I don’t claim infallibility but I enjoy the sense of being right. And when proved wrong, or when I see that a decision of mine has been idiotic, I hold onto defiance and denial for as long as possible. It’s one of the things I do particularly well.
I didn’t watch Sopranos when it first came out because I said sniffily “Why would I watch a series glorifying criminals?”. When I finally unbent enough to give it a go, I was completely hooked on this wonderful, rich, truthful portrayal of greed and power.
I voted one way in the Brexit referendum and now I would vote the other.
I moved to Wales. Enough said.
In all these things and a million more I have been wrong, and yet I have sailed through life assuming that my thoughts and opinions are right. And when they’re proved absolutely and undeniably wrong I quickly change the subject.
I am, in short, human. This would be OK, but it turns out that I am quite a lot more human and less angelic, than you. You disagree? OK, let’s have a reckoning – do you swear? Do you fume inwardly? Do you plan conversations that will always, always prove you right? Do you jump into the murky fast flowing river of life with huge enthusiasm, only to drag yourself up on some muddy riverbank a few days later, bedraggled and bruised? Do you shut off from emotion when it’s going to hurt? Do you sit stoney faced and immoveable when your weakness might otherwise show? Do you pull the blinds down and lock the door and stick two fingers up to the world when … well, when the mood jolly-well takes you?
Do you argue with God and explain stuff to Him and reason and wheedle?
No? Then I win the contest. I am much, much less angelic than you. And what’s more, you can stop looking at me like that because I don’t even care. (Did I mention that I’m pig-headed and perverse?) Except… except…. now I do care. Which is a bit of a shock to the system. After 70 years of pig-headed happy stuff-you-ness, I actually care. I don’t want to be like that any more. I’m tired of being like that. I’ve out-Luced the Luce.
I saw myself in a completely new light last week, and I hated what I saw. A mirror was held up to me and for once I didn’t look away. The last five years have taught me that much.
It’s not quite Paul being knocked off his pony and blinded, and a voice from heaven…. and it certainly won’t have the same effect on the Christian church as that day on the road to Damascus… but it’s a pretty earth shaking event in my little life.
How can I put this in a short blog? Here I go, see if it makes sense to you: In the last 5 years, week by week, almost day by day, I’ve caught many a new glimpse of God, understood a little bit more about Him and about us, my eyes have re-focussed and found a new perspective, I’ve become excited by the discovery that the Bible really is alive and active, that this isn’t just a pious phrase. In those 5 years, I’ve been a bit horn-swaggled by the action of God in my life, sometimes on a tiny tiny scale, sometimes turning my understanding and my world upside down. I’ve discovered prayer and the answer to prayer. Most of all, the most shattering and crazily exciting thing I’ve discovered is that God cares about the life of my soul, my closeness to Him, and He is real and present and I am with Him at all times. I’ve discovered that prayer isn’t only a time or a practice, although it’s both of those things, but it’s also life. It’s breath. It’s every breath, every thought, when we’ve turned our thoughts over to Him, guided by Him. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
And it is.
But there’s the thing, my friends, if coming to faith was the biggest moment in my past life, this, here and now, is – I think – the most painful. I first wrote ‘the deepest’ but that’s not quite right. It’s the most painful because I have known Jesus for 35 years and disobeyed Him for just as long. Twit. Painful because now I accept, and acknowledge, that I’ve utterly failed to obey the new commandment of Jesus “… love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. “
I am not practised in that. I have never done it. I simply can’t do it, because it isn’t me. I look around the church, the village, the world and I see it with a writer’s eye. I see the games and the lies and the stories we tell (me too) to paint ourselves in the best light, I spy the strategies and I smile when they don’t pay off, and I sigh when they fool others. I take pride in being alone and apart, as my self-defensive heart shrivels and desiccates. There’s even a perverse sort of defiance in being lonely. What a fool! And God has been gradually showing me, day by day, faithfully, that this is not the way He wants me to be.
Would I listen? Not on your Nelly! I know best. I can look after me better than anyone else. But God is patient.
He wants me humble, and trusting, and open and joyful. Hah! For years I’ve excused myself, and said “I’m honest!” and worn it like a badge. But you can be honest and cold, honest and judgmental, honest and unloving. God wants me honest, yes, but He also wants me humble, and trusting, and open and joyful. I’ve learnt all this and more, much much more in the last five years. I’ve learned some great great truths about God, truths to revolutionise life, but this is the moment – this is the moment. This is the moment.
This is the moment when I decide, choose, to submit to those truths. God is asking for a new commitment, a new me. That’s a daunting thought. And impossible.
I do thank God that He’s brought me to this point. But oh, boy, am I going to need help!?!?
I sat in church last night and I looked around at all the others there…. and it was a bit overwhelming. How can I soften and step out from behind my wall and join them? After 70 years how can I? How can I stay behind and chat and reach out and let others reach me? Sound easy to you? It’s not!!!! It’s foreign, my friends, it’s all so foreign.
This is my Damascene road. This is where I turn to God and say “I can’t do it. Please help me.” and this is where I say in the same breath “Thank you that you are the God of the impossible and you’re already doing it in me.”
“…when proved wrong, or when I see that a decision of mine has been idiotic, I hold onto defiance and denial for as long as possible. It’s one of the things I do particularly well.”
I’ve been wrong all my life. But today I’m letting go of defiance and denial.
Let my passion for life be restored,
tasting joy in every breakthrough you bring to me.
Hold me close to you with a willing spirit
that obeys whatever you say.
Then I can show to other guilty ones
how loving and merciful you are.
They will find their way back home to you,
knowing that you will forgive them.
Yep, I’m still mining Psalm 51. The bold font is mine.
And hey, I want to thank God, here in this blog, as I type these words, for the people He brought into my life to bring me, so patiently, to this point. And to ask them to continue, patiently. This may take some time.