Prayer for sadness
May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone.
The second level in the conversational hierarchy that emerged from my workplace onversations (for further detail on the background of this click here) is the expression of wounding and a desire for a deeper experience of God. Each of these have featured significantly in the more than 1000 conversations contributing to my investigation.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
C.S Lewis once said, “pain is God’s megaphone.” These two understandings fitted closely with each other as wounding is the signal to many people that a deeper relationship with God is sought. Without the pain that is a part of living in the midst of brokenness most people would be deaf to God’s calling on their lives.
My version of Psalm 127
Work for work’s sake is futile activity,
Slavery to an endless list of tasks,
Only to achieve a bigger paycheck is futile,
They are illusions of success,
Rest is important too,
It teaches us that God provides.
Parker Palmer in his book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, writes about the wounds that are caused by our institutions. For many people their experience of work is dealing with daily disappointments where wounds are inflicted by those who wield power unwisely.
One of the first realisations coming out of my conversationsis that for most people work is about violence. This is the conclusion Studs Terkel reached after interviewing scores of Americans for his book Working: Work is, by its very nature, about violence—to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us
In my life’s most recent transformation the most difficult part of moving forward from my wounding is recognising the disappointment that lay behind that transformation. David Whyte says in his book, “Consolations”, courage is in embracing that disappointment. There is no pathway on this earth that doesn’t involve being let down in some way.
Parker Palmer writes about the need for our roles to be more deeply informed by the truth that is in our souls. His experience over many years of conducting Courage and Renewal groups is that leaders who are able to engage deeply with their identity and their organisational disappointments are best equipped to allow healing to be encouraged in their life. Being heard in a conversation is a way of encouraging healing through self reflection so that leaders are able to re-enter the daily conversations that must be had as a part of their role. Spiritual companioning conversations enable this pain to be voiced and heard; then provided a place where soul and role are reconnected.
Institutional betrayal is potent because it represents a profound and fundamental violation of trust in a necessary dependency relationship. In that sense, it is similar to abuse in close relationships such as what is expected in a marriage. This abuse is serious and its consequences are shattering for many people. Workplace statistics regarding the prevalence of bullying and abuse are horrifying and yet these numbers are a glimpse of the daily heartache that work is for many people.
I wrote the following psalm when considering the impact of violence in the workplace. For most people it isn’t a single act of abuse that destroys their soul. More often it’s the daily accumulation of barbs and jabs that end slowly suck the life out of any productive activity. They are the thousand pinpricks that slowly accumulate take away any passion that may be felt for the daily tasks needed to be done. Redemption is found when the gifts that are brought are celebrated by another. But, recovery is a healing process that is required because of the wounding inflicted.
Psalm 204 – When things go wrong
A thousand pinpricks are certain to kill,
Just as certain as a bullet to the head,
Each day can mounts with frustration,
Passion slowly curls up to die,
Lost in the mass of failures,
Notched up in the daily diary account.
Joy’s slow death has it’s own smell,
The putrid stench of contempt’s gaze,
That stares from its lofty throne,
I am lost in what cannot be changed,
Unless something changes in me,
Broken down, deserted for green fields,
That yield a thousand times more.
But Joy’s heart was opened wide,
To begin to restore my broken heart,
What went wrong will be set right,
As hearts combine in loving embrace,
Celebrating the meagre gifts offered,
From which something beautiful unfolds,
Promises from God are always kept,
Setting things right in Creation’s economy.
The struggle is necessary for hope to emerge. In this case it’s the recognition that the change must happen within me if I am able to navigate the work world. The difference is that when hope is found there is the joining of two hearts that are able to celebrate what is true and good in each other. It’s the beginning of a new conversation that begins from Joy’s open heart and searches for what is beautiful in the other person.
As Parker Psalmer relates this personal transformation to the North American seasons, he describes how the change from winter to summer requires the messiness of spring. It’s from this uncertainty that fresh shoots that are the signs of new life are able to emerge.
“In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”
? Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
What is often missing is a place where an honest conversation can be had about winter’s darkness or the messiness of spring. Too often in many workplaces anything not regarded as positive affirmation of current management practices can quickly label the person as negative and they are put on the outer. The truth that is in the messiness is lost because the wounds are never given an opportunity to heal. Organisations are quick to banish and say that someone doesn’t belong if their wounds disrupt the image that they seek to present.
The foundation of the conversational hierarchy developed is that a deeper space is desired. Once this is acknowledged in a conversation then the pain that comes from people’s wounding is able to become a voice that can understand what it is to have a deeper relationship with God. The opportunity that comes from this second level in the conversational hierarchy is to share with someone their wound and perhaps to shed a little of the gentle light of the soul on their pain. It’s the beginning of consolation, forgiveness and healing for the disappointment that comes with being let down by something that we sought to trust.
A deeper relationship with God is desired.
“There is in the soul a something in which God dwells, and there is in the soul a something in which the soul dwells in God.” Meister Eckhart
This search for a deeper relationship with God is often about reshaping our image of ourselves. As David Whyte puts it, “creation is waiting breathlessly for each of us to take our place…to begin the one journey only you can take…to occupy that one complexion of creation that no other element in creation can occupy.” Becoming found by God enables a person the opportunity to be seen in the most authentic place; in the most vulnerable way.
Creation begins with an imaginative act of God. Human life commenced with a series of divine creative acts followed by a conversation between God and humanity. This conversation has continued throughout history. When God created a person his conversation extended beyond declaring it is good, he started the relationship with a deeply intimate conversation that established a unique identity for each individual person. This conversation continued and developed in the Garden of Eden and beyond.
The tone changed after sin became something that needed to be confronted because of its impact on the conversation between God and humanity. This was the conversation that Adam and Eve didn’t want to have with God and they sought to avoid it. But, we are told that God sought them out and together they discovered the truth and then re established their relationship after trust had been lost.
This could have been the end of the conversation, lost trust could have doomed us to unfulfilled longings that could never be completed. However, this was not the end and humanity continues to have the privilege of having a conversation with God. Forgiveness is love’s purest expression of hope that is given as a gift to us.
In the following poem called, “Imagination” I sought to discover something about the source of that conversation and then the intimacy that I am able to have because I share with my Creator’s imagination.
When Love created an eternal soul,
A smile announced his arrival,
Imagination’s beautiful idea fulfilled,
In the surprising gasp for breath,
Introducing life’s first cry.
In the landscape of a million conversations,
One voice creates a new piece of ground,
Creation’s busy activity paused.
Stopping to listen.
A moment dedicated to this life,
Finding a word that belonged to this person,
The word that sought out his special name,
That joined imagination with possibility,
Concluding with life’s final breath,
The smile completed by Love’s embrace.
In this poem I was also exploring the beauty of creation and the discovery of my place in the Creator’s heart. The thought that the creator of this world would stop to listen to me, that he would hear my voice and know me by name inspires me to explore more of this Creator. Imagination is the place where a deeper experience of God begins.
John’s gospel introduction to Christ begins with taking the reader back to the creation’s first creative acts. Today my life witnesses these acts that formed my life and breathes meaning into my creativity. I am a witness to God’s conversation with me, the one that knows my name; the conversation that is forgiving and the conversation that is fulfilled by Love’s embrace.
It begins with the creation story. It includes me in a holy community that says I belong. It introduces the lie that is deceptive and also the truth that can be found in the conversation we are invited to have with the Voice, Breath and Flesh.
John’s introduction to his gospel in my words.
This story originates with a small community who each desired to express their creativity. This community is made up of, a Voice, Breath and Flesh. I am one example of that creative expression. There are many others that are too numerous to mention in this brief introduction. My life is a testimony to the desire of that first group to share their creativity with their creation.
The Voice, the Breath and the Flesh realised that by myself I can only dimly make out a sense of who they are. This image is distorted by a lie. This lie is spread throughout the world and influences everything in the world. The good news is that the lie always has to give way to the Voice, Breath and Flesh.
Creation once was a complete unity then it was divided. How this came about is complex but the Voice continued to talk to his creation. He never stopped speaking the truth even though the lie was believed by most people.
Before I was born the Voice, Breath and Flesh began a plan to make truth absolutely clear. This plan required the Flesh to live with his creation so that everyone could see the lie clearly. His presence focussed the differences between the truth and the lie. It became obvious that people believed either one or the other.
The preparations for the Flesh living with us were carefully planned out. A man called John was specially prepared from birth to ensure that everyone knew who the Flesh in person really was. He knew the entire history of the Voice speaking and how deceiving the lie could be.
John was not afraid to speak the truth. He was very clear about who the Flesh was and the Flesh’s relationship with the Voice and with the Breath. It clearly was a huge commitment by the Voice, Breath and Flesh to separate for this time so that their creation could get a first hand account of the truth.
The gospel brings truth to the lies that are the most used weapon in workplaces. The lies inhibit the creativity that we are intended to share with the Voice, Breath and Flesh. The gospel brings the Flesh’s word to us and the truth that we are intended to hear.
Truth’s daily calling
Truth is the soul’s main labour,
Connecting heart and head and eternity,
Truth lived brings laughter and tears,
Truth understood is shared intimacy,
Embracing with none of love’s regrets,
The longed for hello,
Not the regretful goodbye,
Truth is not clinging to a failed understanding,
Truth is the soul’s daily work,
The creative heart work of the true human.
Ultimately we work not to just make an income, or to fill in an empty space in our day. We work because we are co-creators with God in the unfolding of the world. Our voice in this conversation is what creates a new piece of ground. In the midst of this creation Norvene Vest writes, “Vocation teaches us that each of us has a particular place, a particular set of talents, a particular responsibility that no one else can quite fulfill” (Vest).
In concluding this section I have included a prayer for forgiveness. This has the dual purpose of enabling wounding to begin healing and also it’s the starting point of a relationship with God. It provides the opportunity to step up to the next level of the conversational hierarchy – The creation of a safe place and uncertainty’s expression.
A prayer for forgiveness
Allow me to forgive,
For I am imprisoned by my bitterness.
Allow me to be forgiven,
For I am shamed that I have done another harm.
I earnestly pray that we may all forgive and be forgiven.
May we love and be loving.
May we strive to see the right, to do the right;
And to be generous with others as we would be with ourselves,
This day, this week, this life.