Saturday, 26 May 2012

Rocky roads

If we are truly taking the path less travelled then we are likely to hit some rocky situations. We are likely to trip, become tired and irritable, become lost and bewildered or just plain fed up. Perhaps we want to go back and take the other path, we're fed up with the challenges and the uncertainties. Except, of course, we can't. Living a life of faith means going where and when the spirit moves us.

When we are attempting to do this within a faith community we have to work out for ourselves how we deal with our frustrations - personal and community-focused. We are all called to have faith. Faith in the road - not necessarily any particular direction - but in the imperative to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this road.

However we deal with our frustrations we need to do this in love - with compassion for ourselves and our beloved companions. And with gratitude - because these glitches, these stumblings, these times when we say,'Hold on am I really in the right place?' or 'Am I really with the right people?' are times of grace. If we can hold to our authentic selves - if we can accept that usually (but not always) at least half of the problems stem from us - and if we can give ourselves time to travel within, then my experience tells me that the hard times and how they are dealt with herald real personal growth. For this we should indeed offer sincere thanks.

So how, within any group or community, do we make it OK for people to express their unhappiness without those hearing the words feeling defensive, hurt or helpless? I think that there probably are no rules apart from the need to accept as a community that this is OK. I have seen people walk away because of a piece of behaviour or one approach or some words said in anger or frustration. There are times when I have felt like doing this myself. And in some instances I have walked away from people and groups. But never in haste, never in anger and never without being certain that I get more pain than joy from the situation.

It is very difficult to deal with internal problems for communities which maybe only meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The storming can seem to go on for years when if we saw each other every day the storming would be over much more quickly. When I work with voluntary organisations experiencing difficulties I often advise them to go back to basics - to look at their governing document and their aims. In developing spiritual community we often need to return to our purpose - what we collectively and individually are within this community for. And perhaps sometimes we need to re-find our purpose. It can so easily get lost in the need to do things like looking after the building and focusing on growth in numbers.

There are times when we feel that our needs are not being met - perhaps we have changed or other people have. At this point we need to faithfully take the next step on the road, with our communities or not, as the spirit leads us, or in some cases as the spirit pushes us.

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