Roy wrote an Advent blog last year that brought to memory those words addressed by Jesus to Peter at the close of John’s Gospel. It is easy to skim over them simply because they were an accurate prediction of Peter’s final days. But what if they form part of the permanent scriptural record for another reason?
Roy wrote: “Life and faith is complex. Life and faith experiences, particularly when they don’t go to plan, don’t meet our expectations, throw up all kinds of questions and challenges…”
Both quotations have been my experience in recent years, and in the last few months I have even brought some unnerving challenges into my life through deliberate choice. I found myself wondering why I had closed the door to a season of my life in which I had become comfortable, influential and accepted. What drove me to make those choices?
If I look back to my teenage years, part of my motivation to ‘invite Jesus into my life’ was most definitely an escape from the trauma that typified those difficult years. Like most teenagers, I was the centre of my own universe and a powerful friend who brought forgiveness into my troubled world seemed like a good deal.
But as the years passed, and Jesus began to invite me into his life, I began to realise that discipleship most definitely involved being led on journeys I did not want to take. Many of them were inward journeys, learning to explore motives, drives and intentions it was much more comfortable to remain blind to. I began to question whose kingdom it was I was trying to build. And whether the church I was working so hard to construct was an insulation against being led where I did not want to go.
So my most recent choice to move on from a place of comfort is actually the latest part of a journey I’ve been following for longer than I realise. A decision not to move on at this stage of my life would be understandable, but comfort too often leads to stagnation.
This last year has been profoundly disturbing, especially for those of us who have been insulated from the harsh economic and political realities that have been an everyday experience for the majority of the world whilst we have prospered. So much of the stability we take for granted is, in actuality, based upon flimsy foundations. I look out as people walk in the street below my study window and I wonder what combination of shocks to our national life it would take for some form of anarchy to become the new normal.
There are so many possible futures open to the world right now, and many of them would be leading to places I would not like to go. But if some of these scary alternative futures are boosted by anger at the persistent economic inequity that seems baked in to our society, would being led to a place we don’t want to go necessarily be a bad thing? Would the church urge for a return to the status quo, or be able to visualise the possibility that our creator might be discernible amongst the chaos?
I am not predicting catastrophe ahead, but I do know that the way the world is configured right now is not working for far too many of my neighbours. In times like these, I see no alternative to listening well, thinking deeply and living out the consequences. We may find ourselves led to places we don’t want to go – but take a good look around you: is that not the current experience of a significant proportion of our planet’s population right now?
Whatever this new year brings for you, for us, and for our neighbours, strangers, and friends, I trust that you will seek until you find, knock until it begins to make some kind of sense and love all who are sent your way.