There exists a temptation to look for God in the extraordinary and in the spectacular. It seems to be part of our human nature to search for something greater, to hunger for more from this life which so often frustrates and disappoints.
Part of the problem which causes us so much anxiety is the troubling truth that nothing seems to last forever, everything seems to pass away.
We have so many memories from our childhood, a longing for what we thought were simpler times, when the world seemed to make sense and we were surrounded by the comfort of certainty and the security of being at home with our loved ones.
As we get older nothing seems as straightforward or simple.
There is more confusion and rather than being confronted with what we thought was black and white, we inhabit a world of various shades of grey because we have lost our direction and don’t know what we can use as a compass to guide us through the maze of daily existence.
A longing tugs at our hearts as we watch much of our familiar world slip away, the landscape we once called home has been ripped up and changed forever.
Not only do expectations change, we find ourselves now haunted by the faces and voices of those who are no longer with us. Faced with this realisation we can go in search of sometime more permanent, we try to cope by finding distraction in whatever eases our pain or helps us to forget all our worries and anxieties.
I apologize now for the depressing tone but I have an excuse and I’ll blame another technical advancement - the iPod.
Well, if I’m being honest I would have to blame another feature of modern life, namely the internet and YouTube.
Both have conspired this week to direct by thoughts in a more morose direction, last week every cloud had a silver lining, this week every silver lining has a cloud.
At Christmas I bought Seamus Heaney’s complete collection of poems on CD. The poems are read by the poet himself and only this week I downloaded the 15 CDs onto my iPod.
So all week I have been listening to Seamus Heaney in the car, there are over 500 poems most of which I have never heard, some are vaguely familiar and quite are few are well known and feature regularly in various mediums.
Remember the campaign for the City of Culture, if you go on YouTube you can view the promotional video called ‘Voices’.
It shows the city in its diversity and at its best. Apart from the soundtrack provided by Snow Patrol the piece echoes to the words from Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Double Take’ from Cure at Troy.
Death and loss
Much of Heaney’s poetry deals with death and loss, how the old ways are fast disappearing, how the ancient perspective on life which was open to the mystical and the spiritual is being lost.
In such a world where do we find hope, were do we find meaning in the face of so much change.
Heaney writes: “History says, Don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.
“So hope for a great sea-change on the far side of revenge. Believe that a further shore is reachable from here. Believe in miracles and cures and healing wells”.
We live in a world so flattened out that we find ourselves struggling to cope with the tensions and frustrations which beset our everyday living.
We no longer can find answers which satisfy the true hunger and thirst at the heart of who we are and all those false gods in which we have placed our hopes have proved illusionary and empty.
A further shore
Do we truly believe that a further shore is reachable from here, can we see to the far side?
On our own efforts this is impossible, only through opening our hearts and minds to God in this world; in our daily struggles and routines can we hope to encounter the divine.
We have to allow our vision, our senses to be raised above the ordinary and the mundane, hearing and seeing God in the voices and faces of those around us, perceiving God in the grandeur of creation and in the smallness and ordinary nature of honest, simple life.
This season of Lent is an opportunity to transform our seeing and hearing, to be more in tune with the God who approaches us, who looks to draw us into the mystery of his love.
It is the gift of faith which transforms our senses, which opens up our understanding to see the things of God in the bits and pieces of the everyday.
When we appreciate these gifted moments and treasure them in our hearts then the burdens of life become more manageable.