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The core of Cynthia’s challenge to us throughout the “Relearning Trust” retreat last month was to consider that there may be an alternative to hacking away at the obstacles we perceive in life. She encouraged us to consider an alternative to seeking to wrestle the untidy realities of life under control.

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Reflecting on our five-day “Relearning Trust” teaching retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault at the end of September I am struck by an experience I had on day three of our time together.

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Basic thesis of this retreat:

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From 25-29 September 2022 Heather and I spent five days in Nanaimo with a group of fifty people from Canada and the US in person and another eighty on Zoom from around the world some as far away as South Africa, attending a retreat/workshop with Cynthia Bourgeault. Heather and I are inveterate note-takers.

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I was asked recently by a person who is, to the best of my knowledge, not connected to any kind of church community to describe my “experience of God.” It seems, after forty-two years in the official religion business, I should perhaps be able to respond in some way to such a question.

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Clearing out my desk in preparation for retirement, I came across the story of “The Cracked Pot”. I have no idea the origin of this little parable; but I was touched by the wisdom. Be gentle and kind with your cracks and the cracks of others. There is beauty in our brokenness:

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Give our Lord the benefit of believing
That his hand is leading you,
And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
In suspense, and incomplete.


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Only God could say what this new spirit
Gradually forming within you, will be.

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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. 


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You have set my feet in a spacious place ~ Psalm 31:8

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