Dear Friends,
When I was writing in this space last time we were looking at bright, sunny days with lots of daylight hours… think of all that Vitamin D! Now here we are, still with bright sunny days, but they don’t last very long… by November it’s long dark nights and dreary days and I just want to hibernate for a few months. That’s also a bit like sticking my head in the sand when something dark or tough in my life is coming, after a lovely peaceful and unchallenging time… but I really don’t want to face it. Do you know what I mean? I’m sure many of you will do.

So how do we help each other get to a place where it’s possible to tackle that challenge… first of all we have to admit that we have a problem and I have never found that part very easy to do. I’m sure I will have bitten some heads off, behaved out of character or hidden away until someone plucks up the courage to ask what’s wrong and then it all comes tumbling out. Tumbling out at the wrong time, in the wrong place and with the wrong person… or at least that’s what it feels like!!

Secondly we have to accept some form of help! The telling of the story to someone else may be enough but it could be that something else is needed… maybe praying with someone that you trust, maybe seeking advice from an experienced person, maybe another pair of hands for some physical action. Or how about composing a letter to the person causing the problem and running it past someone else first to see if it really says what you want it to… being honest but not brutal, being a critical friend perhaps? I could go on… but this is all about being honest with yourself first.

And God asks us in so many ways, through passages in the Bible especially, to be honest as people of faith with each other. We can’t grow in faith if we don’t wrestle with our issues, we can’t grow as churches if we don’t grapple with ‘the elephant in the room’ at Church Meetings or Elders Meetings but we need to do it in safe spaces, in God’s spaces made safe by God. We need to do it with respect and compassion and if sometimes our passion for an issue makes us appear rude or hurtful then we need to make sure that we are prayerful before, during and after. If apologies become needed then we don’t hesitate to make them.

I have just returned from a meeting of people who are privileged to have been asked to help in the discernment process for ministerial candidates. During this process we must ask the difficult questions for everyone’s sake otherwise there may be ‘square pegs put into round holes’ which will be damaging to others as well as to the particular individual… and it’s so tempting to be ‘nice’! But that isn’t what God wants. God wants us to be real at all times, to be those unafraid to offer ‘tough love’ in difficult situations, to listen to people with problems of the sort we are uncomfortable with and get embarrassed about. Yet God will support us at these times and give us the right words, should any be needed, and most of all will help us to ‘be’ with the person we are beside.

So in the coming darker months and long nights try to bring God’s light into your part of the community and take hold of it for yourself. Amen.

Pat