Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Litton

December Letter from Howard

Dear All

One of my pleasures over the last few months is the re-discovery of walking. I have loved it. It has been a physical, emotional and spiritual experience for me.

Some time back, I heard Terry Waite talking on the radio about his four years as a hostage in Beirut. He said that he had made three resolutions – no regrets, no self-pity and no false sentimentality.

As I walked, I thought about these things. It is important not to dwell on how the past could have been different or tell ourselves a false story about it all being about us or taking refuge in a fantasy about the future. Terry Waite’s realism saw him through his captivity and solitary confinement.

I liked his resolutions. So, as I went out on my walks I thought about these things. But one of the joys of my walking were the people who interrupted my thoughts, the muddy dogs leaping up at me, standing aside for beautiful horses, seeing long-legged hares bounding over the fields.

I was happy to have my self-absorption interrupted by a red kite, an owl, a sky with five birds of prey swooping, a family of deer in a field.

Everywhere I walked I saw evidence of life, even in the mud. A bird print, a bicycle tyre print, a fox’s paw. The mud told its own story.

One day as I walked along my usual path the night’s rain had washed away the mud. Here I was on a clean new path, a blank canvas of stony earth waiting for my footprints and others.

It occurred to me that sometimes our lives get messed up. At times it can seem hard for us to see where our journey is taking us. But Jesus promised us that when we believe and put our trust in him, all the things that we have done, which we may not be proud of, are literally washed away.

So, I hope that at the end of this traumatic year and at the start of a new one, we will try to dismantle regret, self-pity and sentimentality and find a new way to be.

As Isaiah 40 tells us, “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like angels, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.