Monday, 25 March 2013

The F word

More than one f word is obnoxious. 

There’s the infamous f which ends in k… originally an offensive expletive of great emphasis and passion.  Now, depending on the social circle, not so much...

There’s the pejorative use of fat… foolish… funky… feeble… fickle… flaky… even funny can be high-jacked on occasion as an insult.  There’s a forlorn feeling in other f words too, like: forgetful, frail, frosty, frigid, foppish, frantic, fake, frustrated, furious, fumbling, furry and fragmented.  Even failure starts with an f.  And freak, well, that’s just awful.

Is there a connection between troublesome f words and the negative connotations of feminism?  After all women’s problem – whatever name you give it – is that, the world over, they simply do not have the same power or freedom as men.  The revolution, that was, is far from won, and the need for greater equality and participation very real.  The theoretical thinkers who have analysed language at great length (I won’t call them French Feminists as it’s proved to be a contentious label) did much to illustrate the patriarchal bias in the way we speak and therefore the way we think.  Even the word female is a mere prefix stuck to a male.  

Nevertheless, the f word most preoccupying me at the moment, is faith: faith in others and faith in oneself.  Five little letters which together are greater than the sum of their parts.  An important f word…  On which we can all get wobbly, sometimes for good reason, but life is always better when we find a way to get past the hurt of disappointed faith and reboot.  This is particularly important when it comes to self-faith – the quiet trust in one’s own value and potential. 

Reminding ourselves of our intrinsic worth - and, by inference, the value of every human being, every life - is not just a good way to keep up morale or kick-start a challenging day, it’s also the link to the other f word, the big-brother Faith. 

It’s not surprising I should be thinking about God.  We are approaching Easter, the season when Christians are supposed to think about Jesus Christ, about what we believe in, and the Hope our Faith affords.  We are called in this season to rediscover and renew our relationship with God, our awareness of, and faith in, His presence. 

The period of Lent, leading up to Easter, is about mental and spiritual preparation, about creating space in our busy lives to focus.  I didn’t give up anything for Lent this year, but I have kept up my New Year resolution to read something reflective most days and it has actually helped me to feel more peaceful and centred.   Recently I read: “do you believe God loves you?”  Or more to the point, “do you believe He loves you enough?”  
Good question really.  Because if brutally honest I’m inclined to think, however subconsciously, that He’s often slacking – answering other people’s prayers and not paying me enough attention. 
But sounds awful put like that, doesn’t it?  For as soon as the complaint is out of my mouth the flipside is immediately obvious: that it’s probably me not paying Him enough attention.  I mean, if I phoned a friend dozens, let alone hundreds, of times and they didn’t return my calls, you’d give up on them right (stalker types and neurotics aside)?  Yet He hangs around and patiently waits for us to tune in.  And then when we do pick up the phone, metaphorically, He is all ready to listen and love, without resentment or judgement.  If you do have Faith, in a God, in the God, in a Higher Being or perhaps a less defined Higher Purpose, it’s pretty cool to feel the love, the interest, is unconditional.  It is a true Blessing… when we trust it, when we have faith in our Faith.

[Have you noticed there are lots of brilliant b words too?  Maybe another time…]

Anyway, feeling sluggish yesterday after a late night at a party, unusually I went to Mass for Palm Sunday in the evening.  When coming home on the bus I was carrying a palm tied in the shape of a cross.  It wasn’t until a girl asked “have you just been to Mass, may I ask where?” that I realised what a potent symbol I was carrying.  I don’t think I ‘hide my light under a bushel’ if engaged in conversation about God or spirituality.  In fact I’ve been told I’m in the habit of switching my conversation (and writing) from the sacred to the profane with some regularity.  Yet I don’t automatically presume people share my spiritual beliefs or wish to talk about God.  This girl’s question, however, made me think I should perhaps be more conscious of occasions when I can ‘bear witness’.

So that got me thinking: bear witness to what exactly?  How does my knowledge and faith in Jesus affect my life or the way I conduct myself?

The short answer is “probably not enough”.  By which I mean, it is too easy to compartmentalise one’s life such that Faith exists in one realm, and most other activities in another.  I suspect that is a common phenomena, so no wonder we sometimes feel schizophrenic.  For surely, to be most healthy or helpful, our spiritual life should be integrated with other dimensions – like good food and exercise, not just a Sunday add on.  So maybe that’s the feature of Faith I’ll try to concentrate on this Easter, as I head north to visit friends who are currently surrounded by blankets of snow. 

(BTW if God is responsible for the change of seasons then I’m afraid his UK satellite is off.  Or he’s had a fierce argument with Mother Nature who’s walked off the job.  For Spring is currently AWOL!  Sorry, that’s just my profane streak.)

The other f word which is prescient in the Easter season is of course forgiveness.  Forgiveness and Faith are tied inexorably together.  Yet the key message in Christ’s death and resurrection is the one we all struggle to comprehend and action.  Forgiveness is tricky.  It is tested in our relationship of faith in others, our faith in ourselves, and our Faith in God.  And that’s why Jesus came to give us the ultimate example – the standard we’ll never reach but which we’ll be all the better for trying to emulate.  

It’s a big call.  It’s a life long mission.  So when those f words get too heavy enjoy these… for God gave them all: feisty, fit, fair, fine, finest, fortune, faithful, favourite, fancy, familiar, fertile, fervent, flexible, flirtatious, flamboyant, floral, fluorescent, fond, forthcoming, fragrant, fruity, friendly, fresh, full, frank, fun, free and fantastic.   

Happy Easter!  Find family and friends and fabulous fare and have a festive and fruitful time!