This is a guest post from the wonderful and inspiring Pip Pearce. I had the privilege of being Pip’s youth worker for a few years but as you can read I am incredibly blessed from having Pip as a friend in my life. Pip lives in London, works as a PA for a radio producer and is studying part-time for her Art Therapy Masters.
* * *
“I’m Marilyn and I’m terrified”, “I’m Damien and, no offence, but I don’t believe in God”. Isn’t it amazing how willing people can be to share snippets of their messy, mystified and often hurt existences, when simply asked their name?
A few months ago I made a pact with my (does-what-it-says-on-the-tin) Boldness Buddy to ‘just turn around’. Prior to this decisive step I had honed my ability to appease the growing itch within that told me I needed to make a positive impact upon the streets I beat (or pedalled) down each day. But being frustrated wasn’t enough. Frustration without action is useless.
What are the implications of those special three words that it’s just so easy to throw around…
I love you. Really? Show me how.
Three more words:
Just turn around.
I’m not claiming to have solved all the problems generated within this overly-busy, increasingly self-serving Western society around which I happily trot, simply with a command to change direction. But this personal challenge has started me on a journey to becoming the expression of love that I believe my world really needs.
The first time I saw Marilyn I smiled as I ran red-faced past her on my way to work. “Have you got the time?” she called out. I fumbled for my phone, “Um.. 8.46” (“Oh no! 8.46. I have to be sweat-free, composed and at my desk, 5 miles away from my current location, in 44 minutes. 43 minutes now.” I thought to myself. “No time”). As I panted onward, her words jangled round inside. Have I got the time?
‘Will I make the time?’ is perhaps the more pertinent question. ‘Yes’, I decided. ‘I will have the time’.
Tonight I finally decided to turn around when I passed Marilyn on her usual strip of road. I hopped off my bike, asked her if I could get her a cup of tea and sat down next to her. “Can I give you anything else?” I asked as I removed the teabag from her cup, her own hands shaky and gnarled, bent around the cigarette she lit and re-lit. “Just talking helps”. So I sat and listened. I was shocked at what Marilyn had to tell me about her lonely struggle through life. Wow. What an honour it is to sit and be included in someone’s journey, their reflections on life, even just for a moment. Why would I not do this more often…?
… Because I feel too self-conscious to step out of my own confines. Because my own comfort is more important than someone else’s momentary happiness. Because clearly I don’t think that that prompt to stop and see if I can make a difference in someone’s life is worth listening to and my actions suggest that really my desire to love others isn’t as great as I thought it was. I’m disgusted that as someone who knows they are loved, not just by family and friends, but by a God who went to inconceivable lengths to show his commitment to me, I can’t stop, turn around and engage with those who have been placed in my path.
A sentiment of the Mozambique-based missionary, Heidi Baker whose motto is to ‘stop for the one’ in her book, Always Enough, returns to my mind weekly. She saw the correlation between saying ‘no’ to someone in need for selfish reasons and the hardening of her own heart. ‘Just turn around’ is imperative to the softness of my being and my ability to change the world in which I live.
Even in this short period of time I have been ‘turning around’ I have found the good, loving heart that has motivated these steps out of my comfort zone, has been sucked out and replaced with a legalistic sense of duty that repulses me just as much as my inactivity. I constantly find I am reminding myself of my real motivation to love others. I love because I have been loved unconditionally. I love because everyone is worthy of the best love. My heart is softened and changed with every fresh revelation of this. How can I not share this good thing with others?
Love has cost.
The cost I have experienced at ‘just turning around’ has been minimal – mild discomfort as busy office-workers dodge past this pavement-impediment or at worst being told my offer wasn’t wanted. But such is my desire for authentic love that I want to grow into a person who is willing to pay the cost, however great, to show people how great is the depth of God’s love for them. So far I haven’t been disappointed as I’ve made small steps to turn around. Most often the experiences haven’t been what I expected them to be but boy, they have made my daily life richer and I trust I have left someone with a glimmer of hope they hadn’t had when they woke up that morning.
Just turn around today?