Archive for March, 2013

One question I puzzle over a lot is whether everything in my life matches up. A few years ago, I auditioned for music colleges all around the country. One liked my playing enough to offer me a scholarship. The next day, I went to practice, and I was suddenly racked with fear. What if they discover that I can’t really play my scales? That I don’t really play as well as they think I do?

Scales apart, it does seem important that people know the real you. That you don’t change in personality or in actions or in morals when you are with different people. That what you say and what you do matches, and especially with what you believe.

Now, is is something I find very hard to do. I’m very good at hiding. I’m totally pants at asking for help, and even sometimes turn it down when it is offered. do you want to borrow my hairdryer? Are you sure? Really? (True story. I gave in in the end and borrowed it. But only after about 5 mins of the above.)

The time I spent on anti-depressants gave me something I could relatively easily tell people was wrong. Yes, I’m feeling a bit low at the moment, and I’m taking some pills to help that. But no. Hardly anyone knew. Hardly anyone knows that when I do get low, something bad might happen and I might go back down into that place of darkness, where the sun sure doesn’t shine.

On the contrary, on the outside, things look fine. Work happens, shallow friendships are made (with a few deeper ones as well), it is easy to be Little Miss Perfect. But it always seems that there is so much at stake.

I pray that my words might match my actions. I pray that my actions might match what I believe about Jesus, who lived among us as a vulnerable person, who came to serve and die for us. Who was perfect, but also human. That his power is made perfect in our weakness.

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The other day I went to a different church for a change. Also, partly because I didn’t get out of bed early enough to go the other one. Anyway, I went somewhere different.

It seemed a fairly normal service. Then the sermon started. And things got a little messy. Somehow, the preacher managed to link what he was saying to contemporary culture via the link of Jimmy Saville. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty bad news.

Yes, the news about Jimmy Saville broke a while ago. And yes, the abuse that happened to me was years and years ago. And through many a counselling session and many a good chat with a friend, it has been dealt with. With a few wounds along the way.

But I used to spend hours with my brother watching Jim’ll Fix It. We loved it. Jim even wrote a letter of support to my school choir once upon a time. He was a charismatic figure we all loved.

And he came crashing down from his pedestal when the news broke last year – I don’t even remember when. But then it was like someone turning the knife in the wound as day after day, I woke up to hear the headlines reporting even more allegations about him. Newspapers splashed his picture all over their front pages. He was everywhere. Truly, it was horrible.

Yes, what he did was completely wrong and he should have been brought to justice, a LONG time ago. But surely now that’s old news? The media got it very wrong, by making it be so present each day. And Fragmentz wrote a fantastic blog entry about it at the time and about being a survivor. Fragmentz – Some thoughts on being a survivor and Jimmy Saville

So when the preacher mentioned Jimmy Saville, I was angry. I didn’t need to go there again. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one there to have found it hard.

But then it got worse. Society can condemn Jimmy Saville because they consider what he did to have been morally wrong. But it considers sex outside of marriage as ok when it is between two consenting adults; something which the Bible tells us is wrong. Yes, I can see that point of view, in fact, I do believe that any sex outside marriage is not part of God’s plan for us. Yes, just because there are two consenting adults it doesn’t make it right.

However, by this time, something inside me was screaming You can’t liken sex outside of marriage to child abuse and paedophilia!!! I’m not even sure I heard the rest of what the guy said, as I was so angry. Abuse is morally wrong, and it has to remain separate from other sexual sins, simply because it is that. That doesn’t mean it cannot be forgiven, but it seemed to me like comparing the stealing of a penny sweet to murder.

After the service, I calmed down a bit. Spotting the preacher by the door, I decided to talk to him about what he said, and tell him that it had been totally unreasonable. That abuse affects something like 1 in 5 people (maybe even more) and that what he said would have been very difficult for many people to hear.

As I talked to him though, it turned out that he had no intention whatsoever of likening sex outside of marriage to child abuse. He hadn’t quite thought through what he had said enough to make the link – it had been a total accident. He accepted my criticism, said he would write it down for the future. And Jimmy Saville had also been one of his childhood heroes.

Instead of me seething throughout the rest of the day, and possibly descending into a place which I might have regretted, I felt alive. I had a life-giving conversation with someone who treated me as a valid conversation partner. And I’m hoping it made a difference for the future.

And whatever, it was another battle won for me. Another time when I didn’t descend into the dark and lonely place from where it seems impossible to escape. And I only hope that when someone gives me friendly criticism, I will be as ready to listen.

“If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Matt 18:15

Preachers – just don’t go there with Jimmy Saville. It’s not cool, nor is it helpful. And please, read through what you have written before you proclaim it to a congregation…just in case. These things do happen.

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A warning

Posted: March 24, 2013 in Hope, Turning away from God
Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t know if you noticed much this winter, but there were a lot of severe weather warnings, and some even continue today. In all its wisdom, the MET office issued “Yellow Snow Warnings”, to warn people that they might get stuck.

I’m not sure if you know this, but yellow snow is definitely something to be worried about. It means that a passing dog has done his business. Basically. So something that we should avoid.

It’s funny really, because snow is so like us, and the yellow bits (or dark grey muddy bits if it is on the edge of a road) are like our sins. We begin as white as snow, but then we screw things up somewhat. What began as pure is totally ruined. And only God can make it better. (Yes, I know, we could argue for days about whether we really did begin as pure, but here I’m mostly thinking Eden days…)

Sin is one of those big bad words which I’m not always convinced we really understand. It feels like one of those “Christian” words that belongs to a bygone age back when people drove around in carriages and said thee and thou. It makes us feel like miserable offenders who can never get anything right or like we need to try to be perfect and never get anything wrong.

But, actually, I am a sinner. And, although I don’t know you, I think it is likely that you are too. How many times have I wandered away from God’s purposes for my life? How many times have I thought horrible things about people? How many times have I decided that I know best (and there is a story of when I was 3 and decided I could swim by myself and jumped into the swimming pool without any armbands…and of course I sank…) How many times have I simply tried to ignore God and pretend he isn’t there?

But because Jesus offers us the hope of forgiveness through the cross and resurrection, I (and you) can be forgiven for this. It is amazing. We can live in hope of grace that we don’t deserve but God gives us anyway. However far we have fallen, or whatever we have done, we can know God’s forgiveness.

However, this does mean I try my best not to screw up, otherwise the grace offered by the cross becomes a joke – I mean, Jesus died so that I could go free. That means that the yellow snow warning comes as a warning to me, to seek after purity and holiness and good. Not to give into the desires that I know will lead me into bad places. And to give sin and all patches of yellow in the snow a very wide berth.

So I have a lot of stuff. I have decided. I’m currently living it up in the South of France (as you do) and, for essentially a three week holiday, I needed 23 kilos in my suitcase and a heavy rucksack besides. Good job I came by train.

Somehow, packing is something which fills me with horror. And even more horror. I simply cannot decide what to bring. Do I really like that t-shirt enough – doesn’t it make me look like I’m jaundiced? Or what about those trousers? Does anything else even match them?

I discovered that I own somewhere in the region of 25 vest tops. Only about 5 are decent enough to wear in public. The others are all vests , and some cannot even be said to be that as they are WAY too small, and therefore very uncomfortable indeed.

Do I keep believing the myth that one day, I will fit into it all again? Or should I cut my losses and bin the lot? How much do I want to be thin again – more than I desire Jesus to change my life?

How is it possible to pack for time away when the weather could do anything (and probably will) without creating a suitcase so heavy it is embarassing? Why does it feel like having things will make everything safe and ok? That I need all the things I own at all times, just in case?

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

And I still failed to bring clothes that match. And my sunglasses. Tant pis.

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charlie peacock

 

Going down to Mystic, Louisiana
Looking for the meaning in the dirt
This is my story, my story is my glory
My shame, my comfort, my hurt

 

Is your story your glory? How has God been working in your life? How is the bad stuff being redeemed by the God who sees our shame and hurt and gives us comfort?

NSAD-Artwork

Today is Self-Harm Awareness Day in the UK.

How aware are YOU about self-harm? I could write a fantastic post about it, but Emma Scrivener has already done that, so please take a look at http://emmascrivener.net/2013/03/self-harm-info/ for more details on what self-harm is and how to help others.

All I’m going to say is that I needed (and sometimes still need) all the help I can get to shout out into the darkness that descends. So people who listen to those in that place are just so valuable. You don’t need to offer advice, but just be there and say that you care. And ideally also that God cares.

Let’s beat this thing. Together.