“Those who give light must endure burning”.
I didn’t expect my latest hero to be a Minister from the Church of Scotland, and I certainly didn’t expect him to be quoting Victor Frankl to me over a cup of tea and a sandwich at the Sliverknowes Golf Club in Edinburgh.
Yet this is what happened.
I’d travelled up for my dear Uncle Mitch’s funeral, and I found myself being really inspired by the minister’s words and chosen psalms throughout the service.
Ian Muir was no spring chicken, by his own admission, he must have been in his 70s, but I found him to be inspiring and we were totally on the same page. As we left the Crematorium, I thanked him for a beautiful service and he just smiled gratefully, although he did seem quite surprised too. I got the impression he wasn’t used to such gushing praise on an occasion like this.
When I found myself seated opposite him at the wake (this nearly always happens to me), we introduce ourselves, and he asks me what I do for a living.
“I’m a yoga teacher”, I say cautiously.
“This should be interesting”, I am thinking to myself, trying to gauge his response.
What ensues is the most hopeful, and reassuring conversation I’ve ever had with someone in the clergy.
In the distance I hear one of my family being asked if I’ll mind listening to what the Minister has to say.
“Im sure she’ll be holding her own”, is the answer, no doubt with a bit of eye-rolling.
It seems that we agree on pretty much everything, mostly that if we all started to focus more on what unites us rather than what divides us, the world would be a much more peaceful place.
What impresses me most is how open he is to hearing from others. He tells me he used to think he knew it all, but now he asks the question: “what can I learn from this person?”.
It seems they are more than open to change. We talk about the churches opening their doors to give the homeless a place to stay, and the realisation that true Christianity is taking action, reaching out into the community, rather than just preaching.
I tell him my reservations about Jesus, and the Bible, the distinction between fact and truth, and I have to admit, he may just have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about the Son of God.
I tell him about my book “Slivers of Light” which I wrote last year, and that I wrote it when I had gone through my darkest times, but now I feel like I’ve been “awakened”. He nods knowingly, which is when he delivers the Victor Frankl line, and I want to kiss him.
That would have got the tongues wagging even more. It seemed we had quite the audience.
It turns out that it may not have been our first meeting. He ran the Sunday school at the church we would go to in Edinburgh every Easter with his wife, and in a beautiful twist of fate, it was Easter I thought of when we got the chance for silent “reflections” on our memories of Uncle Mitch during the service.
Mitchell was a passionate gardener, who loved nothing more than taking us to the Botanical Gardens where he used to work, so we could roll our painted Easter Eggs. I’m not sure if this is just a Scottish tradition, but I have fond memories of my Uncle’s enthusiasm, warm nature and endless good humour.
I make a commitment to myself that, in memory of Uncle Mitch and what I learned from Father Ian, I will roll my Easter eggs this year, and I’ll smile as I think of all that we have in common.