23 Oct 2015

Going barefoot

Home [həʊm], noun
1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
2. the place in which one's domestic affections are centered.
3. an institution for the homeless, sick, etc.: a nursing home.
4. the dwelling place or retreat of an animal.
5. the place or region where something is native or most common.
6. any place of residence or refuge.
7. a person's native place or own country.

Scene 1: We are all at ManChild's new school for a scheduled progress update with his form tutor, a bloke who has known him for seven weeks. The conversation is short, positive and pretty much contains all the information we expect to hear. He works hard. He performs well. He behaves. He appears happy. He's abnormally good at maths, computer science and all things geek (the teacher does not actually use the word geek). He's VERY quiet.

Teachers have been saying similar things about him for the past ten years. And because teachers like goals and action plans and filling in paperwork which proves there are goals and action plans in place, they usually follow it up with 'If you know the answer, put your hand up.' But this teacher doesn't suggest that. This teacher has already discerned that on pretty much every single occasion when an answer is requested from the class, Manchild could probably provide the correct one but chooses not to. Unless he is asked outright - in which case he will provide the answer in a clear, concise way and not whisper something unintelligible while looking at his shoes as he did until year three. (See? That's progress right there). This teacher concludes with 'He's quiet, but it's obviously his personality and part of who he is. We won't try to change it.' 

I like this teacher. He gets my kid. We all go for a McDs tea to celebrate the geekiness and avoid the end-of-day traffic nightmare that is Bristol every weekday evening.

Scene 2: It's 3am and me and a friend are in the 24/7 prayer room, working our way around the stations from opposite directions so it's like being there alone. We're both in our jammies. The heating is on. It feels like the rest of the whole world is asleep and it's wonderful. Thermos of tea in hand, I plod barefooted around the carpeted room having abandoned my crocs at the door. It's a lot like being at home. But it's church. But not church as we know it because there's all this creative prayer clutter all over the place that's helping me think and pray and formulate thoughts about what I believe and why. I sit for the longest time at the foot of a wooden cross which has been upcycled from an old pallet, reading Psalm 65 from The Message:

Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.

I am fixated by the home thing and make a list about what HOME means:
Basic needs met
Communal living
Getting along after an argument
Bringing friends round for tea
Boundaries / structure
Entitlement / inheritance
Being understood

The first thing I do when I get home is kick off my shoes and put the kettle on. It's all tied in with relaxing and being at home in your own space. (If you ever find yourself in a position where can do this in someone else's house too, then this is a wonderful thing. Hang onto that friend).

So being at home in church - what does that mean when you're NOT wandering around there barefoot and in your jammies (i.e. most of the time)?

It can't be a license for a 'This is who I am and I'm not changing' type of thing. That's kind of arrogant and puts huge limitations on what God is capable / incapable of. He's paid the mortgage and legally owns the house.

But equally, having a healthy sense of who we are and how we belong is a liberating thing and actually frees us from the tyranny of comparison. The form tutor who has known ManChild for a mere half term can already make observations about his character and adjust his approach accordingly - because he understands something of the raw material in front of him.

So how much MORE so does God? The one who knows and understands our deepest thoughts and motives when we don't even get them ourselves? The one who always knew we would be. The one who created the raw material in the first place?

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? (Luke 9:23-25)

The real you. I love that. 

I'll never be a worship leader. But I'm not meant to be. I'm meant to be a worshipper. 

I'll never be a teacher. But I'm not meant to be. I'm meant to locate good teaching, listen to and apply it, ask questions when I need to and share what I learn along the way. To be teachable.

I'm really, really not a morning person. I have tried the whole get up early to exercise / read / bake cookies nonsense. It really doesn't work. But I can do creative middle of the night barefooted praying in my jammies with sharpie in one hand and cup of tea in the other.

There are other goals on the action plan. I won't bore you with the details. But the form tutor gets well excited when I reach them.