Friday, 17 May 2013

Living in the spaces

A week ago the church celebrated the feast of the Ascension, marking the end of God's presence on earth in human form, and we still have a couple of days to go before celebrating the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I remember reflecting last year on the significance of Holy Saturday: the sombre emptiness between the grieving of Good Friday and the explosion of Easter joy. Once again between Ascension and Pentecost we find ourselves with ten days to commemorate the absence of God; but this time, still within the season of Easter, we find ourselves with that absence juxtaposed against a backdrop of celebration and feasting.

Perhaps it is a time which has a particular resonance for me this year. Our early departure from Corrymeela left us with five months which were supposed to be already accounted for but which, as of mid-March, appeared as a glaring blank in our diaries ... which is before we even began to consider what we're going to do come September. We arrived back in Halesowen with a choice between fearing or embracing the empty unknown.

Empty spaces, white pages, blank canvases, are both daunting and exciting. They are the places which allow the spontaneity of an immediate yes to fill the gaps. They are the places which encourage a patient waiting for a future to unfold. They are the places of anticipation in which hope is possible.

I have never liked the "God of the Gaps" theology of a faith which pops up to supply the answers where human logic fails us; but pausing to reflect on these ten days: a time which is a celebration filled with emptiness and absence, makes me think maybe I can believe in a the God of these gaps. The God who accompanies us as we face our blank canvases: whether we choose to scribble all over them in thick black markers, or gradually fill them up with carefully planned intricate designs. The God who accompanies us too, when the blank canvas remains blank.

It is easy to leap from one major event to the next. Perhaps it is also important to sit with the spaces in between. Maybe the church has recognised in its calendar, that blanks in the diary aren't so bad.

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