Monthly Archives: June 2011

Endings and Beginnings

Why do good things have to end?

This week marked the end of a course I have been attending entitled ‘spiritual direction: an approach to faith accompaniment’. It lasted for about six months, and was one of the most transformative periods of my life. It essentially taught me to listen well to others and enable them in turn to listen to themselves and to God, but through participating I have gained certainty about my sense of vocation, I have developed the confidence to exercise and nurture the innate ability I have to listen to others, I have been given the tools and understanding to deal with pain from my own past in a way that will bring further healing and wholeness, and most of all I have been part of a wonderful community of people involved in the course who have been supporting one another through this experience.

So why on earth does  such a positive and nurturing experience have to end, when it has enabled a process of transformation in me that can only in turn be of help and support to others?

If the premise of this blog is anything to go on, there may not be an answer to this question at all. I mean yes, I can see the good in no longer having concerns about the practical issues that surrounded me being away for a twelve-hour day once a fortnight. The costs, the obligation to others for looking after the children, they’re all gone. But I feel inadequate to express the value of the deep friendships built up within the group of course attendees, and even the larger group relationship that has now been broken. It feels such a great loss.

On the last day of the course, we were given a quote by T S Eliot that I had to read a few times before I could make any sense of it; ‘ We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ I liked it in the end, because it suggested that what we perceive as endings, as finality, can instead be viewed as beginnings. Moments of pregnant expectation that there is now space for new and even better things to happen. And the result of each ending is that we are able to have a deeper experience of the situation we found ourselves in before. In the context of this course (a time of intense exploration) the ‘place’ was me; by the end of it I knew myself much better, in the context of my faith and my family and my work. This knowing is now another beginning in the process of becoming more comfortable in my own skin, a process that is of inestimable value.

Have I answered the question? I don’t think so particularly, as I’m sure had the course continued I would have continued to grow and learn through it. But I find comfort in that although we have to grieve for the good things that end, there is always the promise that if we continue to explore, there will always be more to learn and more to become.

Answering questions

One thing I’ve come to realise over time is that so very often the more important, or significant, or born of desperation a question is, the less easy it becomes to answer. Given all that life is capable of throwing at us, even for those of us who live in relative affluence, this can become more and more frustrating unless we bury the questions so deeply that we learn to forget they ever existed. Not an easy task. Mysteries have a way of being uncovered and confronting us again and again. And we are still fuelled by a desire to know, to uncover more truth, to understand ourselves, our communities, the world around us in all its complexity and diversity. Human beings are naturally curious creatures, a trait which brings us the comfort of recognising our own collaborative ability to push the boundaries of knowledge and understanding; but it is also a trait which is constantly being expressed because of the pressure of the sheer amount that we simply do not know.

There are occasionally times when I find I am able to accept my inability to come up with answers to the difficult questions, about the way people sometimes treat each other, about why we go through intense stress or loss, about this apparent inclination within many people to express some form of spirituality, and all the other uncategorisable questions there are. For brief periods there is the experience of peace, of an understanding that I don’t need to know, but that maybe one day I will. I think the human urge to expand our knowledge and understanding is vital for our survival, but I also think that the ability to be at peace with what we don’t yet know has the potential to be a healing gift to any who seek it.

There are big questions, there are small questions, and there are those in between; what follows in this blog could range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but I hope to use it not as a place to shove questions deep under the earth, but to treat each with the care and respect they deserve. I suppose whether any actually get answered is a question for another time…