Collecting the laundry from the washing machine, as I folded and put away the clothes I noticed a hole in recently purchased pyjamas. My immediate reaction was disappointment with these now torn pyjamas. I had chosen them and liked both the soft cotton, always primarily a kinaesthetic person, as well as the colour and pattern. I had also wondered at the time of purchase about spending money on actual pyjamas when for so long I’d just used old T Shirts and jogging bottoms. However, I had found these were too hot to sleep in.

The pyjamas worked a treat. Cool and comfortable, I enjoyed wearing them. However, I was surprised at my emotional response which lay somewhere between crestfallen and frustrated, on

Holy hole

Holy hole

discovering this hole. After all they remained perfectly fit for purpose. It reminded me again of how easily we become possessive of ridiculous things and also how we find it difficult to move away from finding some level of identity in what we wear. I know how I feel comfortable, yet also carry some internal imaging software that links my self esteem to how I perceive I look.

Before we moved last year, we recognised there was to be a lot of downsizing. The biggest challenge to me, one that preceded the decision to move by quite some years, was God’s request that I dispense with my library of near on 3000 books. Again the challenge came at the level of identity and security. I had an eclectic taste, yet felt I might address any subject since I had a richly resourced library to run to. It was about my security and my intellectual pride. I argued long and hard with God and it took about ten years to reduce that library to the 200 books that have travelled with me, all related to my work in Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer. What’s more God reminded me of the grace I had so willingly accepted, a grace that was freely given, and so I was directed to give all these books away through charity shops.

One of my biggest challenges is learning to travel light on the earth with God. It has been a struggle to discover my identity is completely and solely realised in God. The projections I like to bring to the world are no more than extensions of a bruised ego, by which I seek acceptance through appearance and performance. Learning that I am always no more or less than a sinner loved by God, to quote the Ancients, is tough when in my head I may aspire to be so many other identities.

When visiting Sr Margaret, one of my Franciscan teacher’s in Spiritual Direction at the Franciscan International Study Centre, and recounting this story, she asked, ‘And did you find greater freedom once you’d managed to give your books away?’ I’d not considered that question, yet she was right. I was no longer bound by my intellectualism, a need to know stuff for its own sake, and relieved not to have walls of bookshelves staring down on me, many of which I had never read. There was also a far greater lightness in my spirit as I reduced my investment in things and the material hold the world exercised over me eased another notch. In fact I recognise I sit so much more lightly to things and finance than at any earlier stage in my life, and this is indeed a level of freedom and with it peacefulness that I’d craved and now have found in far greater measure.

So I was surprised at the level of my emotional response to my torn pyjamas. My first instinct to replace them was substituted by a commitment to use them as a meditative reminder of the truth that life is full when lived in the presence of the Divine, and not enhanced in any way by the material world of consumer goods that so easily entraps us. Also that I am myself holed and in need of grace to navigate each day I live in relationship with myself, whilst being generous in my acceptance of others.