I need to go to bed because I am proper weary. Pasty faced, drooping and walking like a 90 year old. Left leg numb again. I need to go to my bed.
BUT I CAN’T!
I simply can’t until I say this: God is good. So good. So immediate. So involved. I’m left in wonder and awe after a lovely, lovely day.
Today started, as most of my days do, on the beach. But today, amazingly, I was joined by a friend for prayer and it was just wonderful, such a great privilege, strolling in the sunshine (Yay! Warmest place in Europe!) not only praying but also talking about God, about the Christian life, the people we love. That was brilliant. It’s about two years since I’ve been able to share my quiet time, and it was such a great gift. Giddying.
Then we came home and – lo and behold – another hour of talk as we had a coffee.
This afternoon I had set my alarm to pray for a couple of pals who were meeting to discuss God’s will for our church. And that was a lovely time of prayer too until… erm… I fell asleep. Sorry, guys.
A bit of script editing, and suddenly the day had slipped away. Dinner with a friend… oh, let me tell you about her… three months ago this woman was on the brink of death, with advanced cancer. A young and earnest doctor advised that she should put her things in order, and that very day she woke up to find the crash team all around her, she was on oxygen delivered under pressure, iv’s in both arms, a drain in her side… cripes! She would have made Lazarus look healthy. She said her goodbyes to her family, preparing to meet Love and Mercy…. and just two weeks ago she was told that a scan now showed that her tumours have all shrunk and there is hope. Today she’s at home, so thankful, full of her usual nonsense and laughter (we laugh a lot) and wondering how many MacDonald’s milkshakes we can squeeze into a trip to the oncologist tomorrow. In mitigation, m’lud, I would just point out that we do not live near a McDonald’s so when we get the opportunity, it would seem a sin to waste it. I was going to say we milk it, but that’s a terrible pun and I can’t abide puns.
Where was I? Oh, yes, dinner.
And after dinner, a prayer meeting.
And now a blog.
That was such a good day. I hope you managed to enjoy the sun, to see a few daffs by the roadside, to breathe God’s good air and sip some decent coffee…. I don’t have a garden to sit out in, but I think that in the summer proper I will find a chair I can carry so I can do my reading down by the sea. Imagine me, dozing in the sun, a book forgotten on my lap, dogs snoozing in the sand…. I may have to get a floppy hat to complete the picture.
After a lifetime ricocheting around the world from disaster to success to mess and chaos, God has brought me to joy and peace and belonging. How amazing. That is bloody amazing. There is no way I can communicate to you how amazing that is. But, how I need to. I really really need to.
My life has been a rollicking adventure. I’ve had it all – or all that I ever wanted. I never wanted to be a millionaire, but I had work and work and fun and challenge. I’ve had audiences of 17 million… seventeen blinkin’ million! That was when there were only three channels producing drama, no streaming, no internet, just terrestrial telly. I’ve got the honours and the awards and I’ve had the great fun times, the long happy nights with friends, the booze and fags, the cars, the holidays… and, through it all, I never belonged anywhere.
I gave a talk once to a huge audience, about child bereavement. It was in Westminster and ‘the great and good’ were there, I remember being on the stage and looking out over the rows and rows of adults and wondering how many of them felt unloved. We all look OK, don’t we? We all put on a confident face, and these professional people are particularly good at that, but I knew there would be many there who would understand exactly what I was saying. My talk was titled ‘My Place In The World’ and I spoke about how, when a parent dies leaving behind a young child, that child loses not just the love of a parent, but their place in the world. They become a problem. Or, I did.
I learned young how to be unloved. How to shut off and shut up and shut the world out. How to be on the outside, unacceptable. I spent a lifetime like that. I learned how to be unloved and I learned it with gusto. If I was unloved I could be isolated and remote, because no one cared anyway. If I was unloved I didn’t have to learn to love.
This evening we prayed for the young people in our community, many of whom are lost and troubled. We heard how one young person had asked our youth worker “Why do you love us so much?” I think that the question is not quite as simple as it seems – many of these young people ask about love because they’re struggling to understand what it is. Some will know precious little of being loved, and – this is important – if we are not loved as a young person, we may never learn how to love. A child needs to love, as well as to be loved. If love is not learned then there is grief and damage ahead. I know, mateys, I know for a fact.
How did I finally learn love?
Jesus Christ. And even then I learned slowly, falteringly, two steps forward and one step back. But now I have a word that proves to me that the lesson has been learned; ‘belong’.
And I do. I belong to God. I belong to the people I love and who (amazingly!) love me. Just a few years ago I couldn’t have said that. A few years ago the idea of me being loved would have seemed like the biggest lie ever told. Weird, eh?
It took me 70 years to get to this time of love and joy. Joy is the fruit of love. Look at a mother holding her baby, a father watching his child… joy. I thank God for the love He has shown me, and made known to me, and for all this joy. Listen, this is downright peculiar… I’m going to say something I couldn’t have said until quite recently… you ready? I love my friends. I’ve told them so, as well! And I am learning to love people who are not my friends. 70 years old and still learning.
But it doesn’t have to take 70 years – it shouldn’t take 70 years. We have to reach out now, now, to show everyone around us that love is real and present, and that love is a person, Love. Love with a capital L. Jesus.
I don’t want anyone to have to wait 70 years to know that they are loved. I want them to know now. That’s the job of our church. That’s what church is. Love. I want them to avoid the loneliness and hurt and all the stupid mistakes and the wrong things I did. I want it to stop with me. Let me be the last (if only!)
That’s what we should all be aiming for. Simple, eh? That’s the job of church.
Thank you, Lord, for this amazing day. Superlatives fail. Thoughts fail. So ‘thank you’ is the best I can do. Please help us to reach out to those who don’t know love. Young, old and in-between. Let them all have days like this, bursting with joy.