Today I went riding again. My friend, who has the horses made the following suggestion “Here is Hattie. Would you like to be responsible for training her? She does not work ‘on the bit’ yet, but she needs work of going straight, and on transitions (from walk to trot and halt and back again).
“Yes” I said, “That would be good.” So off we went. For me it was about remembering again how to look out for the next point of the circle, to shift the horses shoulders on to the line of the circle again, to keep my wright in the right place.
Once that was remembered, off we went. It was simple, it was fun. I was succeeding as well as Hattie.
I said to my friend “You know, normally when I ride I’m looking for my edge: to get the horse ‘on the bit’ to work looking ‘beautiful.’ But today the pressure is off me. Its fun.
So this is about pride and humility I think. The pride (in the defensive sense of the word) comes in where I want to do something ‘advanced’ or ‘significant’ all the time. Now, for the sake of Hattie, it is about going back to basics. It is about going back to the beginning.
I was thinking about this during prayers this morning. I was wondering ‘Why do I put off weeding the vegies?” IT came to me that I devalue the job of weeding the vegies. I think “I want to be doing something better. I want to be making something in the shed.’ But at the moment, there is no project to work on. So I weed the vegies. This takes humility too.
So as a Christian, I’m thinking about how to be during retirement. As a priest with a congregation, there comes with the role a sense of the importance of finding an answer to the question “How can I best help this congregation be a witness to the gospel?” But in retirement, that is not my role any more.
So now having had the thought of the liberation that there is in humility, I can think of a number of stories where this kind of stance supported.
I am thinking of the leper Naaman. You know, he goes to Elisha and is insulted when Elisha does not evwen come out to see him, but says ‘go and wash in the Jordan sevewn times.” He thinks “Why did he not come out and wave his hand over the spot?’ (i.e. do some magic demonstration). But Naaman’s advisors say “If he had asked you to do something hard, whould you not have done it? So why not do something simple ‘wash…and be clean?’
And then there is the story of the Devils of Ludun. The nuns are getting great notoriety by their demonstrations of possession, and their relationship with the priest, Urbain Grandier. After Grandier is executed, the church appoints an old sick Jesuit as spiritual director of the nuns. As her healing, he sets the mother superior to cleaning floors all day, for a long time.
And then there is the hymn:
Teach me my God and king,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.
A servant with this clause,
makes drudgery divine
who sweeps a floor ‘as for thy laws’,
makes that and the action fine.
Last, and perhaps most importantly is John Wesley’s prayer. He says ‘
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
I used to pray this prayer when I thought that I was not being valued enough in the Church, and in doing so, my worries about my status went away. Now is the time to start praying this prayer again.
This is the theme of both Dietrich Bonhoeffer in ‘The Cost of discipleship’ and in Stanley Hauerwas’ commentary on Matthew’s Gospel.
The disciple does not worry about their status, because what is happening is that their eyes and attention are fixed, not on where they are going, but on Jesus.
This is what I hope to learn to do more of. Riding helps, as does weeding the garden.