Tag Archives: redemption

Whatever things are admirable

27 Mar

I have been hearing, reading and listening and writing on how many people within the church and the ministry fall into the worst kind of temptation. And I have to say that I have seen stories so full of grace. And judgement tempered with grace. I just wanted to point one out to you.

And another, so full of honesty and the willingness to be vulnerable and repeat the pain over and over and over again in confession and explanation because they wanted to make it work. They loved each other and they chose to.

I think vulnerability is such a challenge. And I pray that I get given it in spades – I run from it. But there is no way that I can honour God with the people around me if I am not entirely vulnerable to them, and willing to be hurt.

I am so in awe of the pouring of grace that God gives in the messiest stories.

And then I’m in awe of the wonderfully healthy marriages I know – one where wife or husband always runs to the door when the other arrives (so beautiful and it gives me a heart-longing), another where every argument however often is made up, another where you would never find one without finding the other (no, not unhealthily tied together but openness and sharing of lives like best friends. I only need to text one.)

And I am in awe again.

I keep coming back…

13 Apr

The heady heat of a mercilessly cloudless, tropical sky is inescapable even inside the sparsely decorated – in fact, undecorated – hall, a long, wide cuboid divided into units which will serve as classrooms by thin, movable plywood and plastic ‘walls’. The classroom is neither visually nor audially isolated from any others, and the choral recitations of a,b,c’ s is as intimate to my 10th graders, rocking forward and back with their physics textbooks, reading aloud the English in un-English syllabic rhythms, as if the whole school were crouched on one bed.

I have come to this school, really, to fulfil an obligation. I cannot go back without teaching them. It is hard to see the faces of the privileged where I work, and not remember these other faces. They are so excited to see me. They measure my affection against the time other volunteers spend with them. I lose. I am unable to volunteer my whole time – and yet, I feel like I ought to. Everyone ought to and resources shouldn’t be a constraint. The need is here. That ought to drive the price that we are willing to pay higher than the laissez-faire system it operates on now… It hurts when my amount of time equals my amount of affection.

But it is something I learn from these ungainly teenagers, giggling and gawking and interested, yet uninterested in learning and advancement. The amount of time I choose to spend with the people and the causes I love is, in fact and inescapably, directly proportional to the amount of commitment I have towards them.

Uncomfortably I shift in my seat.

I decide to scrap the lesson plan I have, the literacy methods and the grammar. I want to talk to them. They learn language and literacy, conversation, application skills. I learn to remember the important things, and to see that one’s heart can get fogged in the confines of an air-conditioned classroom with anger management problems from six-year-olds, or the politics of who sits in which meetings, all simmering under the pervasive garnish of one’s own aspirations. I think I have more to gain from this encounter than they do. Selfishly, I take it.

We talk about who we want to be when we grow up. There are, applaudably, cardiologists and teachers and ophthalmologists and surgeons amongst us. My hidden agenda – because I am a boring grown-up – is to make them realise the pivotal role of school in all of these dreams. There are, of course, actors and singers and dancers. These too I am able, with all the finesse of years of manipulating conversations, to deflect to the point I am trying to make. Yes, I did roll my eyes as did the future cardiologist. But actually I ought to have guessed. The kids have no compunction tearing those blinkers off as I race forward clumsily.

I am stumped when several of the boys want to become policemen. Here they do not need an education beyond school to join the police force. They joke about maintaining a six-pack, ducking their heads shyly as their teenage awkwardness overcomes them – and I joke back about the fact (I kid you not) that most policemen we see have evidences of a different kind of six-pack inclination. And they challenge me about my statement that a college education is important, and that they have the choice to pursue it.

So, foolishly, I change tack and ask, with suitably raised eyebrows, why they would want to be policemen, of all things. These children have, it must be said, told me that they want to earn well and support their mothers. Pickings for policemen in these parts are acknowledgedly scarce, if legal.

I told you I was stumped. With little dissembling now that they are serious, three boys who have been poking, punching and distracting each other (but, annoyingly, giving their attention to me too!) now look up at me.

Big sister, we want to become policemen to stop the fights. We need policemen in our neighbourhood.

The fights? They’ve seen these fights? I know, objectively, that they have. But it is hard to face the retelling. It is also hard not to push to a point I was trying to make. No, not college. Making an effort. I desperately want them to simply try.

So what about the police now? Where are they? Don’t they stop the fights?

Yeah, like, when we call the police guys now they show up after two hours and it is too late.

The fight’s over.

I start to offer a smile because I am nothing, if not stupidly resilient. Children are intuitive though. They pre-empt me.

Yeah, the fight’s over and the man’s already been stabbed. And killed.

Haunting, yes. But do you see it yet? There, in those clear responses, is the stubbornness of grace and redemption.

Dad’s on my case

15 Dec

I have had a special-feelingy day today. All delicious, like walking on crisp autumn leaves in a yellow light, or triple chocolate cookies with marshmallows and Starbucks coffee. I think it was because I went to sleep being held by my Dad. The other one. The one who gave his Son.

I noticed when a pastor in a church we sometimes visit suggested that we worship and acknowledge the presence of the Lord, like we do for our earthly fathers. Perhaps it’s the conventional Indian way of filial relating… What this pastor said was that we hardly ever say ‘Hey, good morning’ on our way out to our Dads. We made sure we went to him, stood before him and respected him… and then said good morning. Maybe my own dad has missed this all his years. But growing up as I did, in the context that I did, it was hard to imagine a dad to laugh with. It was hard to imagine rushing to tell my dad the funny line of the day or to tell my dad just what I heard on the playground… My mum filled those positions of listener and friend and most trusted confidante. My dad, now, I think is a wonderful man who is full of single-minded allegiance to that beautiful gospel that has saved us. He was often proud of my achievements outside the home – school, work, college. He would show me off to his friends.

I was never comfortable with it, but I did appreciate his taking pride in my activities. However, there were so many things I did that my father never understood why I liked in the first place. My most enduring impression of our relationship and my childhood is, I think, a feeling of inadequacy. The things I did do could always do with room for improvement. But for a child, without the appreciation that I think I craved, a relentless push towards correction and betterment often becomes faith-destroying. I think I only saw the criticism. I don’t know if there was anything else. I’m sure there was. And I know there was love. Yet, there’s always been distance between my dad and me. While that hurts me, I am not sure I would change that. The distance is not enmity. There is so much love.

I longed to talk to my Dad, try out new words on him, discover my confidence in conversation with him, earn his approval. But I still longed for him to give me it without wanting me to be different. When I found Christ, it blew my mind. My Dad actually did do all that!

Still over the passage of years, my habit of inadequacy will catch up with me and I find myself forgetting just how much Dad wants to talk to me. Just how much he’s longing for me to come and snuggle beside him. I’m surprised to realise it’s he who tells me he wants time with me… I often forget my love. And really, I know it’s I who want – no, need this time with him. But God? Letting himself need me? Pshaw.

And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Who is my God? Who is my Father? Few sermons stand out to you years after they have been delivered. This was about fifteen years ago. And I still remember this man preaching on the father love of God. He said we forget that he’s our father. There was something about the way he spoke of it which made it so real to me. And created a hunger in me for it that I still remember. He told us to remember what a loving Dad we have in our Lord, to crawl up to him like a little child, to forget our prayer lists and our verses for memory, our notations and our to-do list, to forget even the things we rush around doing for him as if that earns us the relationship we already have… and to curl up in his lap, climb up and hold on tight and just let him put you to sleep.

The memories I hold so precious are the few memories of my dad being comforting or, once, apologising because he did love me. But recently I’ve also been reading Crazy Love which is a wonderful book. There are videos which accompany each chapter in the books. And watching this father in action broke my heart into mouldable vulnerability last night. What blew me was the way he smiles in obvious delight when his son arrives or takes advantage of his dad. It’s as if he’s discovered something absolutely delightful and it’s never going to get old. It’s as if everything that little boy is saying is hilarious, insightful and all he wants to hear.

And suddenly it was as if God was saying: Will you never know how much I love you?

I look at you and I see me. That’s my baby, I made her in her mother’s womb, she even looks like me. This is the girl who holds my heart in her fingers. Because I’m letting her in. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of you and long to share a smile with you. And everything you think (which I can hear, by the way) is just what I want to hear all about. I think those are the most amazing, insightful, funny and beautiful words I could ever hear because they are you. They’re about you. And you. You are who I want.

So I went to sleep in my Dad’s arms tonight. And he reminded me of Jeremiah 1. Not only in confidence, in the quiet of my room but also through the family birthday card and through Crazy Love. And in a million other ways, Dad’s on my case. And he’s got it covered.

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