From the Goldfields

God-Talk: Timing

Combined ShapePathNews and EventsPathNews

The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

It’s wildflower season. The grey-green, look-alike shrubs gradually put on their colours: red for an Eremophila, silver-purple for a mulla-mulla, bright white for the daisies, brassy yellow for the Senna, and Matildas’ green-and-gold for the wattle. The bees, birds, moths and ants rejoice. They crawl, flutter or hover with delight over this seasonal abundance of nectar and pollen. Other creatures wait hungrily for the setting of seed.

But not every plant of each species flowers at the same moment. On one side of the track, there is a wattle blooming at full throttle, gloriously bold. A few metres away, another bush of the same size and species is barely budding. It will be weeks before it glows bright against the blue of the September sky. It won’t be hurried. It will shine in its own good time.

Part of my role as Mission Priest among the Anglicans of the Goldfields is attending to the spiritual maturing of our people. There is no standard time frame for children or adults to grow in faith. This teenager may be ready for Confirmation at sixteen, while another is intensely committed to Christ, and wants to say so, at thirteen. That adult, attending church regularly with a faithful spouse, has delayed thinking about baptism for years. Is now the time to enrol a catechumen, asking: What do you seek? If the answer is “Life in Christ,” a flowering of faith may lie ahead.

There are other seasons of change, too. Is it time for this long-term couple to be invited to consider marriage? Is another spouse dealing with the slow or sudden death of a relationship, due to the accumulation of bruises, literal or metaphorical, or the shock of infidelity?

Our children mature at different rates, too, with their distinct strengths and challenges. These young siblings, two years apart, are great readers already and could almost go on the roster. This child has some learning difficulties, but has a beautiful, prayerful nature and great questions about Jesus. One child has been putting her hands out, expecting to receive communion, since she was three; another of the same age is much more focussed on playing with the newest baby in the congregation.

And when is it time for an ageing leader – myself included – to change gears, to step back, do less, but pray, love or dream more?

So I pray for grace to deal with the timing of my own flowering and fading. I also pray for wisdom to watch over the growth and change of the people in my care, and to respond to their individual progress, the way the birds and insects wait for the wildflowers. I want to be expectant of each one’s flourishing, yet not controlling of how they grow. It is different to the decades-ago pattern of baptising every infant, prescribing a particular version of marriage to which everyone should aspire, or channelling all the 12-year-olds into Confirmation class. I watch, wait, and invite, confident in the Spirit’s timing.

In other news...