Monday, 16 May 2022

Making life changes for a greater peace

STOP the world I want to get off! This phrase was frequently used in the Sixties

STOP the world I want to get off! This phrase was frequently used in the Sixties when life was getting too busy or almost out of control.

It came from a popular musical of the same name, first staged in London, then America. There was a revival in the Eighties but the storyline didn’t have quite the same resonance with audiences and it flopped.

I was reminded of the phrase after recently spending a couple of days in the North, near Alnwick in Northumberland to be precise.

It’s an area I hadn’t visited for probably 30 years. The countryside and coastline are stunning, the air is fresh, there’s a wonderful sense of peace and space, the colours vibrant and stars in their myriad so clear.

Add to this sunshine and  T-shirt temperatures — we were very fortunate; God’s created world at its most magnificent. Not a world one would want to get off!

My husband and I had gone to visit a nephew who had recently moved from London. George, not his real name, had lost his father when he was three and been brought up with his brother by his mother and grandparents.

A clever boy, he went to public school where in his mid-teens he had a breakdown. He was hospitalised for a considerable time, consequently missing out on a lot of his education.

When fit enough, he found he enjoyed caring for people with disabilities. He learnt sign language and became an advocate for the deaf.

However, all through his early twenties he was struggling with his sexuality.

While working with the less advantaged, he was encouraged to train as a psychologist, which he did with great success.

From an early age George had recognized within himself a certain spirituality. He was baptized and confirmed into the Anglican church while at school and went to church when possible.

Moving to live and work in London, he searched for a church with a style of worship and accepting attitude in which he felt comfortable but without much success.

During this time of searching, to have God in his life was becoming more and more important and to this end he turned to the Roman Catholic church and found what he was looking for.

After instruction, he was accepted into the Catholic Church where he now finds his spiritual home and where he plays a prominent part.

Three years ago, George went on a 30-day retreat (strangely, during which he met a girl with whom I had trained — a small world).

It was as a result of this retreat that he began to look seriously at his demanding and hectic life in London. He felt God was calling him to a new life.

Eventually, after much prayer and consideration, he retired from his senior position within the NHS and found a delightful cottage in an equally delightful village near Alnwick.

He had the courage to “get off the world” he had known all his working life to move almost as far as he could away from London and to share his home with Barney, an energetic Northumberland terrier, with whom he walks miles.

George spends three days a week helping to lead retreats and acting as a spiritual director with the Northumbrian community. He does a great deal of biblical and spiritual reading as well as prayer and meditation.

He has recently accepted 12 hours a week in his capacity as a psychologist working with abused wives and children.

He has been very much accepted into his new community. In his spare time he is learning to dye, spin and weave local wool as well as being a wonderful host to his uncle and aunt and anyone who wishes to visit.

There must be times when many of us have screamed with frustration “stop the world I want to get off” and never felt able to do anything about it.

This is a true story of someone who has faced many difficulties but, with his closeness to and trust in God, has been able to step off one world and step on to another with God’s blessing.

I don’t think I have ever seen anyone more at peace with their life and themselves. There are, I’m sure, smaller adjustments we could all make in our lives to enable us to find a greater peace with God and ourselves but it does need working at and God is there to help.

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