So after more than a month of silence and thousands of kilometers travelled to and through the UK and back, what have I got to say for the new year? What new wisdoms did I find in the Scottish highlands, what mind-blowing revelations to take from the time in Yorkshire and London? Hmmmm…
I really have no idea, but I do feel different but still the same if that makes sense. I’ve thought back and forth about what new deep, eloquent insights I could offer after three weeks of new impressions, a massive variety of sights and sounds and many precious conversations.
I guess there are too many things, that I’ve taken with me, for one post and so they’ll probably come out in drips and drabs, post by post – a collection of sweet nothings. So for now I’ll just talk about the general feeling (yes yes, a guy talking about his feelings), so forgive me if this isn’t as concise and to the point as you might hope.
The first thing I would say is that I’m more relaxed, which you would expect after a holiday. But a holiday doesn’t guarantee peace. We often take the stress and all the other monkeys on our backs with us on holiday. Leaving everything that forms part of my everyday life (apart from my girlfriend) and going somewhere new, somehow confronted me with the irrelevant bull that I so often cling to. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I can easily fall into a pit where I compare myself with others and focus on my own shortfalls. Being in new places, where no one knew me and where I felt completely anonymous, really allowed me to look away from myself and just observe other people. I found myself fascinated with the strangest details and I couldn’t help but smile in wonder at the variety of God’s design. That awe and wonder is still so much bigger than the petty stuff that can hold me down sometimes and that is a pretty sizable monkey off my back. I’m not saying I don’t have spouts of insecurity or doubt anymore, I just recognize it for what it is more easily and instead of trying to feel or be better I run to God.
Another thing I was unexpectedly confronted with was my in-and-out-of-church thinking. I don’t want to overstate this, but I realized how often I’ve put people into one of these two boxes. I love people and I certainly don’t judge people who don’t believe in Jesus, but I do tend to categorize. I’ve been in the same local church for almost 30 years and I’ve been away before, but this time I really saw every person I passed on the street or started a conversation with as God’s kid. It ties back to the previous point about being in awe of God’s creation. I experienced church in a totally different way. I’ve always believed that church was more than just a building or a clique. But I now realize that I did have a subconscious image of what Christians look like. I want to be more forgiving. Christians, like everybody else, screw up every now and again. I’ve always known and accepted that, but I’m ashamed to think of how easily I’ve judged people. The church is as much of a mystery to me as God is and I love that. My girlfriend and I visited my cousin’s local church in London and, while I’ve visited different churches before, very few had the same variety of people as you’d find outside the building. It was so moving to worship with all these people I didn’t know. It opened my eyes once again to God’s church. It’s not middle class, it’s not western or African, it’s not young or old, it’s not perfect… It’s people who love Jesus and bring all their yuck and grime to him. Obvious, I know, but it’s easy to forget that. I sometimes get so caught up in the responsibilities of church life that I forget what God is really after – my worship. He wants me, wholly and unconditionally. Anything I do is purely a side effect of this. God is so much bigger, merciful and loving than we can imagine and I tend to forget that.
When you no longer see God as a mean principle, the kind that waits for you to turn around after your time in the corner so he can give you a speech and receive your insincere apology, everything becomes easy. I don’t mean effortless, just easy. Things work out the way I plan or they don’t. Either way God is my best friend and does everything for me. When I struggle with the fact that I’m not worthy he’s already there, “I took care of that”. Weird that I needed a trip half way around the world to be reminded of that.