Thursday, July 04, 2013

God is my Struggle

It is a breezy day today.  It’s a good drying day.  The clouds may be rolling across the sky but they don’t look rain-pregnant and about to give birth.

I was reading my Bible and doing some thinking and praying, and at the same time watching the tree at the end of the garden.  The branches were dancing in the wind.  Suddenly a pigeon, large and grey, fluttered down and landed on one of the branches.  It didn’t look particularly secure.  The branch wasn’t that thick and the breeze was quite strong and the pigeon and his branch were being buffeted about.  The pigeon skipped to a thicker branch and then to a sturdier one.  It sat for a while and then flew off.

I feel a little like that pigeon looking for a sturdy branch to stand on and weather a strong breeze. 

It is only at holiday times that I can take part in some of the ministries that our church is involved in.  Work times are very busy and keeping my head afloat can sometimes be all that I can do.  One of my holiday joining-in activities is Catalyst in one of the city cafes.  It required drinking coffee and chatting – I can do that!  Yesterday must have been a day off.  It was just the man behind the counter and I.  On the wall of the café is an inspiring poster.  It was a word cloud poster of all that God is.  I read a line “God is my struggle”.  Huh? I’d read it wrong missing out some of the smaller words.  I read “God is aware of my struggle”.

Actually, my spirit read it right the first time – “God is my struggle”. I don’t know anyone who has been a Christian long enough to come up with that brick wall called God!  People keep telling me that faith is simple.  Maybe it’s because I have a theology degree that my faith isn’t always simple at all.

At the weekend I was in Glasgow.  Joe had just finished a two month secondment in Edinburgh.  It was his last week.  The Crofting Bill he had been working on had passed through the various stages and he was done.  A short train journey to Glasgow gave him the chance to catch up with his family and visit his mum.  I joined him for the weekend.

As part of the weekend we had made arrangements to meet up with a friend Joe hadn’t seen for a while.  The venue was a pub.  The TV screen was showing the third set of a Wimbledon match involving Andy Murray. 

My view of the TV screen was mostly uninterrupted until a couple of lads stood between Andy and 1.  You know how it is.  I leaned first to the left, then to the right trying to keep an eye on what was happening while the lads carried on an animated conversation in front of me.   I was also trying to keep an ear on the conversation that Joe and his friend were having.  Multi-tasking at its best.

The game finished.  The conversation between the two men also finished as one of them left to go outside for a quick smoke. The other conversation continued.

“Did he win?”

It was the left behind man speaking.  He told me his name, apologised for getting in my way and then we began our own conversation.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries and then headed out into deeper waters.  I mentioned I was a Religious Education teacher.  This didn’t rate very highly apparently and it seemed like I had given the man permission to grill me about anything religious.  He had some church experience and his granny came into the conversation.  He objected to God on so many levels.  The creation account came under fire.  And the whole Adam and Eve incident. Suffering in the world was thrown into the pot.  I untangled some of the threads and shouted to him above the noise of the crowd and the music.

“So what do you think about gay ministers?”

At this point I remembered that he had come into the pub with another lad.  Were they in a relationship?  He himself was just at the end of his second year of a nursing degree so he wasn’t a gay minister. 

And here is where God becomes my struggle.  I like to point out to people who seem to be stuck in a rut with a response to homosexuality that the Bible has more to say about poverty and how treat the poor.  It is true – but not useful at this point in my conversation.  Those that express very strong views on the subject and use a variety of horrible words and phrases are usually the ones in safe, acceptable, heterosexual relationships.  They are normal and others not like them are abnormal.   

The Bible says stuff.  Most of us know the stuff it says and that’s an end to it.  We draw a line under it and leave it at that. The trouble with having a theology degree is that I know the stuff the Bible says often comes in a context, a cultural context.  The cultural context no longer exists and we live in a different culture so how do we interpret the teaching in view of that?  Some would say it matters not at all.  I used to be a member of a church that insisted women were to stay silent in church – I have tried silence and I am not wired that way.  I don’t talk gibberish, and sometimes I simply don’t talk but sometimes I talk wisdom.  Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean to say I haven’t something valuable to say in a church community context. 

So let’s get back to the pigeon on the branch of my tree being buffeted about.  There are issues that I don’t really have a solid answer to.  My friend in the bar turned out to have a girlfriend on nightshift but I wasn’t about to regurgitate Bible stuff.  He was a person, a human being, with a whole plethora of life experiences. 

“Watch the bird,” said the still small voice this morning.

The pigeon had skipped branch by branch until it was perched on a very thick branch very close to the trunk.  Where the bird chose to stand was very secure.

Where can I stand that is very secure? 

My security is in the character of God.  He is righteousness.  I am to love the things that God loves and He loves people. 

Love – the kind of love that God demands is the laying down my life kind of love.  There’s not list of those that deserve that kind of love and those who don’t deserve it. 

God is indeed my struggle.    He is also my strength… and my answer…my refuge…and my deepest joy.

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