A human being fully alive?

My life is a little out of sync at the moment. At the beginning of the week I was away with a bunch of clerics on our chapter conference. It was nice to be out of London. Ely is a beautiful place and the cathedral really is a portal between heaven and earth. It was good to have some time to rest, be silent before God and even run, as well as share the Eucharist and pray together. But I realise increasingly that I am a creature of habit. I am a home boy who appreciates the familiar. So it left me feeling out of sorts.

Joanne and Emilia have just left for a weekend in Bath celebrating her mum’s birthday. I’ve been left behind because I’m working over the weekend. It was not an easy good bye. I needed some Pralines and Cream ice cream to console me after they left. To top it all off, I have not been at all well for the last few days.  All this disruption to my usual rhythm leaves me feeling a little disconnected to myself and to God. My usual patterns of devotion, irregular though they may be at the best of times, get further diluted, so the resources at my disposal to deal with these changing circumstances are depleted and I’m left feeling flat.

The second century theologian Irenaeus famously said that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.” He is building on Jesus promise of abundant life; life in all it’s fullness. But what does it mean to be fully alive. What does it mean to live abundantly? These questions become acute for me when I am feeling flat or out of sync. Frankly, they can leave me full of frustration and despair. My life is just not reflecting this full life promised by Jesus. Surely this sort of life is full of joy and delight, whereas mine is not.

But as I reflect on being fully alive whilst feeling flat, it strikes me that a full life must include the full spectrum of human experience and emotions. Jesus was still living the abundant life in Gethsemane as he sweat drops of blood. Jesus was still living life to the full as he faced torture and execution on the cross. He lived a life of integrity and transparency to God. He remained open and undefended to God and to those around him right to the end. That is why he could forgive his enemies and ensure John would take care of his mother. So fullness of life simply means being open to what God is doing in your life, however you feel or whatever you face. An abundant life is one that resists self-defence and remains vulnerable and exposed, that recognises that every moment of life is pregnant with possibility.



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