A hound of heaven


    Category
    Voices
    Date
    28 March 2015
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    Finally, in despair, I phoned a retired teacher friend saying I was going mad. Her response was simple: she chuckled, saying, You have a hound of heaven on your trail...

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    I had survived the stormy waters of adolescence as an adopted child and had suddenly realised I loved English Literature and wanted to spend my life learning more about it.

    I must admit I was influenced by George Bernard Shaw's prefaces to his plays, so many of which dealt with the hypocrisies of self proclaimed religious people.

    My husband was a confirmed atheist and without really thinking much about it I slipped into the same habit of thought. I suppose I was horribly self-satisfied.

    My teaching career was very happy and successful and I loved it. We had one son, now 46, and our only problem had been an unexpected and severe post natal depression. I had gone through that darkness with no impulse to pray for help, even though my first step out of it was when the very eccentric vicar of our tiny village took me into our lovely church and performed a churching service. Yet I failed to understand why and how this helped my recovery.

    In 1990, a girl I had taught for the last four years, who had the makings of an amazingly mature and original poet, went to Egypt for her gap year and committed suicide over an unhappy love affair.  This almost broke me, mainly because of the sheer waste. She had had one poem, about a miscarriage, read on a BBC poetry programme and had received letters from women saying how the poem had helped them. I think I suffered so much because I was so angry with her for selfishly destroying a talent that could have been some help to the world.

    I knew anger was a totally inappropriate reaction to the situation but one lunch time I stormed into the school chaplain's study and demanded, furiously, what on earth his God thought he was doing? The poor man was completely at a loss and stammered out a few anodyne clichés. I left, thinking, “Well, that takes God out of it – I must find a solution somewhere else”.

    Months later, the same chaplain almost broke down in church while preaching on the imminent war in Iraq. To me, this was Christ weeping over Jerusalem. I was stunned by the power of new feelings, retreated inwards trying to make sense of it. Friends thought I must have serious health or marriage problems.

    Finally, in despair, I phoned a retired teacher friend saying I was going mad. Her response was simple: she chuckled, saying, “You have a hound of heaven on your trail,” and gave me her vicar's address.

    His response to my chaotic letters was marvellous, as was, later, the response of the chaplain who had originally left me cold, and also my village vicar. I took my first Communion for over 30 years in the school church, and later found the courage to take a morning service at school and tell girls and staff what had happened to me.

    I’ve found purpose and meaning in life. I can despair of the church as an all too human institution but I fix on Christ's love and try (often failing spectacularly) to see it in others.

    I have always felt joy in life, and now I know why I feel that - and to whom I owe my gratitude and love.

    Jenny’ goes to St Mary's Church in Purton, Wiltshire

    Contemplate now

    If you have faith in Christ, how does it help you celebrate the joy felt by those who don’t?

    How can our mourning bring us and those who suffer closer to God?

    The Church can fail us and it can bring us to God’s saving grace – how do we think of the part of the church made up of us?

    Meditate today

    When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, before He was revealed as the Saviour of the world, He said, “If only you knew today what things would bring peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.”