Today has been bleak. The constant rain in curtains has driven past our windows, and the last of the leaves are falling very fast. Objectively it hasn’t been all that cold, but just looking at the leaden sky has brought a chill creeping up the shins.
The little birds have been keeping under cover; only the occasional hardy jackdaw has skimmed the tattered trees to take shelter under the red roof of the old water tower. Wherever the squirrels are, they are obviously taking care to keep their fur dry, for we haven’t seen as much as the flicker of a tail.
I have been touched by an odd restlessness. The news has been troubling, as it seems always to be at the moment, and there have been flurries of emails about things to do, or to consider doing. But it’s not the need for discernment, nor the news’ continual tugging at one’s helpless compassion, that have been unsettling me, I think.
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And there, too, a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually as you struggle less and less for an idea, and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything…
The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth; and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion.
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand.
I think it is a longing for this sense of hiddenness, living a life not dependent on results, or achievements, or on the opinions of others, but “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3.3), that makes me restless when I begin to get too involved with things outside the silence. I have always had a yearning on the edge of all I have done for the eremitic, quietist path; and while I know that I will always “do what my hand finds to do” as I am led, I will always also, like Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, long for the empty places and the shorelines of the spirit. It’s only here that the rain makes sense, and the turning of the land towards winter.