Scripture: John 1:35-39
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
A New Year Reflection:
What do you seek? These words of Jesus have often been a part of my devotions at the beginning of a new year. It is a time when we traditionally look back at the year that has passed, reflect on what we’ve learnt and experienced, give thanks that we have been gifted with another year and then to dream and plan what we hope to be able to move into in the year ahead. For many years I have found the spiritual exercise of listening to God for a word to help guide and shape me through the year ahead, and this year is no different. Or is it?
When reading this passage in John this year I realise that my answer is perhaps rather different to how it has been before. The reason perhaps for this is that before I have always answered in relation to my present life, my existence here on earth. For example the things that I seek have been to know and understand myself more and to walk into my calling, to live faithfully with more compassion, to have more purpose, to raise my family in the ways of the Lord, to gain in knowledge and grow and develop the gifts God has given me. My responses have always been about growth, obedience and gaining in wisdom and love, which in and of themselves are not wrong, but are grounded in my expectation that I would have many years ahead of me to keep seeking. But since my cancer diagnosis I have had to learn to hold onto the precarious and vulnerable balance between choosing life in all it’s fullness whilst knowing that the medical profession expect my life here on earth to come to an end in the next year or two. Reading the words of Jesus asking me, ‘What do you seek?’ now touches me in a much deeper, heartfelt way. I realise that ultimately what I truly seek is intimacy; I long to belong.
I have found that over the past year or so most of my anxiety has been based around a fear of being excluded; separated from those that I love and cut off from a life that I truly love and long to continue into old age. It is a very strong, gut felt desire. Like an immense cry at the very depths of my being, that I do not want to be excluded from love, no matter how imperfect, limited or fragile that love might be. But in this passage Jesus’ words didn’t stop with a question. They continue with an invitation. Jesus invites me to ‘Come and see.’ He invites me to belong, to remain with him not just in my earthly existence but for the whole of eternity. He invites me to partake in the dance of the Trinity, to hold hands with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to become one in the dance with them. The invitation is intimate as well as universal. Jesus holds out his hand to me and offers to lead me into his eternal dance with the Godhead where I belong. William Paul Young explains this so beautifully,
“The rumour in the deep places of our souls is that there is a party going on, and we can scarce trust our invitation. Could there ever be a toast raised to us? Might a hand reach out and lead us into the divine dance, whispering in our ears that we were always made for this?”
I am reminded of Matisse’s large colourful canvas entitled The Dance, painted in 1910. Here we see five anonymous figures holding hands to form a circle and dancing. Although my interpretation is not what the artist intended, for me it beautifully visualises the joy, colour and emotion of the eternal dance of belonging that we are invited to join. In these figures I see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I then see myself joining hands and partaking in the dance and alongside me, in the fifth figure, I see embodies my family, my friends, all those whom I belong to here on earth, joining me in the eternal dance with the Trinity. The deep azure blue represents for me the brightness and beauty of everlasting life, the colour of eternal space and it meets a hillock of viridian green, illustrating the invitation to join the dance not only in the eternal realm but also here on earth, in the present moment, where the threshold between the spiritual and earthly realms overlap.
I picture myself as the figure at the forefront of the painting with my back to the viewer, my hand stretched forth reaching out to touch the welcoming hand of Jesus as I join in the dance. My elongated stance suggests that I am almost flying, being carried along by the movement of the spirit of the dance and the encouragement and support of the other dancers whose feet seem perfectly rooted and in rhythm with the tune of God’s eternal song of love and belonging. So this year my word is DANCE. As I was praying through this exercise last week, I had the word confirmed to me when someone sent me a word from the Lord completely out of the blue, that I should dance my way into 2019.
I invite you to spend some time this month with the same question. Imagine yourself standing alongside Jesus and hear him ask you, ‘What are you seeking?’ Take time over the coming days to consider your response. What are you seeking as this new year begins? What are the desires of your heart? Initially allow yourself to journal a number of things, perhaps ten or twelve. Then pray them through and see if there is a common thread underlying them all. When you have settled on your word, tell Jesus. And then take time to listen and hear his voice inviting you to ‘Come and see.’ Let me know what word chooses you, and may you join in the divine dance with me.