Location: Ireland

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ups and Downs

As the French Philosopher Jean-Michel Plateau once remarked "You must go up a hill before you can go down one." It was this that came to mind as I cycled home from Cork airport after a splendid trip to London...Considering what I've written here before, I think my view of the Christ-following life is one that is filled with ups and downs. Though we can surely expect various types of prosperity at times and good times at times, we must also expect the down times, the persecution, the abased times (as Paul puts it with the help of Mr. N. King James). I'm wondering though am I leaning towards a view that is far too close to a swings-and-roundabouts perspective. In other words, if I am going through a down-turn, is the only thing that keeps me going, the hope of better times to come? Surely that's a part of it but there must be a more comprehensive, underlying, central thing. Psychologically, it seems to be quite an ingrained part of who we are (humans) which is indicated by such sayings as "Every cloud has a silver lining" and so forth...yes, I can't think of any more...oh wait, I have one: as Homer said (as taken from the producers of Waiting to Exhale) "When there's nothing left to believe in, believe in hope"...and so forth!

So what should we expect from God? When we're going through a tough time, should we simply be clinging to the hope of better yet to come? When we're going through a good time, should we be wary of the coming drought? How is that we get to the stage where we know how to be abased and to abound? On first glance, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't sound like Paul (Philippians 4:12) is advocating a kind of immunity to the circumstances (as I often think it sounds) but rather is telling us we don't just seek to ride the storm as it were but we seek to be content in the midst of the storm.

Why does this come to mind? Well as I've already mentioned, I was coming back from a trip to London the other day which was great. However, the last day of the trip was, in a word, unpleasant. I had booked a flight which was to leave at 6:20 am. With a train journey to the airport which would take 46 minutes and a walk to the train station that would take 30 minutes, I duly arose at 3:50 am, left the apartment I was staying at, walked half an hour through London streets (taking one wrong turn), arrived at the train station in plenty of time, got on the train (having purchased my ticket in advance too) and waited the twenty or so minutes for the departure time. The departure time came and went and to cut a long story short, 40 more minutes came and went before we hesistantly started to inch forward...Though I wasn't impressed, I was sure that we would arrive on time but we didn't. We arrived at precistely 6:17 am, I sprinted as hard as I could through the airport to the first Ryanair person I could find and asked them was I too late. They said "Yes" and that I should go to ticket sales to buy a ticket for the next flight...I thought, how bad could this be? Well, though much internal debate raged, my decision was effectively made for me as the only way back to Ireland that day was to fly to Cork (Belfast, Dublin, Kerry were no-go's) and the flight to Cork was at 10 to four that afternoon...and this one-way flight also cost twice as much as my original return flight cost. So I headed back to London then, had a genuinely lovely day in the sun but all the while was thinking 'why?' And I am still wondering.

Now the point of all this is not to bemoan Ryanair for it wasn't their fault and if you fly with them, you take your chances of getting ripped off if you don't dot all your i's and cross all your t's. The point is not to just moan or whine for the sake of it. The point is, what does one do? How does one be content in this circumstance? I know that compared to what people have suffered, do suffer and will suffer, this is small fry but I'm not even beginning to compare them. But when one comes across a genuinely frustrating and annoying circumstance like this, what are your options?

For the sake of structure, at the moment I see my options (considering what I would generally do) are 1. Bring it to God and say "I don't know why God, but you do and therefore I'm going to just trust though I may never know why." I find that I very often take this option and I feel that it has often brought me to a point where I do see some reasoning or purpose behind the situation and it brings me to a point of contenment. 2. Try and see what lessons there are to learn purely through reasoning. In this case, the things that I though about were: God is repaying me for the bad things that I've done. I quickly sought to dispel this superstition and it became replaced by: God is disciplining me for the lack of time I've spent with Him over the last while and He's seeking to bring me back to Him. I think this may endure but I have drawn such a fine line between the two that I find it difficult to stay on either side of the line, regardless of which side I want to be on. God is showing me that I haven't been fully converted 'of the wallet' yet and has taught me this as part of His ongoing plan to take one of my clutching fingers at a time off my wallet. Even as I type, I'm finding that this actually seems to be the reason and that it is truly a lesson I won't quickly forget. I think with a little perspective, I'll be able to see fully if this is what I am to learn (of course among a myiad of other subtle lessons). I think the slight difficulty I have with this is that the reason I booked the early flight in the first place was because it saved me money and this then begs the question of "What's being flathulach with money and what's realising that it's all God's anyway and not clinging onto it?" But for the sake of completion, I'll go onto the other thoughts I had...Maybe God is giving me an opportunity to see the parts of London that I missed out on during the previous days (I did get to see Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. James' Park, The Changing of the Guard and three more Aston Martin Veritages...oh and Boris Johnson cycling to the Houses of Parliament (or maybe No. 10, I'm not sure).

I think I must leave it there as I'm not sure yet...maybe I'll think more. If it was a lesson, it felt like a very harsh one. If it was discipline, what was it for? If it was to realise that I need to let go of my wallet, why such an elaborate lesson? Or should I simply say, as I often do "Who am I to question?"


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