Guest Post: Just Turn Around

Pip PearceThis 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.

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“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?

A sad story

I read something really sad today about a baby that died in the night, and how the rest of the family ceased to function from that point on.  I then noticed my train had got into the station so I quickly nipped out of the door.  As I walked along the platform tears had pricked my eyes, I could feel my heart beating and my chest was a little tighter.  What I had read was so tragic and so human.

And now I was in this superficial world full of people pretending to walk purposefully down the platform, a world full of make-up and getting frustrated because someone’s standing on the left hand side of the escalator, full of over-priced coffee and snacks that we’re compelled to buy because it wouldn’t do to sit quietly without consuming something for a moment, full of ticket-barriers, tabloids, pretentious broadsheets, high heels, designer suits, full of sheep walking in the same direction.

And by now the tears had dried off and I’d forgotten what I was feeling and I’m back on my way.

Jesus is dead

Easter Saturday is often overlooked by Christians during Easter celebrations.  Good Friday is painful, sad, hopeful.  Easter Day is full of joy and celebration.   But what do you do on the Saturday?

In the story of Easter it was a day when nothing happened.  Jesus was dead, and his disciples were bereft.  I think for the Christian in the 21st century it is a day to remember that sometimes life can feel like God is absent and that prayer can seem unanswered.  The disciples felt no hope, they were not expecting the miracle and sometimes we find ourselves with similar feelings.

Feeling the absence of God is not a good place to be but it is a real feeling that I think is dangerous to shun and dismiss.  Faith in Jesus is a journey and it is important to embrace all the extremes of the journey.  I think we all feel hopeless at times – maybe because of serious illness, debt, addiction,  loneliness, purposelessness, or even death.  It is at these lowest points in life that we have to learn to grapple with pain and God – like when Jacob wrestled with God.

There will come a time when the reality of Easter morning breaks in but you can’t just be told that.  You have to experience the low, struggle with faith, and discover the goodness, mercy and love of God for yourself.  This Easter, if you’re feel down and trapped by life, it is important to know that the resurrection is just round the corner, and look forward with hope and faith – but don’t feel that if prayer seems unanswered or if God seems absent that your faith is worthless.  The disciples felt no hope after Jesus’ death yet they went on to experience the life and fullness that comes with faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

Real Life

Today I found myself tired and stressed.  I guess on one hand it is no big deal but on the other its not pleasant and does somewhat disable your productivity.  There are reasons for being tired – staying up to0 late talking with Goca & Rada, getting up t0o early to drive to back to Niksic for language lessons, finally going running yesterday.  There are reasons for being stressed – I couldn’t find my way round the kitchen, dinner got ruined, I’m living in a new country, I didn’t have time to go running today, I’m a human being.  But I’d rather I wasn’t tired or stressed.

Ah well.  Here’s to another day.  A prayer and a decision to rely on God’s love for me in all situations (even kitchen mishaps) and I should be ok.

The start of the day

Yesterday at work was alright.  I made it about a tenth of the way through my to-do list and a few annoying things came at me but it was ok.  A friend really encouraged me sending me a Bible verse, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  I felt quite peaceful during the day although it was hard work.  Didn’t particularly anticipate returning today.

Now it’s 7am.  I’ve got some chilled music on and enjoying surfing through some blogs and looking forward to a nibble of breakfast.  I could stay here all day…….

 

………good job I wasn’t designed with comfort in mind!  Bring it on life!

This life or after?

Some people live only to convert and therefore ensure a ticket to heaven for many in the after life.  You could say the purpose of such lives is to make humanity happy in the next life.  A worthy pursuit.

Some people live only to make sure people have justice, are treated fairly and are comfortable.  You could say the purpose of such lives is it make humanity happy in this life.  A worthy pursuit.

I live to give glory to God.

But God loves people like crazy.  A love more intense than a parent’s greatest love for a child.  So I will do my best to love people too.

Prepare for today’s adventure

Everyday is an adventure.

Can you imagine setting off on a mountaineering expedition without studying a map, packing the appropriate equipment and shunning the advice of an expert guide?

Some days I feel like a blind, naked, stupid, proud boy attempting to climb Everest without any help or equipment.  It just ain’t gonna be a good outcome. 

However, if I wanted it, there is great help at hand to get me through the day.  I have the opportunity at the start of each morning to sit down with the Expert on life.  He’s always there waiting to give me some advice on what is coming up and how to prepare myself yet so often I am too busy and lazy to listen to him.

Why not take time out today (and every day!) to read The Guide Book and listen to the Expert?  Don’t think you can get through in your own wisdom and experience. 

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”  Proverbs 12:15