OCCASIONALLY we can lose our way in life. The comfortable set of values which we have cultivated seems less relevant, and our overall strategy is no longer fit for purpose. Too easily, we may fall into a slough of despond. What was initially an insidious threat to mind and body becomes a desolate sense of rootlessness and alienation.
Naomi Starkey is an experienced author and a priest. This small pocket-sized book has been written to help with just these times in our lives. It is the third in her series of “recovery of” titles, the others being of hope and love, and as such, it offers a valuable, reflective companion to help us out of the cul-de-sac that threatens to trap the lost and rootless.
There are five Parts: Rootlessness, Respite, Ruins, Release, and Return. Each has three identically structured chapters. It is written using the pronoun “we”, and the reader becomes one of a small group embarking on a journey with no clear destination. As they travel together, appreciating that they had each almostcome to a halt, their “story of exile and rootless wandering” eventually becomes one of purpose, maybe even pilgrimage
There is a long tradition of spiritual wanderers setting out in faith in Christianity, as well as in other faiths. Some viewed this as an abandonment of self to God’s purposes. Others viewed it as a kind of exile, leaving behind all that was familiar while having no purpose for the future. In this book, the author tells a story about travellers crossing the sea in a small boat. Somehow, guided by divine mercy through wind and waves, they sail from one island to another, and on each they find welcome and a learning experience.
As the sailors learn more of themselves and of God, they also grow through the challenges set to test and guide them. We journey with them and, by taking time to meditate on each psalm, specially selected to aid our private prayer, we, too, find ourselves led from darkness to light, to greater self-awareness and insight. This journey goes from exhaustion to acceptance, and hence to the gift of God’s healing as we all rediscover the wonder of what God has done.
This slim volume is a useful tool for our own personal devotion. A chapter a day provides just over a fortnight of thoughtful reflection on how to find our way back to the God of our creation.
As the author concludes, “no matter the pain we may yet have to face, no matter what the next part of our journey may hold, we have hope for tomorrow.” I am writing on Advent Sunday: we know that it is that hope that heralds the advent of joy.
The Revd Jenny Francis is a retired psychotherapist and a priest in the diocese of Exeter.
The Recovery of Joy: Finding the path from rootlessness to returning home
Church Times Bookshop £6.30