In my 45th year, I “came to my senses in a dark forest." Somehow my life had once again veered out of control, though not in the usual sense: not morally. In that sphere, I was looking pretty good. I was teaching at a university and was a published writer. After a challenging stint as a single mother, I’d made a go of it with a new marriage. Most important, after a decade of deliberate, repetitive sinning, I’d repented and returned to the church. I was bashfully pleased with myself and content with my life.
I was speaking at a Methodist clergy gathering when a pastor told me
that at first the hotel had not been excited about hosting the group,
since its members weren’t going to run up any kind of bar bill. But then
the hotel manager noted that they had more than made that up in how
much was spent on dessert. The Methodists were welcome there anytime.
By the fourth century, you could become a Christian without risking your life. Church inevitably became entangled with private clubs, government posts and social networks. The urge to offer oneself wholly in martyrdom never diminished, however, and a movement was born. Men and women left civilization for an adventure of “living martyrdom” in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
As a Presbyterian pastor, my husband, Bob, had always been sympathetic when a parishioner became trapped by dementia. His views on dealing with dementia had been shaped by his father, a man of deep Christian faith and an active layman.
There were five of us around the table: my husband, myself, my mother, and two medical students who had been assigned to dinner at our house. One of them said, “My parents always wanted more for me—a better education than they had, and a better job, and a higher salary. A better life. So isn’t it hard to have a child with a disability?
When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).