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And so I think it is with you;
Your ideas mature gradually – let them grow
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
As though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
Acting on your own good will)
Will make of you tomorrow.

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And yet it is the law of all progress
That it is made by passing through
Some stages of instability –
And that it may take a very long time.

This is the alarming, unsettling element of being in between what was and what is to come – one frightening but familiar word – “instability.” 

Everything in me is unsettled. On the old shore I had some sense of who I am. My circumstances reinforced my identity. Now all that is to be torn away. I face an empty space and wonder if I will truly exist in this vacuum.

But, Teilhard tells me that “all progress” depends upon meeting this one thing I dread. I must, he says, pass “through/ Some stages of instability.” And, of course, it has always been true. 

One of the most important lessons I have had to embrace over the past forty years of my “professional” life is that I must not allow myself to be defined by anything I do in the external world or by any office or position I might hold. I am not the vestments I have worn, the sermons I have preached, the counsel I have given. I am not defined by any functions or trappings of a position I am about to step away from. 

When I allow myself to be defined by what I do, I become attached to everything that supports the illusion of stability offered by the position I fill. Then I begin to use my position for my own benefit and anything that fails to reinforce my fragile sense of security becomes my enemy. 

The truth I need to see is that the “stages of instability” cannot take away from me anything I cannot freely let go. I do not need to be the preacher, the presider, the counsellor, the spiritual guide. These are only roles I may have filled; they are not essential to who I am. 

I must find that which is more true about me in the midst of this “passing through” stage of my life between one shore and the other. 

Lord, help me to find the strong steady ground of that true unchangeable identity that will never forsake me. 

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
To reach the end without delay.We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
To something unknown,
Something new.

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I had a conversation with someone this morning who, having ingested his regular morning diet of alarming international news, announced, “I have decided what I am going to give up for Lent.”

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Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

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In Mark’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 35, Mark says:

On that day, when evening had come,
Jesus said to them
‘Let us go across to the other side.’

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