My week away last week at Scargill House was called “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holy Mess”. It appealed because most of the time I feel as though my life is a mess, it certainly isn’t neat and tidy. Often it's not very holy either!
The week was led by Adrian and Bridget Plass who are part of the community at Scargill. Over 20 people live there full time with lots of volunteers helping out to keep things running smoothly.
I don’t know what I really expected but everything was far too overwhelming when I arrived. I had been on the verge of tears all day to be truthful and when there was a slight hiccup with the room allocation I took it as my cue to pick up my bags and walk as fast as I was able through the labyrinth of corridors.
I sat on a bench outside with Lily a young woman from the community, all I could do was cry and eventually I told her why.
This is what worried me most, having to explain my marital status over and over again. Why can’t I just be me? Why do I feel I have to be categorised as a WIDOW all the time? It's a part of me I still can't fully accept.
With nowhere else to run I stayed and repeated my sorry tale over and over. It does get easier the second, third and fourth time. I was faced with a crowd of strangers that I was going to be spending time with so I couldn't just pretend my life is ordinary.
There were other widows there but they were older and they seemed far more normal than I felt. I am still far too young to be a widow. Although one day I'm sure I'll look in the mirror and discover I'm not!
Throughout the week we looked at the book of Acts and the early Christians. The teaching part was divided into three, on the first day we looked at the body of the church, how we are all different and yet all important. The second day we wrestled with the freedom Jesus gives us, he fulfilled the Old Testament laws and our only commandments are to love him and love one another.
The third day was the hardest topic, the cross and suffering. I really couldn’t tell you what Adrian and Bridget had to say because I sobbed my way through that session. The tears bubbled over uncontrollably. When it had finished Adrian laid a large hand on my shoulder and the empathy was palpable.
But don’t think I spent the entire week in tears, I soon latched onto the rebels of the group; we were loud and laughed lots!
After each morning teaching session and before free time in the afternoon there was time to be creative. We all worked on writing, drama, music and artwork for a communion service on the Thursday evening taking the themes we'd been studying.
Now this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, we all like our tea different strengths and colours anyway. There were even people there who suddenly wondered if this was what they had signed up for and what they had to offer!
However to me it was amazing to have the freedom to be inspired and just run with an idea. I actually did very little writing but enjoyed joining in with the drama group for part of the week. I love being centre stage, it’s where I thrive.
But the first thing I created was a piece of art.
Now “ART” is pretty scary, we have so many talented Artists in our church and I am not using the word lightly. We have regular exhibitions in our very own Artspace and finally last year I took the plunge and created a picture to display, but it took a couple of years to believe I was capable.
What I accomplished last week was big, bold and installed right at the front for all to see. It was important for me to do something on my own and to realise the confidence that I have grown.
It was interesting to hear most people preface their performances throughout the week with an apology, uncertain that their efforts were worthwhile. We all long for a voice, a chance to be heard and this was a good place to express ourselves.
My idea came from something Adrian had said on the first evening about living outside of the box. Then Bridget told us there were some colourful saris and some large boxes we could use as we liked.
So I put all these elements together and came up with this...
Usually we only show the tidy bits of our lives, airbrushing the mess that we are ashamed of, but what if our lives, our boxes, exploded? What if everything was on show? The ugly truths alongside the beauty? Brokenness next to the loveliness? The tangled and torn mixed with sensuous silks?
As the week unfolded I added a smashed mug and fresh flowers that would wither and die, it was organic, other people added poems too.
On the last night I read my own poem, I didn’t totally escape the writing muse but these 3 verses were all I wrote.
A riot of colour
A tangle of threads
A mess of emotions
An explosion of tears
A scattering of worry
A knot of disaster
A muddle of lies
A jumble of fears
A forest of darkness
A mountain of grief
A hope of a future
A gift of these years
Now all I have to do is enjoy the gift I've been given, but those thoughts I will explore another day...