Walking with giants
One of the first surprises when I arrived in the UK was the hug from my cute little baby godson Joseph who has somehow becoming a towering MAN who throws hammers at athletics events for fun! It was hilarious to see him and it was an image that stuck with me throughout the trip.
I became aware that even though other people hadn’t grown physically like Joe, I was walking amongst giants: giants of faith. I was privileged to live amongst them before our move, and I appreciated it at the time but we all know that there’s nothing like losing something to make you really see it from all angles. Here’s the kind of things my old church are doing, just in their personal lives, let alone the stuff they do in their communities or wider afield.
Waiting well for a kidney transplant, but remaining in faith….. handling bereavement after 50 years of marriage…… or a seemingly cruel 3 years of marriage…. or another marriage somewhere in between…… trusting God throughout debilitating longterm illness…. managing chronic fatigue….. coping with pain whilst waiting to see specialists…. waiting for a new hip (there was a lot of waiting going on)….. staying faithful in tricky marriages…. negotiating the minefield that is the care system laid out for elderly parents… adjusting to empty nests…. holding down demanding jobs… running businesses where people adore the boss and love the values…
We loved seeing our friend’s new tattoo on a healthy arm having seen his frame ravaged by anxiety and mental torture. We loved seeing friends we thought we might not even see again, and were impressed with them just handling being OLD! As we all know, growing old is not for sissys, it’s maybe one of the biggest challenges of life! Betty said “Colin said once in a preach that we can choose not to be offended, and I tell you Pam, it’s kept me goin’ ” Wise woman – she hasn’t just listened to a talk whilst planning her shopping list but she’s made it part of her life. Jesus once said “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13)
All normal people. All handling the normal stuff of life. All quietly extraordinary. It wasn’t just adults – our young people took my breath away too – “taking Jesus” to a prom instead of a girl (!), offering hospitality, mentoring the younger children.. oh, and it was especially brilliant to be there to see our friend Charlie get baptised.
We did the whole “being interviewed from the front” thing at the church meeting but the real stuff was discussed in proper chats with people and catch-ups, and it was such a treat to see everyone. We know these people – we know their parents’ names, we know their weaknesses, their kids’ birthdays, we know how they like their tea….
I was proud of my mates in the UK and how they handle themselves. Pete Grieg summed up in the book I read while I was there, “Dirty Glory”. He was talking about some guy called Keith at the time, who I’m sure is nowhere near as great as our friends but anyway…
“The Dutch holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom pointed out that when a train enters a long, dark tunnel, this is not the moment to disembark! This is the time to sit back and trust the engine driver. He will pull you through to the light. People like Keith have trained themselves over many years to seek the counsel of friends, even when they are tempted to isolate themselves. To trust in the faith of others, even when they doubt their own beliefs. To worship and read God’s word, even when they don’t feel like it. Keith has been faithful in the minutiae of marriage, friendship and holding down a job.”
These are the raw materials of a life well lived. Simple choices that shape neural pathways. Habits that nurture virtue through seasons of disorientation and loss. Eventually we approach the longest, darkest tunnel of them all with a hard-won trust in the faithfulness of God.”
Here’s a few snapshots of some of the people we know and love, who are currently living that life well lived that Pete refers to, and will reap an appropriate harvest.
The loss of leaving this community has been immense for us, and we live with the consequences on a daily basis. If you’re local to Worthing, pursue some of these people! In fact, wherever you are, pursue a grace-filled church – who knows, maybe you’ll meet Keith?! I think the trip back showed us that our friendships carry on – we all just picked up where we left off. And now we are back home to ‘carry on starting again’ in the Free State of South Africa. I wonder who is out there that will one day be part of our new community…