In the secret woods I stopped and heard a buzzing.  It was on the ground among the broken stems of hogweed that crunched and popped like celery when I stepped on them.  A strange, wide path of newly cut and flattened stems: a brutal reminder that my secret place was not secret at all, nor mine.   A small concrete marker poked out, like a miniature milestone, announcing 275,000 Volts running below.  This must explain the effort someone put into strimming such a path to nowhere.

But the buzzing at this spot was not electrical.  Eventually I located the bumble bee, half covered by a leaf, fighting to fly yet somehow immobilised.  And the tiny spiders going back and forth, many of them.  There must be a web… but I couldn’t see it.  And the bee continued to wear itself out with buzzing.

I nudged it away with a stick, the spiders fled but I feared they had poisoned it.  I wandered on towards the short steep slope, with the flat ground at the top, below the giant pylon beyond the fence.  The place where my daughter and I shook the hawthorn blossoms into our box of treasures when they were in full bloom.  The blossoms were all gone now, and I was struck by how much things change.  I had in mind to check on the bee later, but I wouldn’t find it again.  The pylon must be where the cable leads.

Before finding the bee, I had rediscovered the tree trunk whose green buds were just poking through the bark when we last visited together.  It made me smile to see 2 green stems a foot tall.  I was alone now, and without a camera, but I made a note to bring her back as I promised I would, to see how the little green buds by our fingers in the photo had grown so tall, quietly and secretly.

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I sat down on the hilltop looking back.  Surely this is the best place in our community to watch the sun set.  The clouds were turning orange.   (‘Gypsy mountains’ a neighbour says they called this place, when he and his friends were kids, playing there and dodging the rabbit hunters.)

I was glad to be alone here this time – that’s why I came:  I was burnt out again.

After all my promises (to myself, my family, to God) to do better and get the balance right, I was again worn out on work and too miserable from it to enjoy time with my family.  I needed to be alone, like a starving man.

Making the same mistakes, breaking the good habits that would have kept me sane.  I had made my resolutions and thought I was stronger now and didn’t need the habits anymore – the rest and the boundaries.  I had once again slipped headlong into the lure of endless productivity, forgetting the very insights I had blogged about so fervently.

Sitting on the hill, needing hope but inclined to despair, I reverted to a familiar prayer:

‘Lord, we both know I can’t do it on my own.  I can’t change myself – to be the man, the father, the husband that I want to be.  I’ve asked for your help.  Yet I feel like nothing has changed – I haven’t changed – and I’m back in this dark place again.’

And an answer came back:

‘You don’t stay still long enough to let me help you’.

And I remembered that for many years now, in many different ways, He has whispered to me (and sometimes shouted, though always lovingly) ‘Be Still.’

Yet too often my stillness has been that of the bee.  Going nowhere but buzzing frantically inside.  Rushing through my quiet times to get on with being ‘productive’ again.   Rushing on from a lesson that was meant for me, to share it with someone else.   Slightly aware that I am entangled in a web, but resentful to God about that, as if it was Him who spun the web.  Refusing to stop my fighting.  Totally unwilling to accept that he might not need my help, and that I might be more use to him, and more use to myself if I just stood still for a bit, and trusted, and let him do it.  That He might be able to run my life better than me.

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’

This is the encouraging verse that brings comfort and hope.  But it is the painfully accurate verses that follow that I also need to hear, to see my mistakes clearly and repent (turn around) from them, to find my salvation – no His salvation for me.

‘…but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee!  You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.  Therefore your pursuers will be swift!   … till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop.’

And I know this has been my choice.  I work harder to get on top again and the work only gets harder and gets on top of me.  But today, finally, after the painful lessons of my burn-out forcing me to miss the once-in-a lifetime event of the Tour de France coming through my neighbourhood, I decided to stop at 5, regardless of the work still to be done.  I decided to put my family first again, to put space between things, just to be.

And I felt like I, and my daughter, and my wife, unfurled to me again like flowers, or buds in springtime, energised not by a striving to be energetic but by the flow of goodness and life, that flows best out of stillness and rest.

And also, for the first time in a while, the words flow and I have something to say again.

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