I Don't Look at Scary Statistics – I See a Spiritual Famine

God isn’t really trending – at least I don’t think he is! I don’t know why though because it is the only thing that makes sense to me sometimes – the fact that we are in relationship with God.

I just can’t imagine not finding this truth for myself. My most treasured possession aged 4 was my picture service booklet I took to church. Yes – I was raised to go to church – but more importantly I had an idea that was was a very significant thing that I learn about God. It seemed so big and exciting from where I was standing with my family in our 3 bedroomed house. Yes, we went school and had Birthdays and Christmas and new shoes . . . but this was God – a whole different kettle of fish! I wanted to know who God was and what he might have to do with my life and me.

As I grew older I became more and more convinced that life wasn’t enough just as I saw it and felt it. There was clearly something very big missing. It sounds so cliche but there was a gaping big hole and I had no idea what was supposed to fill it – O Levels, A Levels, a degree, husband, children maybe? But I knew right then and there that those things would not fill it.

I liked the idea of God, the mystery, the journey, the expecting of the unexpected, the puzzling things out with someone so much bigger and wiser than me! I loved that idea and so I chose to pursue it down all the twisty turny roads that have bought me to this point. And I will pursue it for ever!

Let’s tell our children about God. Don’t sell them short and give them the idea that life is just about having things, knowing things, a career, partner, children and holidays. IT ISN’T.

Church – It’s Time for a Change!

I have visited many churches and sometimes been inspired by the preaching, sometimes moved by the worship, sometimes touched by the sense of community but I have never quite felt at home.  I have always had a slight sense of isolation as I sit in my seat and the service unfolds.  I start wondering about the person next to me and wonder what their life is like and how they are touched and moved by God but when the service closes and we speak, it is only of surface things and the depths within both of us remain untouched. 

Occasionally someone has wanted to know what bought me to their church and when I have said God told me to come, they have given me a puzzled look and said “You mean you felt you should come.” And I repeat “No, God told me to come!” And I wonder but stop myself from saying “Doesn’t God speak to you too?”  On other occasions people have asked me directly “Are you a Christian?”  Oh how I hate labels! Of course the person wants to know whether I recognised myself as a sinner and asked God to help me with my life on a specific day at a specific time.  Well, as it happened I did but there was so much more. On that day I opened myself to the great mystery that me and God are indeed one.  Since that day we have walked and talked and laughed and cried together as I have walked the twisty turny journey of my life.  To reply to the question “Are you a Christian?” I would incur the same pain as if someone asked me “Are you a wife?” or “Are you a mother?”  How deeply impersonal and how wounding to my soul.

At a different sort of church people don’t seem bothered at all by such matters. In fact the minute the service closes it is as if we haven’t been in church at all. The conversation is only of how well you timed your roast dinner to be ready and who is making teas at the village fete.  The word ‘community’ is used a lot and there is much ‘doing’ and organising.  But, I think to myself – I am hungry deep down in my sprit – hungry for some touch of another soul, hungry for connection, a moment of realness.  I want someone to hear me, I want someone to see me but I feel invisible.  I want to hear and see another but there is no chink of vulnerability big enough for me to crawl through.  I shake the vicar’s hand, respond to the comment about how my son has grown and pass down the church steps, unnoticed and unknown.  I had so many thoughts, feelings, ideas, gifts and talents that I wanted to bring but there is no room for such things here.  I came to meet others on their amazing journey of faith but I wasn’t met.

Where can I go now?  Like many of us, the answer is ‘nowhere’.  On a Sunday morning I will stay home in the warmth and intimacy of my family.  I will go walking in the hills and fields near our home and watch the flocks of sparrows chattering in the hedges. I will make junk model dinosaurs with my son and listen to him giggling with glee when we can’t seem to make the head stick on the body. I will do anything to make life flow through my body, interest my mind, light up my emotions but I will not go to church where I feel no life and my soul simply goes to sleep. 

Hearing God’s Voice

The best way to illustrate how I hear God’s voice is by giving some examples of the journeys that I go on with God – funny little journeys with big out-comes.

This particular journey took place a few years ago when I saw a picture in my head of a reservoir about 5 miles from where I live.  I had only visited it once and it hadn’t become a favourite place.  However on that day I felt this strange pull to visit it again so I dragged my husband, Richard and my 4 year old son out for a walk!  On arriving, what first occurred to me was that it was a good place for thinking.  Simply following the marked paths and feeling the calm of the water was quite therapeutic especially as I had some big thoughts going on in my head that I wanted to share with Richard.  As our walk continued we came to a sort of jetty that was like a narrow closed-in walk-way leading to a hide out by the water’s edge.  I don’t like tunnels or motion but felt drawn through this tunnel to the small square box-like hide sitting over the water.  It wasn’t really moving but as I looked out over the reservoir and saw the water rippling by, I really felt like I was on a boat.   Finding myself doing something strange but feeling I had to be there, I put my antennae up and talked to God. Our conversation went something like this:-

“OK, God what I am doing here?”

“Facing a fear.”

“What of . . . motion, boats . . ?“

“Movement.  You need to face your fear of movement.  You get so scared when you have a dream, something big and you see it unfolding before you, expanding, and then you don’t want to move. Jennie I want you to move, to run with your dream. I want you to face your fear of losing control.  I want you to let go.”

Hearing these words made me curious about my fear.  I tried looking out at the rippling water from different sides of the hide.  I looked at the information on the walls about the birds we might see and then my eye caught sight of something big moving in the water.  It was the biggest fish I’ve ever seen actually swimming and it was going surprisingly fast, heading straight for the hide.  Part of me became entranced by this fish but just in a corner of my mind was my fear, and the thought that watching it was making me feel slightly dizzy and I didn’t like it.  Quite suddenly I decided that enough was enough and I wanted to go now. I moved quickly through the tunnel and back onto what I thought was dry land!  I was happy again but I was changed.  A little bit of the fear had gone.