Last weekend there was an article in one of the papers debunking the idea that scientists didn’t have a sense of humour. They included a whole column of jokes. As I read through them, the thought going through my head was, “I don’t get it!” I chortled at one or two that I did get, but many of them needed a little more scientific background than I possessed. Had I been at a scientist’s joke convention I would have felt very much disconnected and unable to relate to anything.
There was a bit of that last night at the Woman Aglow meeting. I think I didn’t glow! The people sat around my table, for the most part, were Street Pastors. They talked a little about the people on the streets that they had met and exchanged stories about different people on drugs. They discussed why someone who had been on drugs and then came off them would then slip back into drug addiction. Once you have discovered freedom, why do you then give it up?
I am aware that some of the young people that I deal with dabble in soft drugs. They have smoked a joint or two…or more in some cases. When my brother was in a hospice in Spain his friends baked dubious ingredients into cakes for him. Towards the later stages of his life, the doctor didn’t exactly encourage these drugs but made it plain that disguise was no longer needed. If it helped ease my brother’s pain and discomfort then they were permitted.
For the most part I am ignorant of city’s drug scene.
Later on in the meeting we listened to the testimony of a woman who organises the Inverness arm of the Food Bank. Supporters were out in the supermarkets last week handing out shopping lists and encouraging people to buy one or two items.
It was a very powerful and a very heart breaking testimony. There were moments when her life paralleled mine, but then went off at very different angles. She talked of a poverty stricken background where she would have benefited from help from a food bank. My mother held down a number of part time jobs to bring in enough money to feed six children, my dad having died from cancer. She could have drowned herself in a bottle but she never did – not to my knowledge.
The speaker talked about her church experiences. We both have Spring Harvest in common and the changes that it provoked in our lives as Christians. I went to Spring Harvest in 1982. My encounter with the Holy Spirit was awesome. I knew the FEAR of the Lord – not respect and reverence but FEAR. I fled from God from that point. My faith up until then had been safe and to some extent lived on my terms. Having a sense of the presence of God so powerful that it pushed me trembling to my knees – I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I may not have wanted God, but He wanted me so he pursued me. He chased me down!
Once caught, I realised that the church I was in at the time was not leading me where God wanted me to go. She called her move a stepping stone – a necessary place to go before god could take her where he wanted her to be. I had my own stepping stone church too.
The opportunity for her to work with the Food Bank came. She didn’t think she had the qualifications necessary to do the job – but who better qualified? Having been through the kind of life that she had experienced, she knew the heartaches and the challenges of the people who were coming to the Food Bank. She had trod the same path and could say to them, “I get it!”
I went home thoughtful. I sat in the car and thought about all the events in her life that had led her to be exactly the person God needed for the job he had ear-marked for her. I couldn’t help but think about my own life. The word that comes to mind is “charmed”, but it isn’t charmed at all. I had the childhood I had, free from any kind of abuse, because of the hard work of my mum. I had a certain combination of genes from a clever father that meant I wouldn’t fail in school. I worked hard, sometimes, because I had supportive teachers. I remember we were hounded by social workers – we looked on paper the perfect cocktail of factors for failure. Looking back I can see that God put into place the right people at the right time to steer our family in a right direction.
As I sat in the car it was as if God said, “You are of no use to me unless you are flawed and broken in some way.”
Did I qualify as flawed and broken? I didn’t have an alcoholic mother. I wasn’t abused. I didn’t come across drug addicts in my daily life. Was I any use at all to God?
It didn’t take long to trawl through my memories to find the flawed and broken bits of it. I have my scars and my wounds which are not the same as others. I can speak to people in some areas of life that others can’t. To those people I can say, “I get it!”
We are all flawed and broken. Some of us know it and have taken the bits of our lives to God and put them into his hand to make something new out of them. Others haven’t worked it out yet. Some learn to live with the bits, or cover them over with…with what? There are probably more than a few covering over the brokenness of their lives with church meetings and a Sunday morning ointment. There are others that are just waiting for someone to tell them the Good News.