7 years ago Jaybercrow preached at our wedding about that beautiful list of words from Colossians 3 – compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, forgiveness and love – above all, love.
He said that although they sounded like such wedding-y words, like words someone might cross-stitch to hang in our new house (they didn’t, thank goodness), that really they were more like words that should be chiselled, in stone.
He told my handsome groom and I that these words, so full of down to earth realism and earthy wisdom, encourage us to expect that our life together is not going to be easy.
He reminded the polished, scrubbed up versions of ourselves that we were not just giving our good selves to each other but our dark selves, our weak selves, too. We would discover more about our capacity for selfishness than ever before. Practising compassion, or forgiveness, is not some cuddly idea, but a challenge. A challenge that is too much for us.
But he preached of a bigger love, a bigger compassion, a bigger forgiveness… of a life where we love out of the overflow of God’s love for us.
He told that story about Bono being asked in an interview what his favourite passage of scripture was. His answer was ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (which is also my favourite). Bono said that if he was writing a pop song version of that verse it would be ‘Shut up and let me love you’.
I got a tattoo this morning, for my 7th wedding anniversary. It needs to heal a bit.
It says: ‘Be Still’.
I often think of Bono’s paraphrase in my quest to learn to love my husband well, in my quest for Stillness, and in my quest, I suppose, for God.
It is so hard for me to shut up.
My fondness for ‘Sharon-Time’ is well known to those closest to me. But SHARON-time does me no good. It is exhausting. I have mistaken it for stillness only to discover that all of my tools for being still are just that, tools, and I can misuse them. I can carry all my busyness, all my worry, Ideas, Solutions, discontent, plans and wondering right with me on my walk, into the bath, into the very pages of my book.
I imagine I have little opportunity to be still and I blame the noise and the busyness on all the outside things – mostly life with small children – but as it turns out, inside my own head is just as noisy and agitated.
I can turn even the act of being still into a competitive sport and a pressure, another ‘not enough’ in our culture of scarcity. Another thing I have to fight for, for ME.
I read a great line from Hugh Bishop of Mirfield, quoted by Madeleine L’Engle, that “Love is not an emotion. It is a policy.” Stillness, I am starting to realise, is not quietness or Sharon-time or watching a sunset. It’s not a feeling or a fleeting opportunity or an unattainable goal. Stillness, I decide, is going to become a policy. And I need a tattoo to remind me.
It is so hard for me to shut up, and let anyone love me. I am always chirping in.
7 years ago Jaybercrow preached at our wedding, and I took the words to heart, like I always do. And I’m glad I did.
But here’s the thing – I can take any kind of words, wisdom, truth… any worthy practice for stillness or living or loving – and I can, I don’t know – sharon-ise them. F*** them up, so to speak. I am kind of in a rush, to learn and do the right thing and avoid all the mistakes. I am always striving for wisdom beyond my years, trying to avoid being needy or naive. Marriage is hard! Parenting is hard! I take mental notes, chisel them into the stone of my serious little mind.
I can read all of the books and take all of the notes but I still wake up to discover, we have to learn our story, which no one has written yet.
The sages are right. Marriage is hard and parenting in hard, and belief in God, for me anyway, is damn hard. But as Glennon Doyle Melton (who, let’s be honest, I totally stole the tattoo idea from) says: We Can Do Hard Things.
So we will raise a glass this week to 7 years of marriage, to the beautiful hard work of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, forgiveness and love. And I will wiggle my foot and see how it’s healing and remember Stillness is now a policy round here.
I will remember there is an antidote to my seriousness, try-hard, DIY love attempts, and it starts with shutting up.
Here’s to another year, or 7, of living loved….