Recently I was asked to give a small vignette for The Bless Talks on my work as an activist. I confess I found this very hard given that I have not in the classical sense of the word been very active (at least when I compare it too earlier incarnations), in the last few years. Gone for me are the days of charging around the world, viewing the hard toils of small-scale gold miners, challenging the large-scale mining world to wake up to their noxious smell of being the worlds biggest polluters and representing the faceless minority of the market mammonists.
In fact in many ways I am quite the opposite. I work from home, if earning a profit of £320 for the last tax year can equal work. I write the odd article for the jewellery trade press and have been working on a commissioned autobiography of my days with CRED Jewellery and the work done in fighting for justice through the jewellery trade. I don’t travel much any more, I am content to stay at home, indulge the vain love I have for my football team and try to remind myself I am more than a work machine for the worldly system.
So why the confession? Perhaps because during my short vignette I made the statement ‘that my internal journey is far more dynamic than my external one’. At the time it was a slightly off the cuff statement to a group of mainly young(ish) Christians who were aspiring to serve God in the way of social justice, experimental church communities and artistic forms of worship. And before you run away with yourself and assume I am about to launch into a diatribe against this, I am not. Quite the reverse, the enthusiasm for new expressions of faith in a volatile and insecure world, such as the one we live in, is undoubtedly important for the re-establishing of faith in a modern secular society like Britain. After all we have the freedom to do this and for us not to explore the vibrancy of the gospel and its power to change life is vital. In fact would be a crime against Heaven if we did not.
So my point in this short blog post is not to detract from this activity, rather to promote the need for encountering God in the mundane of daily obscurity. It is a lesson I have needed to learn over the last few years and will continue to learn as I grow older. The real change and most dynamic activity I can undertake is the discipline of the daily encounter with Christ. This contemplative activity is in itself a project. The project of the negation of the false self and embracing the silence. Of encountering the voice of God the Creator in the walk into town, filling the dish washer, having the ear to respond to the simple cry of help from a friend, the request for money from the beggar (that requires you notice him first), as well as the grander plans that may be on offer. This mundane discipline was not on the foundation course I took when I was first a follower of Christ and as far as I am aware is not part of the now world-famous Alpha franchise.
To be a Contemplative Activist is first and foremost to be a contemplative. To contemplate Christ is to learn to be undone, and in the undoing be discovered as I truly am and who I am truly called to be. This undoing often means facing the brutal facts of ones own failure, sins, and weaknesses. Of accepting the natural grace of God regardless of my failures. In fact I have discovered that God supports us in our sin, which may sound controversial, but is the scandalous nature of God’s active grace in nurturing all of life regardless of performance. To contemplate Christ is to embrace the dynamism of the inner journey that leads to Paradise and the fulfillment of the souls primal desire for authentic union with God. This union requires two simple conditions; stillness and a silent heart. Is this not the greatest battle we face in a wild, noisy, chaotic world? To be still and silent.
In the stillness and silence we allow ourselves to be embraced by the ocean that is Gods creative person, thereby dispelling any fear we may hold that stillness leads to inactivity, or silence means be mute and losing ones voice. I confess that when I first encountered God’s deep silence the fear I would lose the one commodity I seemed to have been blessed with, namely my voice, was a very real fear and one I need not have worried about. Gods activity in creation is eternally ongoing and therefore to reside within a relationship with God is therefore to reside in that ongoing creativity of Gods original voice.
The trajectory of God’s love seems to send us and receive us in the same motion, and I confess living in this vital motion is not natural to me. It does require my intentional focus and the support of a nurturing set of relationships. I am glad I have travel companions on the road home and am learning this to be the communion of the Saints.
Living in limbo is vital to me now, as it has afforded me the time and space to be discovered and is proving a healthy antidote to the worlds confusion to be busy.