Ann Crosthwait discusses living with the wobbles.
A few days ago, in my yoga class, the teacher spoke about how we wobble when trying to balance. He said to not resist the wobbles but learn to live with them, and then they'll go away. The term, 'living with the wobbles' struck a familiar spiritual note for me. As Contemplative Fire grows into a mature expression of church there are 'wobbles'. Do I resist them or live into them?
Contemplative Fire began in the UK around 2003 as a fresh expression of church under Revd Philip Roderick. Drawing on Celtic and Orthodox traditions, it is a dispersed community that lives with a rhythm of life involving prayer, study and action. Wrestling with theological questions, creativity, playfulness and delight in creation are some of its distinguishing marks. I'm now overseeing the seeding of this eclectic community in Canada.
In June 2009 I left a staff position in a corporate church in downtown Toronto and took this step of faith. 'Mad' some say – 'not counting the cost' others might say – but for me it seemed like the next step if I was to remain true to myself and my relationship with Christ. The first year has been a rich time of learning and wobbling.
I wonder if others in the fresh expressions community experience this one. Each time I make a plan, develop a budget, set some strategies, and make projections – something else happens. I can show people the plans, but despite our good intentions and reasonably responsible planning, our growth, our community life, and my life just doesn't fit into the prescribed plan.
Instead – now this doesn't sound radical, but when confronted by institutional demands for plans, feels radical – we are called to trust the Spirit leading one step at a time. Right now I've made plans to lead an exploration in contemplative living in four locations in Toronto during the autumn. This was neither part of the projection or 2010 plan, nor is it part of usual Contemplative Fire life or 'normal' fresh expressions-type ministry. This was a surprise that developed in May.
Have you seen the sign that says something like, 'Man plans and God laughs'? After this last year I think we must look like a stand-up comedy routine to heaven-dwellers! Slowly I've begun to realise that if something is to be a fresh expression, surely it is to be fresh – fresh from the heart of the Spirit in the tone of John 3.8.
It's a wobbly place to live. I feel the pressure to be responsible and organise and fit into the requirements asked of me by the institutional church, but oh, how I want to lean into the freshness, the spontaneity and playfulness of the Spirit, following more closely the unpredictable Spirit-led adventure. I wonder, isn't that what the world yearns for: a fresh scent of God?
Apparently the secret of a balance pose is to get past the tension, live into the wobbles. I find it challenging. Do you?