I recently had a birthday. Yes, I am at the age where my limbs are stiff, people are ‘nice’ and stand up for me on trains, the waitress will say, “Yes dear” and the ‘r’ word – retirement is used around me and of me more and more.
We live in a world where, sadly, there is so much pressure coming at us from every angle to be richer, stronger, more ‘together’, wiser, popular, more ‘healthy’, stable, connected and smart. There are now gigabytes of podcasts about the very things I have just named. The ‘how to’ section of bookshops is bulging with guides – ‘The ten best ways to find the right partner’ – ‘The ten best ways to become rich’ – ‘The ten best ways to earn respect ……!’ There are ‘how to’ guides for every aspect of life – and each author is striving to make the New York Times best sellers list, win the Pulitzer or be talked about at ‘the’ parties that everyone wants an invite to.
We are enough! I am enough.
In one way I should stop this blog right there and not continue in the vain hope that this becomes one of the “Ten best blogs of 2022!”
Years ago my good friend Peter Fullagar got together some of the writings I had done through a school newsletter editorial section. Peter published them in a book called, “The Worth of the Ordinary!” When we had sorted through which reflections would make the book and which would not the publishing company wanted a title. I struggled for many days to come up with one. Then one day a friend of mine simply said, “Pricey what were you attempting to say through your columns?” I immediately responded, “That life and love, happiness, meaning and peace is to be found in the ordinary!” The title was then so obvious.
One of my favourite hymns was written by a Carmelite priest – Fr Paul Gurr – it is simply called, ‘Come as you are!’ The hymn simply says that you and I need to come into relationship with our God beyond all names – simply – as we are. No fanfare, no pretence, no guilt or shame or window dressing – just you and I as we are. That you and I, as we are, is more than enough.
“Come as you are, that’s how I want (love) you – come as you are – feel quite ‘at home’ – close to my heart, loved and forgiven – come as you are – why stand alone? No need to fear – love sets no limits, no need to fear, love never ends – don’t run away shamed and disheartened – rest in my love – trust me again. I came to call sinners, not just the virtuous, I came to bring peace, not to condemn, each time you fail to live by my promise – why do you think I ‘d love you the less! Nothing can change the love that I bear you – all will be well, just come as you are!”
Too many of us spend so much energy and time attempting to look better, sound wiser, appear successful – all the time marching to someone else’s drum, reading from someone else’s script. The most attractive people in my life are those who have the courage and the humility just to be themselves – their ordinary ‘best selves’! Too many of us spend so much energy and time looking for the ultimate experience, the best ever concert or film, the Rolls Royce party or podcast or pavlova – and all the time real life, ordinary life, beautiful life, passes us by right under our ordinary noses.
I am not saying for one minute that we should not strive after excellence nor seek to be our ‘best’. But our worth, our dignity and our meaning and purpose will not be found ‘out there’ but ‘within’ and around in the ordinary. Babies know it – and if we have lived with integrity and authenticity we will find it again in old age – the worth of the ordinary. Babies will giggle at the most simplest of things and the wise elder is content in the present moment. The baby may not be conscious of it – but they are enough and the wise elder probably does not need to say it – but they have come to know it by their walking of life’s journey.
One Christmas a friend of mine collapsed into a chair exhausted after buying each of their children multiple gifts. After a mountain of wrapping paper had been gathered up on Christmas day, the toys played with for a nanosecond – the children laughed their way through the rest of Christmas playing hide and go seek. That simple game was ‘enough’ and talked about and remembered fondly long after the toys were both discarded and forgotten.
It is NOT about the presents but the presence. It never was and never will be. The day we confuse the presents for presence we have lost the plot.
I am enough. You are enough. We are gift. We are more than worthy. We are loved and lovable – just as we are. As I have reflected before one of my favourite Christmas songs is ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. The little boy “has no gift that is fit to bring before a King!” All he has is his little drum. “Shall I play for him, on my drum? I played my best for him – on my drum!” Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time and the Kings with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were left outside in the cold – waiting for the simple song to finish!
Yes, perhaps this Christmas and for the 364 days to follow it – we will do well to remember over and over and over again – that we are enough – just as we are. Saint Paul writing to the people of Ephesus (Ephesians 2: 10) says beautifully, “You are God’s work of art!” No Rembrandt, no Michelangelo, no Raphael, no Da Vinci – just ordinary beautiful old you and me – as we are. Ah, what a masterpiece!