Late yesterday afternoon I visited the Adoration Chapel here in Christchurch. I didn’t really feel in the mood for silently sitting still for an hour in the company of others, but Jack my uncle was grateful for the lift and sometimes I need a bit of a push to get me to where I need to be.
When we walked in at 5 half a dozen people were praying, some kneeling, others sitting, one perched on a prayer stool and a child drawing alongside her mother. The chapel was warmer than I would have liked, and soon one of the men fell into a noisy sleep.
I was surprised that I wasn’t annoyed by anything that was happening around me. Then I realised that all of these things, the people, the noises, the heat and the snoring were mirroring my busy inner life. However instead of focussing on all of this stuff inside and outside of me I was remarkably relaxed.
In my peaceful state my mind had free reign and quickly filled with the ups and downs of the day, the people, the challenges, the work that was overdue and the stuff I was avoiding. All of this was on my mind all at once, but this once I was not at all worried about any of it. I remembered that prayer is God’s work not my achievement, and I relaxed.
Then a rather surprising thought came to me. I haven’t watched much TV in recent years, but out of the blue the thought arrived: during this hour between 5 & 6 a lot of people around the country are watching The Chase.
I have only seen bits and pieces of a couple of episodes, but now The Chase was featuring in my prayer. What was Jesus up to?
Then I thought about the chase, not the TV programme, but the whole idea of a chase, one person after another, an ambitious athlete or employee chasing the dais or the desk, the pilgrim chasing God.
And on that last thought I felt a shift. Here we are, half a dozen Christians spending an hour after a winter day’s work in a chapel seeking, perhaps chasing God…
…yet much more than we are chasing Jesus, he is chasing us.
Much more than we seek, we are sought.
Now that was what I needed to hear. I too often think of the life of faith as my work, my seeking, my penance my projects and my prayer. Now Jesus was reminding me that he is seeking me. Jesus is desiring me.
What a delicious thought that is.
Then I noticed that Jesus seeks me not like an ambitious goal seeker who discovers, wants, chases, grasps and holds, but as one who makes himself available to me wherever I have strayed to. Jesus makes himself available, and waits, with “unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace. Deliberate speed, majestic instance” as the poet Francis Thompson reflects.
And then I remembered that wonderful passage from Jeremiah which I discovered by chance when I most needed it in a difficult patch years ago:
“I know the plans I have for you – declares the Lord – plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. When you call to me and come and pray to me, I shall listen to you, When you search for me, you will find me; when you search wholeheartedly for me, I shall let you find me -declares the Lord”. Jeremiah 29:11-13