Before I left, I couldn’t imagine ever writing this post. Couldn’t see any life for myself beyond the trip to Taizé. Yet here I write. Here I am. And I feel strengthened, renewed by the time away, and able, taking things slowly, to face the days ahead.
This year’s trip wasn’t as easy as the last. I was starting from a place of much lower energy, and enthusiasm for life, and was much more weary for the time that had passed since my last stay. I went to Taizé to spend time on my own, in an individual tent, in reflection, and in writing. And to a degree, this is what I did. I visited the Source, walked alone, sat in silence, in prayer. I ‘reduxed’ the day’s Psalm (Psalms 46, 54, 57), and wrote other poetry, (In Locus Christi, Chess God, Church at Taize) as the words appeared to me.
But, as well as that, and perhaps owing to the relative safety of the “adults’ tent”, (and a massive hail and thunderstorm causing me to abandon my tent on the lat night) this year I spent more time with more people, and in sharing with others in Bible study and mealtime conversation. As the Bible introductions led us through a theme of solidarity, the daily questions, probing friendships, journeying, and sharing, took me into a realm where I could, with the tiniest (and beautifully formed) Bible study group, tell parts, small snippets, of my story. There was true blessing in that.
There was blessing too, in the unexpected. Growing up non-conformist, I have never paid much attention to icons. If anything, I have avoided them, believing that they cannot capture a much bigger, more-complicated-than-we-can-imagine God. But this year, led by the others in Bible study, I found myself drawn to the Taizé church icons. In particular, to the icon of Christ, and His friend. It spoke to me, as I gazed on it, of Jesus as someone who was reaching out to me in friendship. Even if I couldn’t be sure of anyone else’s friendship, I could be sure of His.
In church, I found, rather than singing along with the chants in the services, I was praying under them, as they were sung around me. And I was crying. Often, because I was overwhelmed with bitterness and lack of understanding of a God who would lumber me with two disabilities: wasn’t one enough? Did I deal with that one wrong? Why give me a disability that makes relationship with people, with God, hard? Smacked in the face. Feeling simply too weak to cope with what lies ahead, with the mess of my life as it is. Knowing I will never be brave enough to be true to myself. Why bother continuing like that?
I also cried, but stifled quickly, tears at glimpses of God’s love and acceptance of me, as I am, as His friend. At those times, I felt I would cry without ceasing. I was challenged by someone I spoke to, not to write. Not to write, because in writing I intellectualise what is happening, contain what I am feeling. Rather, this person suggested, that when I do catch glimpses of acceptance, I allow myself to feel, really feel, God’s love for me, to be overwhelmed by it, in a place where it doesn’t matter what state I am in. On hearing this, I froze. Realised how fearful I am of my response to knowing God’s love. Realised safely giving way to the emotion is something I must do. Even if, for now, I am writing.
We were asked by the brother leading Bible study, to choose a word, just one word,to sum up the week, to carry with us to next year. I chose “precious”. Precious, because that is what I am to God. Precious, precious, precious, I now repeat, when dark thoughts begin to drum in my mind.
This year, Taizé has shown me how precious I am to God. That’s enough to cling to for the year ahead.