Me, the Lord and a bottle of purple nail varnish
So when silence came, everyone left the chapel apart from me. This often happens. I don't know where everyone goes...but anyway...they go somewhere and I usually stay.
So I prayed for a while and I was thinking about my rule of life and I was thinking about my life too and how amongst many things I had had a week of emotional ups and downs. It was as if the adrenalin that had kept me going since September suddenly wore off in one day. Tuesday was terrible. I had felt exhausted and a bit lost. I was lacking sleep and personal care, you know like neglected hair cuts and dental appointments etc
So I remembered my bottle of purple nail varnish in my bag and as I prayed I painted my nails. I would have no time to do so before the ball. I haven't done anything like that before and at first it felt a little strange. I was almost apologising to my Father-God, suspecting he might mind. Then, suddenly in a flash I became very conscious that I was being unfaithful by apologising, that in some ways, I was making God too small, ...like he will not listen as I speak because I am also putting on nail varnish?! Almost as instantly, I became conscious of my anthropomorphisation of God and in that always addressing him Father, and thinking him male, I imagine that nail varnish might be something that could be a barrier if it is also in my thoughts.
... so for the first time I thought about how it might feel if I thought about God's mothering qualities and as I painted my nails and prayed I couldn't help but smile as I addressed God 'Mother/Father God' and think that I have also made my God too small too, by always referring to him as Father.
So I am exploring a different dynamic to my relationship with God. It's not anything as extreme as me praying to God as Mother but it's in my realising that purple nail varnish is really the very last thing that I need to worry about as regards anything that might challenge my relationship with God, who is so very much bigger...
I feel very called to preach a God of the very minutiae of our lives. To God everything matters: there is no secular/sacred split. God cares about every part of us, even our nails! He became embodied as Jesus Christ and the whole of the cosmos will be redeemed to him and we will be resurrected bodily. It's all so very physical!
I shared news, tentatively, of my nail-painting silent hour with my fellowship group as we talked about living prayerfully and praying continually (1 Thes 5:17) which would be an improvement on a habitual pattern of empty prayer if it were that which constituted a rule of life.
Anyway, as I continued to reflect on my conduct throughout the rest of the day, the college slowly started to turn our chapel into a disco hall. The cross stayed in place as did the wall hangings about being baptised in water and spirit and waiting on the Lord and I started to become more and more conscious of this wonderful God who is present all the time, interested in everything.
I danced in that chapel with the cross behind me and disco lights in front and just when I was perhaps beginning to wonder afresh whether you can really paint your nails purple and be prayerful, the principal of our college: Christina Baxter, with Deans Ian Paul and Nick Ladd treated us to a wonderful performance of YMCA in full fancy dress and it was at that moment when it became most obvious how much God must laugh alongside us as we have fun and celebrate our lives, purple cloth behind a wooden cross for advent and purple nails on one sometimes rather uncertain ordinand, discovering so much more about her Lord.
Canon Dr CBE Christina Baxter Principal of St John's
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.