By Rev. Carrie Irwin
I recently saw a little sign that read: “You are not on a journey to God; you are on a journey with God.” As I sat down to write this column, I thought about that sign and that led me to think about my own journey with God.
While the particulars of my life journey are unique to me, we all are on a journey, not in an isolated moment in time but as a part of a bigger picture. As Christians, we believe we are part of a larger narrative, that our lives fit within the lives of those who have come before us and will be a part of the story told by those yet to come.
The new year is a perfect time for reflection. It is a time for looking back at our collective story and connecting with our memories and traditions. Then looking forward, we bring with us those pieces that shape us and create the landscape of our current lives.
Looking back, I am reminded of a time that was transformative in my life, and I thought I would share that story with you. I believe we are created to tell stories, as a way to add richness and depth to that tiny portion of life’s collective story that we are called to live, enriching and bringing colour and texture to God’s creation.
It was Christmas Eve of 1992 in Kuwait City. It was our first Christmas there. Our son John-Ross was three months old and our daughter Sarah was 17 months old. Life had settled into a rhythm of sorts within sharia law. There was no visible Christian community for us to connect with, music was banned, and the country was in mourning for the lives lost during the Iraqi invasion.
Somehow, John found a small white Christmas tree, which we decorated with the few ornaments we had brought with us. Our celebration of Christmas was a private one, as was our worship.
It was late in the evening and a warm breeze was blowing, so I opened the windows of our seventh-floor flat overlooking the courtyard of the Muthana Centre, an enormous complex with a shopping mall underneath. Many of the city’s expatriate workers lived in these buildings. There were seven towers of apartments, each with 17 floors that looked out over that courtyard, right in the middle of Kuwait City.
I had my Christmas carols playing ever so softly, and as I stood by that window feeling a little homesick, I heard the faintest whisper of music coming from another open window.
There were very few lights on, but I saw a candle flicker across the courtyard, and that single whisper of music was joined by another and then another.
As I stood watching and listening, the windows began to flicker with lights all around me, in a powerful moment of shared worship. I ran into the kitchen, and found our one emergency candle and raced back to the window to join in this collective moment of praise.
In a land far from home, thousands of miles away from the beautifully decorated churches, I stood enthralled in one of the most powerful moments of worship of my life. Every candle was a mighty prayer, an unshakable witness to the majesty and might of our creator God. And in that moment, I wondered about all the other lights I couldn’t see, all offering their own witness to God on that night.
In those few minutes while the music played and the candles burned bright, I knew God was there. I knew I could believe in the promise of God’s Kingdom because I could see it and hear it and feel it.
Three minutes, more than 20 years ago, and I can still see it, I can still hear it, and I can still feel it. If we are indeed meant to share our stories and we were pressed to say what Christian faith and life are, we can hardly do better than to say that it is hearing, telling and living a story.
Rev. Carrie Irwin is a member of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Huron.