Inner Circle

 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Dear Inner Circle,

A couple came to see me a few months ago. They’d had a stable marriage and seemed to have found a way to work together, maximizing the opportunities life offered and building a successful life. A sudden revelation brought all of this crashing to the ground in the speed of a text message. I’ll never forget the look on their faces in my office as each one looked at the other as if they were alien. I think the problem was that the two had become one. They seemed to know each other so well that each was utterly predictable to the other. Each could count on the other and there was little, if any, mystery. Oh, the joy of not knowing. Oh, the misery of knowing someone so well that they become invisible. They saw me again this week. Again, the look on their faces rendered me speechless. The change is hard to explain. Wonder and not knowing had returned. They each looked at the other as if waiting for a revelation. I asked how they could explain this turnaround; half-hoping I might have said something wise that might have helped. They told me that the only real change they could observe is that they no longer let the television run in the evenings, and at an agreed time, they turn their phones off. For months now, they listen to the news and then for the rest of the evening they talk to one another. This week, neither one offered me any observations to help me understand the other. The only pronouns they used were, “We, us and our”. Talking is a miracle. By talking they had discovered that there was much they didn’t know about the other and each was relieved of the burden of being the “smart” one in the relationship. I could barely believe I was talking with the same couple. Stability is not always a sign of health or life. Many years ago, I did a placement at a psychiatric hospital and I almost worshipped my supervising psychiatrist. In those days, the prevailing language in that world was Freudian and I lapped it up. At the end of the long placement I had the opportunity to spend an extended time with my hero doctor. I told him that I had enjoyed learning and had a workable understanding of the drugs commonly used and of the language in his world but I was keen to know, “What do you think actually heals people?” To my utter astonishment, shattering all my illusions, he replied, “Oh, I don’t know. Talking, I think.”


At weddings, I never say, “The two shall become one”. If anything, I’d say, “The two shall become two”. It’s a massive trap to let mystery escape. Likewise, all religions offer two great traps. On the one hand, some religions have you so identify with the Divine, that you disappear or on the other hand, the Divine seems to evaporate up your own posterior so that the massive questions of meaning are answered by your own reflections. Run from these traps as fast as you can. To love is to act. Love is not explained by any feeling whatsoever. Certainly, love is accompanied by feeling but never constituted by it. If there is no other, there is no act. No state of being, no heavenly bliss, no euphoria, no experience comes close to explaining the mystery of love. To meet is to act. It is to be in the presence of the other and respond. I don’t care much how anyone would explain love provided the explanation began with the phrase, “That activity which…” Every act of love creates community. Someone will write in and say, “What about when I love my cat or a tree or the ocean?” Even so, you can experience the ocean; it will allow you to extract any amount of experience from it. You can analyse it if you like, measure it, weigh it, surf it, use it. You can relate in this way to other people or to a tree or a cat. Yet I would say that even the ocean can give itself to you as if it was truly the other and you by being in its presence, are captured by the awesome. All real living is meeting.


Remember how many of us wished a fond farewell to 2016 with hopes for a better 2017? I’m not sure that this year is going to deliver us into utopia. At Wayside, we’re only into week five of the year and already we’ve had five deaths. One fellow had a kind of severe face and at first meeting, it would be hard not to be cautious but as I fell in love with a beautiful heart that severe old face looked more and more lovely. The last time I saw him, we stared at each other for some time without talking, eventually breaking into broad smiles and then laughter. It was like I was looking at grace itself.


Just minutes ago I received word that a lovely old Kings Cross character has died. This man lived on the streets for longer than anyone can remember. A couple of times we managed to house him but his eccentric ways and his chain-smoking soon saw him on the streets again. He was a fit man because he walked all day long. Wayside was pretty much his home over all these years. We had a challenge that ran for some years here, trying to get this dear old thing into the shower. At one point, we had to burn toast to overcome his unique odour. I’ll never forget the day he took off his socks on Hughes St and it disturbed what I was doing on the third floor of our building. Our last move was to get him housed again and we were comforted to know that he died in the care of the angels that work at St Vincent's. No one will ever know the full story but I’m proud and honoured that we played such a caring role for so long. Rest in peace dear brother.


My sincere thanks for being part of this precious inner circle.


Graham



Rev Graham Long AM

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

www.revgrahamlong.com

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Previous Inner Circles

2017

26 January: Australia Day

19 January: Wow

13 January: The Joy of Being Useless

2016

22 December: Miracles in the Messy

15 December: A Season for Demons

8 December: Soul Restorer

1 December: Holy Ground

24 November: Opening Presence for Christmas

17 November: On Our Best Behaviour For a Day

10 November: A Seismic Shift

3 November: Outcomes by Accident

27 October: Wow! Look How Far You've Come

20 October: Moving Toward Our Destiny

13 October: A Tribute

06 October: Risk and Sacrifice

29 September: Wisdom in Unconventional Places

22 September: It's What We Do at Wayside

15 September: The Joy of Being Wrong

8 September: Turning Toward Love

1 September: The Power of Weakness

25 August: Words as weapons

18 August: Wattle become of us

11 August: Precious and fragile

4 August: A wave from Wayside

28 July: Understanding bedlam

21 July: Time for some straight talking

14 July: Holy ground

7 July: Sowing in tears, reaping with shouts of joy

30 June: A bit of banter about Bondi

23 June: My cup runneth over

16 June: Injecting some joy

9 June: At the end of the line

2 June: Lots of perspiration and a touch of inspiration

26 May: Swimming against the tide

19 May: Every 7 days but not weakly

12 May: I once was blind

5 May: A place to belong

28 April: Lest we forget

21 April: I've seen into the abyss

14 April: Colourful language

7 April: Poetic licence

31 March: Happy in the Cross

24 March: Easter

17 March: A party mix

10 March: The intimacy of everything

3 March: An unusual look

25 February: He ain't heavy

18 February: Tears of laughter and sadness

11 February: Wisdom is a tricky business

4 February: A wave from The Wayside Chapel

28 January: Some long distance loving

21 January: No time for judgement

2015

17 December: Last note for 2015

10 December: Sanity Clause if coming to town

3 December: It's all about the presence

26 November: The joy of not knowing

19 November: The curse of perfectionism

12 November: To speak is to act

5 November: My cup runneth over

29 October: Prophet and loss

22 October: Finding yourself in a magical team

15 October: A silly question

8 October: Surprised by the joy

1 October: Being dead right

24 September: A day by the Wayside

17 September: It's a gold rush

10 September: The psychology of onions

3 September: Life comes from without

27 August: Surprised by the beautiful

20 August: Light shining through the cracks

13 August: A matter of balance

6 August: Recognising a gift

30 July: Your weakly note

23 July: 'A thing' from the Wayside

16 July: The future is calling

9 July: In love with some Dame

2 July: Better days ahead

25 June: Something funny, something beautiful

18 June: Seeing what's there

11 June: Amazing mates

4 June: There's a time and a place

28 May: The weight and the joy of being a neighbour

21 May: You're invited

14 May: Laughing, lying and loving

7 May: The awesome in the ordinary

30 April: Wayside light

23 April: Priceless gifts, freely given

16 April: Good news from the Wayside is great news

9 April: Awesome

2 April: Easter by the Wayside

26 March: Thankful for little things

19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory

2014

18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?

2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

3 July: The joy of not knowing

26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?

12 June: Longing for riches

5 June: When you least expect it

22 May: Finding home

15 May: Flying

8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues

1 May: Skuse the French

24 April: Lifting the curtain

17 April: Collective love

10 April: Cardiac arrest

3 April: Awe struck

27 March: You're invited to something special

20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss

13 March: It's all happening at the wayside

6 March: Love makes all the difference

27 February: What goes around

20 February: The joy of being empty handed

13 February: Loving the growth spurts

6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside

23 January: Some criminals have class

16 January: Wonderful surprises

9 January: Ready, set

2013

19 December: Thanks for an awesome year

12 December: Mission and wishin'

5 December: The ups and downs and all is well

28 November: Kissed by the community

21 November: Our cup runneth over

14 November: A revelation from wayside

7 November: When excrement happens

31 October: I am therefore I think

24 October: We are surrounded by heroes

17 October: When you least suspect

26 September: A wayside wobbly

19 September: Knowing a gift

12 September: Advancing at the retreat

5 September: A little dose of good

29 August: Fighting with a feather

22 August: The boom is just beginning

15 August: True riches

8 August: Small is beautiful

1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views

25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside

18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage

27 June: Holy ground

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given

 

 

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