The end of the week’s been busy – but it’s been much nicer than the grim start to the month! My lectures have been interesting and I know I’ll enjoy the specialities I’ll be doing in the next few months. There’s something incredible about watching a baby being born, or seeing a tumour shrinking thanks to chemotherapy. Being a medical student really is an enormous privalege.
Tonight also marked a first for me; I preached for the first time. True, it wasn’t a big preach, to a lot of people, and it wasn’t very eloquent, but it was still the first time I’ve ever been trusted to give my take on God to someone else. I volunteer with a community group for adult Christians with learning disabilities, and over the last year it’s really opened my eyes to what the Bible means when it talks about having the faith of a child, as many of them have quite a high level of disability so I think there is a parallel there to some extent. The people who come are so easy to love, and have such a trust in God that I often feel they have a much better grasp of faith than I do with all my questions and doubts. I was teaching on prayer this evening, and a lot of what I was saying that was relevant to them, came from my own feelings of inadequacy with my prayer life – in the company of others, I stumble and stutter, and mix up words and tail off. I’m most comfortable talking to God on my own, without the external pressures of people listening and wondering what angle I’m coming from. I’m not a big fan of admitting when I’ve messed up and done wrong – I always try and convince myself that I can hide from God and conceal my mistakes. During my depression, I’ve had long periods of avoiding God all together, but, like the sun resolutely shining in your eyes when you’re driving, there He always is. I’m too afraid to come and say, ‘I’m hurting so much I have no words to describe it. I’m so afraid I have no reference for it. I’m so tired of all this that I feel blanker by the hour’. I’m too afraid sometimes to just sit and let God sit with me, to be quiet. But, God doesn’t care if we use big words or small words, long phrases or short ones. He doesn’t mind when we don’t say much, for want of words, or need of healing. As long as the line of communication is open, He’s happy. Sometimes I forget that.
I need so much to grow in faith, but part of that is growing down in a sense, abandoning my pride and my independence and committing just to follow on, to let God lead me. It’s not just about reading the works of early Christian writers, or sitting down for a few hours with some John Stott. It’s not just about understanding all the things the cross is thought to have achieved, or the political set up of Jerusalem in the time of the gospels. It’s about going back to a child’s faith, the blind, loving faith that does not question, but merely looks for comfort. It isn’t easy. It took about six months of going to church, an alpha course, going to a prayer room four times a week at the crack of dawn, and some heavy mentoring to get me to learn to lean on God and commit myself to Jesus. I didn’t want to accept that, in this world, this wilderness, I need help, just as we all do. It took a long time to break and say, ‘OK, here I am, please help me’. The people in my group don’t have this problem, or at least, not in the same measure that I do.
Just as I love the way the leaders love the people who come, and cherish them as equal members of a community, I love how the participants teach me how to follow. It’s awesome. In deconstructing the Bible to a level they can get involved with and understand, it helps me to get to the bottom of it as well. It’s all very well reading the Pentateuch and learning all about sin offerings and burnt offerings and what to do if you’re an Israelite and your house has mould on the wall – but really, the Lord’s prayer says it all with a simple message of ‘Please God, make this world as good as the next will be, give me what I need to survive and forgive me when I do wrong. Help me learn to forgive others and keep my on the right path, away from evil’. That pretty much sums up everything we need to pray for ourselves. There’s a reason Jesus was so in favour of that passage and why it is beloved of so many denominations.
This week has been a challenge, but one that I have managed to overcome. And I’m learning, all the time, to trust that God has me, by his right hand. There’s a line in Psalm 139 that I love –
‘you hem me in, behind and before….you have laid your hand on me’
as it always makes me think of God putting a safety net below me to catch me when I fall, but also setting limits on the heights I reach when I’m running at a hundred miles an hour and at threat of burning out. I’m well known as someone who packs in a lot and is always on the go – slowing down is something I find difficult and sometimes refuse to acknowledge a need for. He keeps me in that safe, balanced middle ground and does not let me, or anyone, go. He tells me to slow down and check my bearings, and reminds me to breathe easy every once in a while. He softens my falls.
God, please don’t let go.