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Peter Sellick



A Thousand Miles from Care.

O trip to Manley on the ferry revealed at the wharf a slogan, no doubt engineered by the local council. described our location as "Seven miles from Sydney and a thousands miles from care". There followed a string of jokes from my companion about what this could mean. Sir, how would you like your steak?" I don't care.  Can I sleep with your wife?" I don't care.   This was obviously not the sort of care that the town councilors were referring to.  I was reminded of some long forgotten Anglican liturgy that I heard as a sour school boy that remonstrated with us that we should "shake off dull care and joyful rise". My sourness joined the joyful with the care to be shaken off.   The phrase "care worn" has almost disappeared from language along with the idea that care is dull and is the enemy of the soul.

Rather, the spirit of the times is that we should care more, not less, as we enter a new age of overblown responsibility. With everything seemingly in our power we really should care more and strive to make the world a better place.  We despair at the image of starving black babies because there is no way we can care for them, no way we can help. It seems that our successful civilization has laden us with care to the extent that we carry mobile phones so care can always be in touch. The news headlines scream at us to care about the road toll, about the possibility of contracting a myriad of diseases, about our superannuation and our insurance cover. The more secure we are the more we are plagued by dull care.

The councilors of Manley are wrong when they imply that we may escape care by a change of geography, care follows us around, we take it with us when we seek to escape, it haunts our dreams. Care has become a growth industry in the form of tourism and luxury cars and fabulous houses.  There is more than a hint of the suggestion that we could be care free, if only… It is significant that Jesus did not tell his disciples that they should care more, rather that they should be free of care.

""No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. ""Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.   But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? (Mat 6:24-30 NRSV) 

To be trapped by care is easy. I once had a small share portfolio and I found that every morning the first thing I would look at in the papers was the share quotes to see if, during the night, I had gained or lost money.  The result would have either a depressing or enervating effect and I realized that I did not, at that time, have the personality to deal with the ups and downs of the share market. It revealed to me how I loved money, which was a bit of a shock considering that I was a minister of religion at the time. I had the opportunity to see where my treasure really was.

While there are certainly times in which we may decide simply not to go down a certain care laden road, for us to live carefree there must be something that displaces care, some power greater than our own natural proclivities or desire.  To be released from the care that is dull we need more than good intentions and will because we tend to live within a circle of care that cannot be broken. A mountain of care can be accrued when a child is lost or gone astray or a partner betrays us, or we lose our comfortable material life. This care can quite literally put us to death. The symptom or this is that hope fades and the future is closed. Grief cannot simply be cast aside. Loss surrounds us like a fog. If only we could cease to care.

This is the reason I have always been suspicious of what goes now as "grief counseling" and the subsequent expectation that everyone can go through grief and come out the other side a joyful fun loving human being. There is some pain that goes so deep that I suspect that it is unapproachable by a counselor.

Christians are called to live care free lives, not by neglect nor by denial nor by detachment but by an ordering of their allegiances. The discipline that Christians are called to is a discipline of desire.

He said to him, ""'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mat 22:37-39 NRSV)

This means that whatever horror befalls us we are not without love and hope. Our problem is that in our turning away from God we put all of our eggs in one basket and when that basket breaks we break as well. We are left with nothing. That is why modern life is so fragile, why when the child dies the marriage fails, why loss and grief seem intractable. That is not to say that faith makes it all easy. On the death of Luther's teenage daughter he wrote to his friend asking him to give thanks, because he was unable.