Pretty full-on day for me today! I got up at 8 (which is earlier than I rise for my job – flexitime has ruined me for the larks!), and headed to church, where I had committed to play bass for 3 services (and 2 attendant rehearals). A pretty tall order! I’ve also just been assigned a major project at work which I am frankly quite concerned about, and am looking to buy a house. I guess you could describe me as “tense”.
The afternoon break saw my girlfriend reading to me from an Adrian Plass book, The Visit. We’re only half way through but it reduced me to tears with its picture of a dynamic, colourful, vibrant, amazing, challenging, off-the-wall and caring Jesus visiting a stuffy narrator, whose rigid “churchianity” gradually gives way to a living, exciting faith. It moved me greatly, it was a wonderful picture of Jesus, and reminded me of how much I actually want to get to “know Jesus” in this way that people talk about; my faith has often been somewhat arms’ length in nature, I’ve always been to afraid to really try to get close.
The thing is with Jesus, when you think you’ve got him completely figured out, you haven’t – there are always surprises, always the unexpected…
The two morning services were OK, but the evening service was something amazing for me. For some reason, I felt that something unexpected would happen. It came up in the prayers before the service too, I felt it really strongly. The music felt good, but the visiting speaker’s message really resonated with me. It brought to mind the famous speech from the start of the movie Trainspotting (which is great but the book is even better):
Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f–king big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f–king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f–k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f–king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f–ked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future.
This “life” the Renton character is talking about is the conventional life as he sees it, in a fairly shallow and despairing light. Of course, it’s only his perspective, and I can speak only for myself, but for me I innately desire more from life than the things we’re perhaps expected to want.
There’s another quote about choosing life from the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible, which is what the speaker tonight brought up. It also talks about choosing life:
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
It was this that really hit home. If you’ve read this blog before, you may be aware of some of my fears about the future and salvation, and I felt like I had to choose life. I worried, as usual, that it was too late for me with God, that I’d had enough second chances. There was an offer of prayer, during which the band came back on, myself included. I couldn’t shake the feeling, however, that I should go to the speaker. I watched as people came up for prayer to the ministry team, and nobody approached this man. On the verge of putting down my bass, I decided “if he’s still alone at the end of the song, I’ll go over”.
The song ended, down went the bass, and I sprang off the stage, accosted the fellow and asked if he’d pray with me. I outlined for him my basic situation, and he agreed to pray with me. I don’t let just anybody do this, but this guy seemed a calm, considerate, thoughtful, peaceful and wise type. He touched my shoulder, and I felt God’s presence immediately and powerfully.
I’m the biggest cynic going. I am not a credulous type, not easily carried away in hype. There is always a part of me on the inside looking out, observing, analysing. Nevertheless, I cannot dispute that this was God. As the messenger prayed for me, he touched on areas that I hadn’t even mentioned I struggled in – the fear that I may have been cut off – and spoke such perfect words of reassurance that for the second time that day I cried, this time with relief and love. When the prayer came to an end, I took a little time outside, then bounded back to the stage and played, probably quite poorly, but with renewed passion and vigor. I felt that I could have played all night.
I’m writing this partly as a diary so when hard times come I can look back on it, but also to perhaps encourage those in a similar situation of doubt or fear to be brave, come into the light. You have nothing to lose but your sorrow and burdens.