I stare at the empty page but nothing happens.
The phrase “Let your fingers do the walking“ from an old Yel-low Pages advert comes into my mind but my spread-eagled hands remain poised over the keys.
The screen remains as empty as the thoughts in my head and I can hear the words from around the corner of the manse drifting towards me “The Magazine article was due on Sunday”.
Writer’s block, that’s what I have. It happens to all creative people: don’t make the mistake of thinking that William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens dipped their feather writing implement into the ink with great speed! It was hard for them too!
A student was at the University sitting in the examination halls waiting for the invigilator to say the words “You may begin.” He turned over the page and read the question and his heart sank. He wrote his name, re-arranged his pencils and looked at the clock – five minutes had passed. He arranged his pencils again and then glanced at those sitting nearby. They were scrib-bling furiously. They were in full flow. They were asking for more paper!
He had an idea!
On the top, below his name he drew two circles and wrote ‘blood’ and ‘sweat’. The lecturer would understand. He had at-tended the lectures, was a keen student, he was sure he would be shown compassion. Back came his paper weeks later.
The lecturer had drawn a circle at the bottom of the student’s paper and written the word ‘tears’!!
You see, there I am, halfway down the page already!
Blank pages can be so off-putting. During our little ‘Looking at Worship“ series, those who came on the Sunday afternoons, agreed that, for example, when it came to constructing prayers for liturgical worship or for heaven forbid, a sermon, can be difficult as you search for the words and the phrases that will stimulate the congregation and give due adoration to God.
Lent begins at the end of the month of February and perhaps what we need are these blank pages. We fill our diaries and allow no flexibility and we fill our lives with activity and whilst there can be fulfilment in busy-ness and what we achieve, we miss out in these moments of stillness and emptiness where we can clear away the distractions and assess our days and our faith. The little group these past three afternoons talked about the Order we have for Worship and how little time we have for silence. Silence is hard. Silence is awkward because it is then that the deeper thoughts make an appearance and that to which we have pushed to the back of our minds comes forward. It is also a time when we allow God to speak more clearly through the Holy Spirit, or more accurately, we hear him more clearly.
Think about what you like at Communion: when the Elements are being distributed do you prefer music to ask about your relationship with the Divine or is the silence more appealing?
It is almost Lent and perhaps what you should do is to sit down with a notebook and think, analyse and reflect. When Jesus entered the wilder-ness he left himself open to the challenges of the temptations which lay ahead. We should learn from that. When we look at our lives honestly, sometimes, like that student in the University hall with the half-chewed pencil, there is a bit of blood, sweat and tears. That’s what discerning God’s will is about, so that we can learn where we are going from where we have been.
Try it. Sit with that blank screen and have empathy with your minister and for all who are challenged this way. Try it and may your journey towards Easter prepare you well and be fruitful.
Your friend and Minister