Thought for the Day : Friday 14 August

Thought for the Day by Robin Fishwick:

Readings: 1 Samuel 22:6-23 and Acts 2:37-47

Greeting the unexpected

When I was in my twenties, I was living in a house in Hyde Park, when one day I opened the door to my room and saw a mouse scurrying across the floor. After the initial shock I soon got used to it. A friend very wisely pointed out that if I had a mouse in my house it was a sure sign there were no rats about. I realised that the most disconcerting thing for me was being taken by surprise, so I got into the habit of saying hello to the mouse before I opened the door. I found out recently that many Muslims do something similar – not with mice, but spirits – as they enter a room where they might feel an unexpected presence.

It’s very tempting to ask ourselves the question “What now?” when we hear the news. We still seem to be reeling from the last shock when something else happens; an oil spill, an explosion, a contested election, public protests and repression. It can be the same in our own lives as well – we feel we have got a handle on a situation when something happens that seems to send us back to square one. Something like that happened to me the other day, only I later realised that square one this time didn’t feel like square one last time. The situation was exactly the same, but how I felt about the situation had changed and my capacity to deal with the situation had improved. That reminded me of my mouse in Hyde Park – I still came home each day to the possibility of a small animal shooting across my floor but when that did happen it didn’t shock me in the same, I way coped with it better. 

Sometimes that is the best we can ask of life – not that life should throw nothing more in our way, nor even that it should give us time to recover from the last thing before the next thing comes along, but rather that we grow our own capacity to deal with things. That involves being practical and realistic as well as being imaginative, but more than anything it is about having a preparedness to accept that unexpected things will happen – not as interruptions to life, but as part of it. We can live in fear of what might be round the corner, we can live in the despair that we will never put our problems fully behind us- that they will keep coming back and taking us back to square one. These are logical responses to the reality of life, but they are not the best responses. There is a Quaker advice that simply says “Live adventurously” and one of the ways we can live adventurously is to find ways to go out into the world even when it seems inhospitable, to greet life in gratitude and wonder even when not knowing what might be behind the door.

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