This was the question I was left mulling over at my mid-day prayer time yesterday having listened to the reflection from #LiveLent. The bible reading was a familiar story. I remember feeling quite connected to the bible when we visited the exact spot of this well when we were in the Holy Land for our pilgrimage in 2018. Of course, there’s a church there now and the actual ground where Jesus stood was some way below us, but nevertheless it was a special feeling to know I was standing where Jesus had had that conversation with the woman. He knew all about her – and he knows all about me.
Hannah Steele writes in ‘Living His Story’: “Each Saturday The Guardian features an article called ‘Experience’, which focuses on the story of an ordinary individual who has a tale to tell about their life. These stories range from the near miraculous – the man who survived 76 days adrift a raft on the Atlantic Ocean – to the inspiring stories of the amputee who trained to be a professional tap dancer on stage. Some stories make you weep… Others are more humorous… The point is, anyone is free to write in and share their story and we, the reader, are irresistibly drawn by them.”
Some Christians fear talking about their faith because they don’t think they know enough about it or they wouldn’t be able to answer difficult questions. But most of us aren’t called to be great theologians or preachers. All we are asked to do is to tell our own story. And those stories draw in those who hear them.
My story has been bound up with Jesus’ story, off and on, all my life. But more on than off. I made an honest and heartfelt commitment in 1969 when I was 12 years old and Confirmed. This waned somewhat during teenage years and disappeared by the time I was 20.
I had a gradual return to Jesus in my late 20s and my life story has been influenced by his story in increasing amounts since then. I am now in my early 60s. So how has knowing Jesus changed me over 40 years? How do I tell what changes would have happened by natural maturity and not by faith? Good questions. I decide to answer them – or at least examine them – using the mindful art exercise that has been very helpful when pondering things in the past. I had intended doing it as my late afternoon prayer time, before leading night prayer at 6pm but got caught up in work.
So here I am, once again at my lunch time prayers and today’s #LiveLent reflection is about listening to someone’s story before trying to tell them yours. I have been in text communication with someone who is wondering about life after death and believes there is nothing. So I spent a bit of time early this morning writing to them. They had sent a link to show me the book they had found helpful. It is a classic in the Taoist religion. So in the spirit of ‘listening’ to them I have just read about that faith. Very interesting it is too.
The bible reading for today is Acts 17.16-34 when Paul looking around Athens spotted the tomb to the unknown God and proceeded to tell people that this unknown God has been revealed in Jesus (or words to that effect).
When I read about Taoism (on Wikipedia) I learnt:
Taoism (/ˈtaʊ-/), or Daoism (/ˈdaʊɪzəm/, /ˈdaʊ-/), is a philosophical tradition of Chineseorigin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào; lit. ‘Way’, or Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists.
This sounds remarkably similar to Jesus’ claims to be The Way. Jesus was also called The Word by John. Logos is the Greek word he used and in Greek philosophy that refers to the pattern of something that exists.. Or as Wikipedia puts it:
Logos (UK: /ˈloʊɡɒs, ˈlɒɡɒs/, US: /ˈloʊɡoʊs/; Ancient Greek: λόγος, romanized: lógos; from λέγω, légō, lit. ”I say”) is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning “ground”, “plea”, “opinion”, “expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “reason”, “proportion”, and “discourse”. It became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.
I find this fascinating. I am also intrigued by the ‘coincidence’ (serendipity or God-incidence) that I happened to receive the text and link on the same day that this bible reading appears.
The Taoist religion also developed a trinity of gods who were believed to be the incarnation of the Source/Way. So it seems that there is a desire within people to have a deity that we can relate to. And we relate best to people. Could it be that we are created by a Source of Life who has made us desire that connection and knowing that we relate or connect best through other people became human to enable that?
I decided I would do something with paint today so as I mulled things over after doing this reading at lunchtime, whilst eating my lunch, I got some watercolours and did this abstract painting. It had no intended meaning, I simply went with whatever colours and strokes of the brush I felt drawn to. I only used one brush. I didn’t have time to think about it afterwards and so I have no interpretation of what it might mean. I leave it to speak for itself to you. My only feeling about it is that this is the right way up for it, even though I turned it round at various points as I painted it.
What does it say to you?
I think I may seek an answer to how I have changed by doing mindful art tomorrow. I seem to have taken a different tack today.