"I have come to appreciate the "worldliness" of Christianity as never before. The Christian is not a being defined by religion, but is a man or a woman, pure and simple, just as Jesus became man... It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman, a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one... This is what I mean by worldliness -- taking all of life, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness... How can success make us arrogant or failure lead us astray, when we so need to participate in the sufferings of God by living in this world?"
Amidst a pleasant amble through the woods today, I sat and had lunch by a group of small drops in a stream, where the waters cascaded almost musically in the sunlight. It's a favourite spot -somewhere I've visited numerous times the last few years in both walks and as a back-drop for some of my photography.
As I sat there, chewing on my pastie, I noticed how the sunlight clearly showed a contrast between the parts of the stones above the water and those beneath the flowing current.
The area of the stones not affected by the water were, well, filthy - covered in earth and moss, clearly being overgrown by all their environment literally 'threw' upon them, but the area of the same stones below the water was a different story entirely. The brilliant light showed that these areas had not only been cleaned of all such debris, but 'polished' to expose a lush red colour - the natural state of the stone, glistening in the water. The difference was so striking, it reminded me of something a friend had once told me - of some large rocks on a beach that were infused with iron. When water had been applied to these rocks in bad weather, the iron leached out, changing the colour of the gray stone itself and the pools of water beneath it.
Both of these spoke to me of the essence of Christian spirituality.
We are gray stones, either washed up or covered in the mire of the present life, but the 'alien' nature of Christ's imparted life, working within us and around us, changes all of this, making us become those who realize that it's only the presence of such a life that can make us more than plain stones - it is that life that makes us 'natural' - human once again, and thereby able to genuinely show care for others and even for ourselves.
A little later in my walk, as I sat, a little like Jonah, under a shady tree, I pondered how we might live in a manner that truly worships God. It is so easy to be religious, and thereby to completely miss what is really necessary. It is only when we recognize that God is present amidst it all, our best and worse, when we think we achieve and when we know we fail - in everything, Christ can be shown to be what defines reality, and that is imperative if those we love, those God grants us to know, are to see a reality that is entirely meaningful in life.
A 'living stone' certainly does not gather moss, but radiates a life that makes it more than it ever could be if it merely remained...gray.