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Goldfields God-Talk: Flies

by The Revd Elizabeth J Smith | Senior Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

The little bush flies come to greet me with astonishing persistence. They are small and very sticky. If they buzz, I cannot hear them. We call it ‘the great Australian salute,’ the windscreen-wiper-action hand gesture we all use, trying to wave them away. It is futile, though; the flies keep coming back to their targets. They crave the moisture sources of my eyes, nostrils, mouth, even the sweat on my bare skin. The flies own the territory. On my early morning walk, despite the breeze, they descend on me. The only solution is to drape a fine mesh fly-net over the brim of my hat. Then I go cross-eyed, counting the would-be invaders as they cling to the outside of the net in their frustration, still hoping, somehow, to get through.

At the end of my walk, I do a frenzied kind of dance as I take off my hat and net and try to brush off the rest of my sticky companions. I slap my back, brush down my arms, and leap into the car in a vain attempt to leave all the flies outside. One or two always sneak in with me, though. They taunt me, crawling across the windscreen and refusing to be blasted out the windows, no matter what I try. Who knows where the flies come from, in their countless billions? I think bad thoughts about the dog owners who haven’t bothered to scoop the poop of their pooches in the bushland park, despite the free plastic bags and the convenient bins provided. But those prime fly housing estates can’t account for all the airborne attackers, and there were flies in the bush long before there were dogs and their walkers around town.

In Advent, where judgement and mercy are themes of the season, I do another kind of dance with the clinging sins that just won’t go away. My own bad habits buzz around: a critical spirit, a fear of failure, a tendency to self-sufficiency. The stinky deposits of the culture I live in generate more misery: the worship of wealth and celebrity, the grudging, suspicious attitudes to strangers, the toxic debris of invasion and colonisation. They zero in on my vulnerable soul, carrying the contagion of our collective anger, greed and complacency.

No frenzied effort or systematic plan of ours can stamp out or wave away the all these pesky invaders. We need God’s intervention. In the bush-fly metaphor, perhaps God’s radical forgiveness would look like a spray of knock-‘em-dead insecticide, or a well-wielded fly swat that clears the room of the sins that buzz around and harass us. But our spiritual lives are not lived in a closed room. We live in a wide-open world where new bad behaviours and attitudes breed in and around us every day. The Holy Spirit is our shielding net, God’s gift of protection against each new wave of sins. Thanks to the Spirit, we have a little holy, healing space to breathe and think and pray.

Published in Messenger, December 2019

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