Sixty-five years ago on this St. Bartholomew Day at 8:50 p.m., I took my first uncertain breath on the labour and delivery floor of the now demolished King’s Daughter’s Hospital in Duncan, British Columbia.

I do not remember the day. But I imagine, like most newborns upon arrival, I mustered up what little strength I had and screamed. I am sure the transition from safe, dark, protected womb to unfamiliar, cold, threatening, awkward world was not a journey I welcomed. Travelling in this world still makes me a tiny bit squeamish much of the time.

I was blessed to be born into a stable, supportive, loving, though reserved, family.

Curiously, in acknowledgement of my arrival, my father carefully penned in our family album words from John 1:47:

An Israelite indeed.

The word “Israel” means “wrestles with God.”

Despite the protected environment of my early life, I discovered quickly that, for a small boy in the ’50s, life outside home  was a rough and tumble affair, to which I did not adapt with ease. The world out there was, for me, a terrifying place. I knew I could not measure up. There was simply no hiding the fact that, in almost every way my peers measured success, I could not keep up with the pack.

In response to my obvious lack I developed a tough, or at least remote, exterior aimed at protecting me from the harder edges of the world I kept banging up against. I developed strategies for hiding. I retreated behind a carefully crafted persona, identified by the moniker “Alfred”, mascot of “Mad Magazine,” whose famous tagline, uttered with a shrug, suited me well, “What, me worry?”

I still resist the awkward realities of life. It remains a temptation to hide behind a carefully preserved facade rather than risk the vulnerability of being truly seen. My first instinct is to walk away with a shrug.

What has changed is that I now recognize the price I pay when I disengage. I understand that isolation is hazardous to my psychological, spiritual, and even physical well-being.

So, in many ways, it was a gift in my early 20’s when a career path chose me which forced me into daily contact with a vast array of people. I have sought to walk alongside these fellow travellers with some degree of presence, openness, and authenticity. But it has never come easily to be in relationship. It remains work. I still have to make a conscious effort to join the human race.

The load of this work is lightened by the awareness that I am not alone. Most people find human relationships at times awkward and difficult.

Being with people is simply a risk. There will inevitably be discomfort, hurt, and at times pain that feels unbearable. But it is the last word that is the lie that fear tells. In fact, it is not “unbearable.” Paul was not being insensitive or lacking compassion, when he wrote,

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

This verse from I Corinthians is just deeply true. My “testing” may not look exactly like your “testing”. But my years of interacting with many people convinces me that there is no honest human being who does not at times struggle. And there are times when the best we can do is just “endure it.” To “endure” is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, heading in the general direction of love.

To head in the direction of love means to aim at openness, honesty, vulnerability. It means choosing to believe that there is that within me that is greater and stronger and more real than anything I fear. In my tradition we call this greater and stronger  quality “God”. We say that we see this power or love manifest in the person of Jesus. And Paul says that this love

has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

So, there is nothing left to protect. There is no need to hide or pretend. The power of love lives inside me. The journey is simply to learn day by day to trust that power more deeply and live from that place of love more fully.

I am pretty sure sixty-five years should be enough to find my way to that place of deep trust in the power that brought me into this world all those years ago. But, still there are days when my consciousness falters and I have to seek again the deep knowing that I am truly a child of God filled with that mysterious life-force of love that nothing can ever destroy.