new way. If he can hang broken on a cross, I can open my heart to feel the pain of the world, and I can re-commit myself to love the suffering of the world, just as God continues to love me.
Anyone for a foot rub?