A Lent Reflection
Neil Smalley, 11th March 2021
A lent reflection by Neil Smalley, a member of St John’s.
Wandering through my mind, seeking the garden, and he let me find it. I didn’t want to say or ask anything; I just wanted him to know that I had come. To say I wanted to share anything would be presumptuous. His disciples were scattered, still, or sleeping under the trees, and I was left in Judas’ place. I needed him to know I wouldn’t run, as they had done. I just wanted to feel his last still moment of quiet envelop me, among the trees, moonlight above, dew-damp grass below.
His shadow moved from behind a tree, into my mind, and caught me unawares, exposed in my petty guilt, my hollow vanities, my shabby little sins. My serpent skin, glittering, beguiling, scaly jewels without, but all clammy, malodorous corruption within - the deceit I wear to hid my shame - all stripped away by his gaze; not condemning, not accusing, not even pitying, but more sympathising. Loving, in fact. The way my Mother looked when, as a child, I had fallen from grace, in her eyes. Disappointment, forgiveness, unqualified love, all in her one, untutored glance. As to her, all I could say to him was “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!”
A cloud crossed the moon and drew down, around my shoulders, a cloak as dark as the tomb, dank cold as the stone. I feared the garden was blighted by my step, the blooms dashed by my glance, fruits poisoned by the vapour of my lingering guilt.
Then his loving gaze burned off the dark and cold, as the morning sun restores warmth to the day. There was joy as he said “Your time for sorrow has passed, and the guilt, and the forgiveness. All you have now is love and grace and joy. They are in all you have. Yes, you will fall again; you are not perfect, and there is still evil to be fought. There will always be those who will never let my wounds completely heal. When children suffer, my heart bleeds. When innocents are deprived, I hunger and thirst and shiver and sicken. When the old are neglected, I weep and grieve. My work of redemption is never-ending.
But you I have made safe. I have ransomed your soul from iniquity. My Father will not let you perish. With his love to assure you, with me to guide you, and the Spirit working within you, you will find peace. Love is the key. Love every man, woman and child as your own, as your Father loves you, and you cannot fail them. Uphold them, and you glorify the Father, you honour me, and you justify the gift of the Spirit. Remember only that love is the key”.
The trees stirred in a whisper of breeze. A thread of light ran across the rim of my mind, and I was alone; in stillness and silence, and at peace.