I’d had an incredibly stressful few days.
Mums was admitted to hospital. It was a terribly worrying time as the doctor sought a diagnosis. As you can imagine, my stress level rose considerably during those 4 days! Thankfully, diagnosis determined and three pints of blood later, Mums returned home. It was so wonderful seeing a smile once more on her thin, white face.
Every Wednesday I attend Bible Study. This week I really needed it. I was looking forward to seeing everyone, I needed warm reassuring hugs and encouraging words. I guess that’s one thing about living alone. You don’t have that warm embrace you can hang onto. I have Perdita and Spencer but a dog and a cockatiel fall short as far as hugs go! At Bible Study, I knew that I would receive warm hugs and gorgeous cake. Perdita, my wire-haired dachshund, came with me to Bible Study. She also looked forward to the hugs, and definitely the cake!!!
My friend ‘B’ arrived to fetch me at 6.15 pm. Perdita, complete in her beautiful green lead, rushed to greet her in eager anticipation. Giving Perdita a pat, she said to me: “Gaynor, you’ve forgotten, it’s Ash Wednesday! There is no Bible Study tonight. We are all going to church.”
Shytenhauzen, it had completely slipped my mind! I bent down, took Perdita’s lead off and gave this crestfallen ‘child’ a cuddle.
“I’m sorry, Angel-Face, you can’t come with us to church. We won’t be long. You cuddle up on the bed. We will see you later.”
I gave her one of her biscuits that she normally commits harakiri over. She turned away from it in disdain and walked through to my bedroom. I had been dismissed!
Our Pastor’s name is Pete Veysie. Pete has a natural warmth with people. He is a people’s person. His face is perpetually creasing into broad smiles. At the same time, he is a person who is often moved, and moved deeply. Our church has got used to seeing this athletic man standing talking, with tears pouring down his cheeks.
He is a person who inspires love.
Every week I sit in the second row. Pete knows I am deaf and generally speaks accordingly. Occasionally I miss a word. And naturally query it. Instantly Pete is there, repeating the word for me. He has got used to me interrupting him with: “I don’t understand, Pete. Are you saying that….”
Patiently, no doubt hiding his irritation at having his carefully planned sermon interrupted, he explains my question away.
I sat down at Wednesday’s service and thought: Oh glory, it’s now Lent! What am I going to give up? Chuckles? I thought of my Woolworths chocolate speciality. No, I can’t give up Chuckles. That was asking the impossible! Biltong? Perish the thought! This needed serious consideration. You did not give up an item such as…as milk. No, you didn’t give up milk because milk was a necessity. Well, I felt the same way about biltong and Chuckles. They weren’t a necessity but I needed them! Sigh…maybe I could give up cheesecake…….
At that moment, Pete began speaking.
He talked about giving up things for Lent. Oh oh, I thought, here go your Chuckles and biltong! But Pete had a different itinerary in mind. When you thought about Lent, you instantly thought about giving up things like chocolate, wine or sweets. Pete suggested we take a different approach.
He proposed that we fast from anger and hatred. We should try and refrain from those cutting remarks that so often rise to our lips and try giving out a little extra love instead.
We should give up judging others. That really hit home. Just recently I had been struck by how judgemental I can be of others. I, in turn, am incredibly sensitive and hate to be judged. Yet here I was judging others left, right and centre!
Recently I had gone through an awful time of feeling disheartened and demoralised. Suddenly I heard Pete saying I must give up feeling discouraged. Think of all the good things that had happened to you. I smiled at that. As far as good things were concerned, they had fallen over themselves in their abundance.
We should give up complaining. Life contains so much beauty and joy, Pete pointed out. The old woman’s hands gently caressing the child’s head. Knobbly, worn, calloused fingers containing so much love. So beautiful, so real. One needs to remind oneself to see the beauty and delight in the world. The joy that is all around us.
We should not feel resentment and anger. They make you feel hollow inside and hurt no one but yourself. I used to carry a kind of belligerence and bitterness like a well worn knapsack on my back. The relief of letting them go! I was able to walk upright once more, free and unencumbered.
We are already ten days into Lent. There are only another thirty days left.
We live in a world overcrowded with pain, anger, brutality, misery and hopelessness. If everyone who reads this, attempts to follow ‘Pete’s Fast’, irrespective of their beliefs, think what a more harmonious and beautiful world we would live in.
Perhaps, after thirty days, you will have begun to sow the seeds of a habit. You might like the way you are feeling. You could be enjoying the smiles on answering faces. You might find that, like me, you enjoy walking unencumbered by bitterness, anger and hate. That you like the feeling of walking upright and free of unnecessary burdens.
And, you will be helping create a world filled with happiness!