Delicacy, gentleness and respect

“In the path of your judgements, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.” (Isaiah 26:8, ESV)

I wonder how many people are longing to talk to someone – but can’t find the right opportunity.

Sometimes that might be to do with a major trauma – but not always.  I have a friend who pretty much always seems to be going ok. Self-contained, intelligent, fun to be around.  They seem happy with their own company or with others.  They rarely complain.  So – I mentioned that I thought they’d been overlooked in a certain setting – and they cried.  There hadn’t been any clue in their behaviour that they minded, but as soon as someone noticed, it was like oxygen to them.

Neither, might I add, was there any bitterness or resentment in their tears.  It was just a relief to be noticed – it was validating.

Other times… God only knows how many people are carrying pain, from major trauma, that they haven’t found a safe way to talk about.  There is research about such things, but God knows them by name. I try to keep in mind that any person I talk to could be carrying something.  If they do something I don’t like… well, I try to remember that I don’t know what they are managing on the inside.  I try to.  Perhaps if I knew, I would feel very differently about them and their behaviour.  Perhaps I will never have the right to know, it being, none of my business unless they choose to tell me.  So I see a need for some delicacy, respect, and gentleness in all our relationships.

Perhaps I should add: none of that removes the need for boundaries or expectations.  Even as a parent, do I actually know for certain how my children are experiencing life? And what they carry?  I try to notice things, and create space for them to talk, but I’m not them.  So when there is, again, a need for boundaries or expectations, I hope I do what is needed with a good measure of respect for my ignorance, and for their worth.

I love this description of Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.”  It was used after he broke the law by healing someone on the Sabbath.  It, also, comes from Isaiah, who speaks of the pain and hope of the Israelites.

God cares about those who are broken, and we are called to do the same.  So – that person who is annoying you, or who maybe evokes even stronger feelings – do you know what burdens they are carrying?  I believe, to be honest, the only authentic answer is “no”. How can we know for sure?  In some cases – many cases – it could well be safer for them to not have those burdens out in the open.  So all we can do is find a highest common denominator for the way we treat people.

A complexity of course is that this person who may be carrying a burden that would horrify us might just also be harming others.  My point is not to never challenge others or draw lines.  Just to have respect, and mercy.

The quote I started with comes from a time when the Israelites were in pain, in a world that was hostile.  Despite their own failings, they longed for God to ‘turn up’.  It’s not crystal clear whether they felt they were already experiencing God’s judgement (their current suffering), or were longing for it to come.  I believe the second, although in either case I think we see the longing of a people who know they, themselves, aren’t perfect, but yearn for God to come and express his character.

The book of Isaiah covers decades of suffering, and again, near the end, we find this:

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
    and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:1-4)

I believe it’s the longing of a people who felt known by God – that he wasn’t at all blind to their failures, but that he saw deeper, and loved what he saw.  With their warts and all, they wanted him to come.

If only we could earn a portion of that kind of trust from those we relate to each day.  Well, perhaps we can.

God bless,

Steve

God is close

IMG_0380God is closer than we think.

It’s one of the things that fascinates me about the world, about science.

I took a photo this morning of a little friend of mine, a blue tongue lizard.  I’ve actually only seen him twice. (He could be a she… What would I know?) but I’ve known he’s around, and been looking out for him.

Nature often makes me wonder. As in, awe. Continue reading

Don’t give up

One piece of pop theology that’s never sat well with me goes like this:
“Knock on the door. If God wants it to open, it will open. If it doesn’t open, it’s not his will, so walk away.”
I don’t buy it. Sometimes it is valid. If you check out Ecclesiastes 3, a lot of things are valid at times. But I just wonder…
How much human endeavour would have failed if people gave up after knocking on a door then presumed that because it didn’t open, it wasn’t God’s will? I’m just glad so many people are still trying to find answers… medicine being an example close to my heart.
My kids and I planted some chives a few weeks back. We planted a few others things too, and after a week or two, the basil had sprouted, so had the silver beet. Where were the chives? Eaten by ants? Drowned? Planted too deep?

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Silent Prayers

Just before my father died, he asked me if it was ok to pray for yourself.

Dad had a long journey with faith.  He’d seen a lot in his life, including time as a prisoner of war in World War II.  I think in many ways becoming a doctor only confronted him with more suffering in people’s lives.  He was a very compassionate person, and so when he saw people being treated badly, he found that very difficult.  He certainly found it difficult to reconcile suffering with the existence of God.  Meanwhile I often thought that he and God had a lot more in common than it might have seemed.

I can relate to the struggle.  I also have my answers to it… largely.  It’s certainly one thing to have answers in theory, but when you are faced with real suffering: it’s just a different ball game.  Certainly, the last thing that helps is pat or glib answers.  And what if the suffering goes on and on… and on and on?

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No coincidences

Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

I’ve long been fascinated by the way the world works. As a kid, that sometimes meant breaking things, where I’d been fairly confident that putting them back together would be not so hard… Although I’m pretty sure that the time I threw a clock off our 1st floor back veranda to break it open, I wasn’t planning on getting it working again anytime soon.

I don’t see the tension between God and science because – well, I can so easily imagine him also loving the way things work, and enjoying playing with the atoms etc.  (Um, who do you think made all these rules in the first place?)  When I started university after leaving school, my initial plan was to do nuclear physics: I wanted to play with atoms too. (And other strange and beautiful things).

When I doubt God’s existence – which, I admit, is quite often, I mostly think about the amazing way the world works, and that sense of wonder just makes me think God must be real. The world is far too incredible.

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How long, O LORD?

I find myself thinking more and more about David these days.  Wish I was more like him – but then I think about all the stuff he got wrong – very badly wrong – and what I really want is to be like him in his better qualities.

I almost can’t believe he is such a hero in the Bible – as a father, as a king, he made some really terrible choices.  Unbelievable. But when I look at his better qualities, I just wish I was that good.

And one of those qualities, is patient trust.

He was so disciplined, and acted with so much integrity towards Saul.  I remember – often – the story where David was hiding in a cave and Saul came in to relieve himself.  Completely vulnerable.  David crept up and cut a little piece off Saul’s cloak.

Continue reading

Bees in the garden

What is it about the buzz of a bee that is so awesome?bees in the garden

Outside my front door I have a patch of lavender that the bees were watching carefully until the flowers started to come.  They were pretty excited when it happened, and they have been constantly hanging out there for the past couple months now.

Sometimes I have a lot of trouble settling, and connecting with God.  Often enough I wonder if he’s real at all.  But sitting near the lavender when the bees are buzzing, or taking a few photos… there’s just something very settling about it: sunshine, the low buzz, the scent of the flowers…

Gerald Manley Hopkins said, “Glory be to God for dappled things, for skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow, for rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim…”

He didn’t mention bees by name, but I get the point. Continue reading

Deep to Deep

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls – Psalm 42:7

God is hardly shallow.

I’ve worked in mission in one way or another since I left school – and as a “career” since 1990.  I started by working with street kids who had been damaged by life – particularly by the people around them.  Often, in fact largely, by the very people who should have been most trustworthy, most safe.  The amount of pain these kids were generally in was just ridiculous.

How on earth do you represent God to a person who has been badly hurt?

I think it is arrogance to believe that faith can be imposed from the outside… when it is God who made each person in his own image.  So he made us to know him – and we each have the right equipment to know him with.  Plus the yearning to do it.

So I learnt to listen. Continue reading

Welcome

Hi and welcome to my blog.

I’m passionate about people, faith, and living with integrity.

You can read a bit more about me on the about page, but for almost all of my Christian life I have wanted people to experience God like I do: best friend, confidant – someone you can really talk to, and someone who knows you deeply.  Sometimes I wish he’d talk back more often.  Maybe he does and it just passes me by.

I find faith and God in all sorts of things.  I’ve always loved science, and find it does so much to strengthen my faith – particularly when doubt is really strong.  I love nature, and find it easier to meet God there.

I’ve loved Psalm 42 for many years, and my next post will be about “deep calls to deep”.  It’s one of the framing verses for my life, and certainly my approach to working with people. Continue reading