We all know those weeks when we’ve had a bit of buffeting – work oversights, personal misunderstandings, family squabbles; the usual smooth sailing has become a briefly turbulent voyage and extra spiritual ballast is needed, writes Ann Rennie.
That is when we need to apply the remedial and hope-filled prescription referred to so often in the New Testament: Take heart.
It’s an old fashioned and poetic way of saying Be courageous.
Our lives, for all our careful planning, are unpredictable and we have no control over the events that may overtake us. A death in the family, a job loss, a friendship falling-out. Suddenly, the tectonic plates of our personal certainty shift scarily underfoot.
Life’s unexpected package somehow seems to have conspired against us in a cosmic plot. Whatever the origin, there are days, and sometimes weeks and months, when we are not ourselves. We have been knocked off true north and are desperately trying to clamber back on the sturdy little barque that is our usual self.
As well as the qualities of resilience or the indignant underdog growl or the whistling in the dark or the die-hard spirit of endurance, we need God on our side.
In my own times of doubt and dilemma, when life suddenly becomes an obstacle course, I know that I have recourse to prayer, to a messy talking-it-out which articulates my hurts and grievances and allows me the comfort of both catharsis and counsel. I know that God can see through my excuses and deflections and justifications. My venality is exposed and it’s not a pretty sight; grubby sin, mean omission, uncharitable gossip, this underbelly or shadowside, this less of me.
But I also believe that I am accepted as I am and that my part of the deal is to do and be better; to aim for the best of me, even though imperfection and failure and a bit of temperamental foot stamping are part of the packet mix.
Recently, Richard Adler, the composer of the fifties musical, The Pyjama Game, died. I remember seeing this musical a couple of years ago in a school production and one of the best songs from the show was ‘You gotta have Heart’. With its upbeat rhythm, it’s an anthem to resilience, to the bounce-back factor we all need when we feel as though we’ve struck out.
When your luck is battin’ zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister, you can be a hero
You can open any door
I am reminded that when life throws me a curve ball there is only one response that matters. I need to take heart, find that inner reserve and go on as I was, a little embattled perhaps, but a good deal wiser. I need to walk through that door with my head held high.
In a spiritual sense it is summed up by knowing that I am not alone; that I am not walking this path without an inner guide. Psalm 31:24 reminds me to Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
I take heart in knowing that these grey days will pass, that the sun will come out tomorrow, that my heart will go on.
Ann Rennie is a Melbourne writer who also teaches senior students in a Catholic girls' school. Her book The Secret Garden of Spirituality (Reflections on Faith, Life and Education), was published last year by Michelle Anderson.