From the Goldfields
Goldfields God-Talk: Sunshine
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
While the weather forecast for Perth this week is for rain, rain and more rain, the sky in the Goldfields is blue, the wattles are golden, and the temperature today is going to hit 25 degrees.
Don’t get me wrong – the house is still cold, being designed more for hot summers than for desert winters. But it feels good to have the warmth of the sun on my shoulders when I go outside. The wildflowers are opening up at last, after bit of rain a couple of weeks ago. In the garden, it’s time to pull up weeds and refresh my plantings of kitchen herbs.
It’s a different story in January, when the sun gets up early and blasts relentlessly down on people and plants alike. Even the lizards and snakes seek shade in their cool, underground homes. Birds hide away for most of the day until the cool of evening. Trees drop surplus leaves, and shrubs have evolved to reflect more heat than they absorb. The kitchen herbs are relocated to a shady, sheltered corner of the yard. I do everything I can to fend off the sun from my pale, northern European skin: long sleeves, broad-brimmed hat, heavy-duty sunscreen.
Grace, too, shines on us, all year round; but grace is not seasonal. There is no time when grace is in short supply, and no such thing as too much of this good gift that God loves to beam upon us with just the right amount of warmth. What changes, from season to season, is our receptiveness.
Sometimes we hide from grace, screening it out in deluded self-sufficiency. Grace is a handout for the lazy or the tragically deprived, we assume; and we shrug it off, rehearsing the platitudes about the Lord helping those who help themselves, while striving ever harder in our own strength. Sometimes we huddle away from grace, blanketing ourselves with thick layers of shame and unworthiness. Grace is a reward for people who have already pleased God, we assume; while we have nothing to offer that could possibly be acceptable. We shrink into paralysed passivity.
Yet no posture of ours can stop the generous, indiscriminate, utterly consistent shining of grace for each and every child of God. Not anything that we do, or fail to do. Nothing that we are, or fail to be. Wherever you may place yourself, through fear or shame or pride or earnest diligence, grace seeks you out. Grace shines for us, night and day, and waits for us to unfurl, to venture out, to uncover the heart and switch off the circuit in our mind that judges either ourself or our neighbour as unworthy of it.
So when it is too cold, too wet or too hot to leave the house, perhaps I can take these seasonal variations as a reminder of God’s absolute constancy towards me. Perhaps I can sit quietly and feel the warmth of grace on my shoulders, at just the right temperature for healing and hope.