How I found freedom from the prison of ego

iPhone July 2011 005 - Copy

As a thirteen year old I dug the garden on a Saturday afternoon to earn a little extra pocket money to go and see Delirious (at that point transitioning from being known as Cutting Edge). I joined the masses queuing outside my church and then packed into the hall to hear the big new thing in the Christian world. A few years before in what was know as the Toronto Blessing I had stood awed in meetings and fallen prostrate. There was undoubtedly a little of me mimicking what those to my left and right were doing, but that was not the entirety.

Being ahead of Christian culture was what mattered.

When I got to university and people would go on about Delirious I would roll my eyes, it was no longer cool to be into them. When someone had the great idea to do a 24-7 prayer room, I said I could do that in my sleep.

I’d flippantly pontificate on whether DJ led worship was really suitable for a congregation. But also make sure people knew I’d done break dancing sessions in a disused and refashioned train station in Germany. When cell groups, small groups, D groups, life groups, connect groups, were being discussed I’d have a couple of handy mnemonics or aphorisms up my sleeve; I’d find a way to segue in that I’d done a seminar on cell group multiplication. I’d be one of those people who wouldn’t clap, or stand, or raise my hands, when the host or worship leader said to, because, you know, worship is about us choosing to worship.

I got Christian culture and I thought I was better than it. I would raise my eyes and sneeringly remark at the queues of people waiting to get a photo with Tim Hughes. Until someone else noted my own remark was designed to draw attention to myself. Continue reading

The faded certainty of attraction

I thought that I would know. I thought that the moment the right person walked into my life all would become clear. Sirens would scream, lights would flare, passions would ignite and all doubt would be banished.

I thought that one day I’d be mature enough to move past the waves of attraction that fade in and out like the intermittent reception on the battered transistor radio placed between the paint and tins of nails in the garden shed. I hope in some recess of my mind that certainty is still only the right person away. But that hope recedes into the realms of fantasy.

Because what I learn each moment that I pass through life is that affection and attraction are fickle friends. And knowledge and certainty are elusive ideas that once found only present more dilemmas. Following yesterday’s post on Vaughan Roberts’ interview, I thought I’d ponder a little more. This is a tad more theological that I originally intended, maybe all a smokescreen to protect my fragile emotional state!

In response I, and you, and anyone else, could take either of two divergent paths. Either we see the doubt that lies before us and turn and run away. We could opt for what we know, what is safe and what is comfortable. In the most relativistic sense we rely on where we are to authenticate our ability to decide truth. We either allow comfort to lead to inertia or dissatisfaction to prompt change.

The second option is to live in the light of what Francis Spufford in his new book apparently labels with the acronym HPtFtU. I haven’t read the book – it’s on my ever expanding list – and for the sake of modesty I won’t unravel the abbreviation, but it’s what we in more biblically literate times might label as sin. Stuff goes wrong, and we do not see clearly how things can work themselves out. We live in chaos and confusion, and in the most enlightened of moments only have hazy clarity and even then we might be kidding ourselves.

So the gaze of attraction I cast toward a lady in my midst might be motivated by lust, or it might be the beginning of a love that she is due. And in most cases it is probably a little bit of both. Because even if I get married I will not be free from lust – I’m told that enough by my married friends – I will at times lust after my wife, and other women I encounter.

But all this talk of lust scares me off. It makes me worry that any attraction is motivated by my nefarious desires. Somehow this needs to be redeemed. Beauty is not bad, attraction is not bad.

Beauty must be appreciated for what it represents. It represents God’s creation and his love for us. It is not just the physical but it is the physical. We are not to get so spiritual that we deny what is literally right in front of us. Something I have to repeatedly remind myself is that finding someone attractive is not a bad thing.

It leaves me embracing uncertainty, and learning that as much as I might like things ordered and classified, colour coded and project managed, that’s not the way life works. There is ambiguity around every corner, there is discernment over what needs discernment and what needs a shunt of courage to spur us to take risks when we will never know all we wish we did.

Doubt lurks around every corner waiting to cripple me and hold me back. Whether it is my worth, my value to others, my abilities, or the prospects of love, doubt undermines your security and tries to tell you your identity is in whether you overcome these frailties, and if you don’t then your identity is as a failure.

But doubt is the door through which redemption arrives. We learn that we cannot do it on our own, we are weak and we are frail, and we are broken and lost, and these will not be cast aside any time soon. But when we learn that we cannot overcome all that might try to drag us down we look up. We see that in the mystery and confusion, and the uncertainty and unsettled resolve there is a place we can be secure. And from the place of security we can go on adventures unshackled by doubts and fears.