Excuses, excuses!

I have ‘neglected’ this blog for a long time. Actually, that’s not strictly true; the truth is that I have worried a lot about not posting to it; but honestly felt unable to post anything, for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, I have been (and still am) ill, and have only limited energy and very limited powers of concentration and memory, almost all of which have had to be reserved for more basic, less ‘frivolous’, things than revealing yet more of my thoughts and feelings to the world.

Nevertheless, I have done a lot of thinking; some of it quite deep. It hasn’t all made sense, and of what made sense, I have often not been well enough to remember it, let alone write about it. And those things I have remembered, I have found that I didn’t want to share with the world - they were either too difficult, or I wasn’t sure I understood them well enough, or they were just too personal or painful. More recently though, my thoughts have begun to ‘gel’, to solidify, and to make sense...

Suffice it to say that I have ‘rethought’ much of what I believe ‘from the ground up’, and arrived at a somewhat different place from where I was a year or two ago. Whether I’ll ever be able - or feel brave enough - to describe where I am in my theological thinking remains to be seen. In some ways, a lot of the old certainties seem a lot less certain, and there is a great deal more mystery in my faith; in other ways, there is a lot more certainty - some aspects of ‘conventional’ evangelical Christian thought have ‘bothered me’ for a very long time, and some have given me grave doubts over many years; I have gradually, painfully, thought my way through many of those - and emerged from the other side. As a consequence, though my belief has changed in some areas, my faith in God, my awe of Him, and most of all my love for Him, are stronger than ever.

Throughout my illness, life has been a bit like a hurricane - incredibly stormy. So much has gone wrong, in so many ways, that it has been incredibly hard physically, but I have also suffered mentally. Much of the time it has been a struggle simply to continue to exist even to the extent of ‘putting one foot in front of the other’. Some of that is what has inspired my ‘rethink’ - but at the same time, mostly, the rethink is just something which needed to happen, and this enforced time of ‘being still’ was the necessary opportunity.

But, lest you think life has been unadulterated, unrelieved, hell - like all proper hurricanes, this one has an ‘eye’ - an area of tranquility at its centre. And that ‘eye’ is where my spirit has been residing, and where I have been able to retreat; to contemplate the Almighty, to pray, to think, and to read theology. Some of the time I have been unable to do much more than simply read, and re-read, the same few portions of scripture - very often Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

I have clung to that, particularly the green pastures bit, digging my spiritual fingernails in at times, so that if Psalm 23 was a person, it would surely have cried out in pain at the tightness of my grasp. After many months of contemplating it, I have something to say - a fresh (at least, new to me!) insight into the first few verses - which I promise I will return to in a later post.

A lot of the time my concentration has been so poor that the mere act of thinking has been really hard, and I’ve travelled the same thought ‘pathways’ numerous times before they’ve ‘made sense’ and ‘taken root’ in my mind.

Recently, after a near mental breakdown, I seem to have turned a corner in some sense, and am able, once more, to begin to think fairly clearly, to string together a rational argument (and remember it afterwards for more than a few seconds); that has enabled me to start to write ‘properly’ again - though most of what I’ve written so far is ‘for my eyes only’ - it’s been part of the thinking process - largely ‘freeing up’ processing power by committing my thoughts to electronic ‘paper’.

I think that’s probably more than enough of a ‘preamble’ about why it’s so many months since I posted anything here. More very soon...

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020