I am not a humble person. Show me a writer who’s a humble person and I’ll show you someone who isn’t a writer. We are interested in only two things when we write: first off, exploring and ferreting out the truth (we like to shout “Eureka!” as if we are the first people ever to know what we’ve just discovered) , and secondly communicating it to others. The first part, exploration, is more important to us than being right, and sometimes that’s mistaken for humility, but it isn’t. It’s just a single-minded, bloody-minded obsession with writing, as if what we write is important, even when we know that we’re blundering around in the dark and crashing into walls.
Writers are rubbish at most things. Most have lurched through a painful life and even those who seem to have led privileged lives have too-tender skins and too-acute vision, and often too-sharp tongues to be good company. Good writers are not saintly. So should a writer decide to add the ouvre of Christianity? Bonkers, difficult people like me? Really?
I’m a bit (very) conscious of prayer right now, very grateful for it, with a head full of half thoughts drifting in and out of focus. I recognise this as the first step in the writing process, but I’m not sure I should write about prayer. Does the world need any more printed word, or ‘Christian’ videos, or Tedtalks? Really?
In an effort to answer my own question, I went onto a Christian website which offers all manner of teaching resources to look up “Prayer” just to see how well this topic is served and guess what? There are 364 different resources about prayer on that one site, from videos to books, to children’s lessons to training courses. Training courses! When they said to Jesus ‘Teach us to pray” he did so in 53 words (I don’t count the doxology the King James version chucked on the end). Fifty three words!
Flip me. 53. And now a whole prayer industry, sorry, ministry.
It reminds me of something my husband used to say to our daughter; there was a patch of wonderfully wild waste ground right next to our house, a piece of land intended to be just another part of our council estate but never developed. George and Lou would walk our Great Dane there, following the tracery of paths that had been created over the years.As they came upon a crossroads of paths he would say “Oh, look – let’s take that one. No one has ever been down here before.” and Lou would caper on ahead, delighted at the thought of being the first human being to step onto that path. It was only some years later that she realised many people must have been there before her if there was a path to follow.
That’s very like me when an idea fires off and I shout “Eureka!” “I have it!” I may, indeed, ‘have it’ but a million billion other minds have discovered it first.
Maybe I shouldn’t write about prayer as so many better thinkers and writers and teachers have been there before me. Whaddya think, thinkers?
Hey. Talking of teaching… listen…. recently I spoke to a sweet natured, gracious woman who loves God and has had a difficult emotional life. She is reading and listening to, and being affected by, the teachings of a woman she has never met, a woman who owns not one lush mansion but several, who preaches to packed stadia, who heads up a corporation distributing videos and publications all over the world, a woman who is a multi millionaire regardless of the world full of need all around her, saying that her immense wealth and extremely lavish life style is God’s ‘blessing’. She teaches thousands upon thousands of followers, a tiny figure strutting across a large stage, surrounded by an army of security guards and acolytes, as unapproachable as the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament. My sweet, gracious friend who lives a simple life will never see how this ‘teacher’ lives, will never know her motivation, or be able to gauge how deep her sincerity might be. Her talks and books are peppered with sound bites, ‘take-aways’, like “Have God make a message out of your mess.” When you break that down, yes, there is meaning there, but it’s meaning the reader brings to it, it’s our human desire to make sense out of even the most banal statement that gives it any meaning at all. But my friend, who is so thoughtful and so loving, reads and listens and is often rebuked (and made to feel less-than) by this so successful millionaire businesswoman. Dragged down by her certainty and dogmatism. How sad. I would like to fight my way through her security squad, or scale her electronic gates in her millionaire’s row, or barge my way onto her private jet, grab her by her designer jacket and tell her to leave my friend alone.
I know some Godly teachers. I know they are Godly not just by what they teach and their close adherence to the Bible, but by the way they live their lives. They teach from a very small stage, reaching out to the small communities they live in, living out the words they preach. The transparent way they live is a teaching more valuable than any amount of clever words, fanfares, fame, fandom.
In the very marrow of my bones, when I thank God for these wonderful teachers, I know that they delight Him. They delight God. Wowser. I know that for certain sure, in the very marrow of my bones. Seeing how they live, and cope with the ups and downs of real life, I can happily and with deep excitement, listen to their teaching, knowing that it’s true, sincere, integrated with the Word. Shot through with God.
You know when you read my blog? That’s not what you’re getting. These are not words to live by. They are just words from a stumbling, bumbling writer-in-the-dark. A happily bumbling writer.
Thanks for listening. You’ve persuaded me. I am not going to write about prayer.
“Constantly be on your guard against phony prophets. They come disguised as lambs, appearing to be genuine, but on the inside they are like wild, ravenous wolves! You can spot them by their actions, for the fruits of their character will be obvious. You won’t find sweet grapes hanging on a thorn bush, and you’ll never pick good fruit from a tumbleweed. So if the tree is good, it will produce good fruit; but if the tree is bad, it will bear only rotten fruit and it deserves to be cut down and burned. Look at the obvious fruit of their lives and ministries, and then you’ll know whether they are true or false.” Matthew 7:15-20 (TPT)
PS. Just had an email from another pal, suggesting some other Christian women for my friend to read…. Elisabeth Elliott, Edith Schaeffer and Corrie ten Boom. Good point! And none of them lived as millionaires, none of them preached prosperity, they would all have had time and compassion for those who sometimes weep.