On stopping for the one

You may have read my post last month, ‘Break my heart for what breaks yours’.

Last time I used the line (borrowed from a worship song) with reference to wider issues that I’m involved with through my workplace. I talked about how God was breaking my heart over abortion and all sorts of other things.

But God didn’t stop there.

I am exhausted and, honestly, pretty weak at the moment, as I still struggle to get to grips with the commuter life. I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired. So I’m leaning on Him because otherwise I just can’t do this. Being exhausted, and work in general, has pushed me to seek God’s face more than ever, finding truth in His word, finding strength in His presence and the resolve to stand firm in the face of opposition and questioning.

Sometimes I feel His tangible presence. Sometimes I don’t feel anything. It doesn’t matter. He never left, and He’s glad I showed up.

In making His presence a priority in my life, something is shifting in my heart (or re-shifting – I recognise this feeling from two, three years ago, back when I really fell in love with Jesus the first time). My heart just gets moved for people around me. It’s not just the big social issues; it’s individual people, and God is breaking my heart with His love and His goodness every day. In things that may seem inconsequential to you.

He did it through the hug of a young man who, I believe, has Down’s Syndrome, after we spent some hours rallying with him and others outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

He did it through an employee at the Courts who asked me about the protest, and poured out her heart to me about how doctors were neglecting her husband who had suffered two strokes.

He did it through the older man I see most days on the bus, who said to me today after a good discussion about euthanasia (after I explained my work to him and yesterday’s rally): “You know, I’m glad I met you. Because I can talk to you. And you won’t belittle me”.

The best part is, it’s nothing to do with me. It’s all Him.

My prayer is simple: that people will see Christ in me and want Him. Jesus is so beautiful, and in getting more of His heart I also get His eyes to see people the way He sees them. Through this, I am learning more of what it means to be His disciple than any book will ever teach me; than a ‘head knowledge’ of the Word will ever give me. Any knowledge or intellect or understanding of my own is worthless without relationship. If I knew my Bible back to front but never stopped for the one, what good would that be?

Thank you Lord for the simplicity of the gospel.

It really is that simple. Holy Spirit wants to touch people and all I am doing is learning to say ‘yes I’m in’. I’m excited to see more.

And yes, I’m tired and maybe that makes me over-emotional. But you know, if that’s what it takes to keep me dependent on Him and able to be moved by the things that move Him, I will gladly commute for as long as I need to. If this is what it takes to keep my heart soft and intimacy with God my priority, so be it.

So I’m thankful. God is good.

 

The right to not be offended

My job makes me think a lot. (yes, even more than usual, gosh how am I coping I hear you ask).

Part of my work involves reading a lot of articles every day, in both the secular and Christian media – from sources of varying intellectualism, political and theological stances. This means I get multiple perspectives, often on the same news, in the form of reportage and comment.

That’s actually quite challenging. Some of the things I read make me want to bang my head against a wall; occasionally even disappear from the face of the Earth for a little while. Sometimes I don’t want to even give certain websites my attention, because I feel like in some strange way, I am advocating their stupidity just by reading them! The opposite is true as well; I can find myself experiencing confusion because anothers’ views are so well presented that I have to stop and re-evaluate my own. This may be a political idea, or it may even be something that challenges my faith and my view of who God is.

Here’s the twist you might not have been expecting: This is a really, really good thing!

I think being forced to engage with different opinions is a great advantage. Nothing tunes your critical thinking skills like understanding another point of view.
I’m fairly used to this as a former Lit student, but the subject matter, whilst definitely not irrelevant, was rarely so immediate as the headlines I read every day. Now, as I read more, I find more gaps in my own knowledge on national and world issues; I see arguments I don’t know how to counter.

Generally, I try to put myself in the situation of the writer and understand how he or she came to such conclusions. What kind of worldview do they adhere to and why? Why would they come to such a view on X subject? Why (in some cases) would they refer to Christians/Christianity in such derogatory terms? What are the facts on the issue?

These are the kinds of questions I ask myself in the simple hope that I might not only sharpen my own convictions, but also gain a fuller understanding on relevant subjects. And ultimately understand the bigger picture (a recurring theme… seems to be how my brain works…).

Without a well-rounded understanding of all sides of an argument, how can you be sure that you’re right?

To clarify, I’m not necessarily referring to belief in the existence of God. I can’t speak for you, but my belief in God is based on a two-way relationship, not on reason alone.

I am, however, talking about political and social issues, and also about issues that divide the Church. It’s not always a binary case of right/wrong. But at the heart of everything, I believe, there is one universal Truth, and that is Jesus Christ.

Do the views I am reading/watching – even views expressed by Christians – align with the Word of God? Do mine?

The second part of my thought pattern these days is related to the first. It’s a little word that keeps getting brandished in the media: offence.

This is something I’ve been thinking about on and off, in light of the current debate around free speech, which could be seriously threatened by government proposals to counter various forms of ‘extremism’. Censorship is on the rise, which seems strange considering the increasingly liberal society we live in. We live in a culture that claims tolerance yet takes offence incredibly easily, leading to censorship of the views that have been deemed offensive. Germaine Greer and her recent (somewhat rudely expressed) comments on transgender people, for example, has led to universities trying to ban her from speaking at their events.

I’m absolutely not advocating abuse or discrimination. But I think people in this country keep demanding the right to not be offended, forgetting that they already have it.

It seems to me that we live in a very ‘feeling-based’ culture. Everything has to cater for your personal feelings. I don’t say this flippantly because honestly I am quite an emotional person at heart, but there are so many problems that come with prioritising your feelings when making all your life choices.

You know, you can disagree with someone’s opinion without taking offence, even if those views are insulting or bigoted. You still reserve the right to walk away.

The concept of freedom is absolute, isn’t it? Either you are free or you are not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that rather than getting offended, surely the better option would be to engage with the topic? Understand the point of view you disagree with, and then if you are able, challenge it. (Might be a better option than slapping the label ‘-phobic’ on people who have reservations or disagreements about certain topics, which seems to be what the government is trying to do…)

Just some thoughts I’ve had recently. I hope this is coherent and that my words, flawed as they may be, will have conveyed something worthwhile.