As Charlie came in from the night at 7am this morning, Solomon woke up and began his day. Sensing that Charlie probably wasn’t in the mood for playtime, I pulled on some clothes and some large sunglasses, and headed out with the pram and the dog for a stroll round the paseo.
Stopping to appreciate the calm of the still sea waters, a lady jogged past me and stopped to stretch – catching sight of Solomon she turned round and started to chat – she was on holiday and trying to keep up her exercise regime (what a woman!). As our conversation was coming to a natural end, she moved to go and said as she jogged off ‘nice to meet you, have a nice life!’ – and something about that really struck me.
It is very much our expectation that those we meet on the West End we may never see again – this transient place sees thousands of tourists pass through every season. But there was something final about her leaving comment – and it made me feel like the moment of contact we had held the potential to be more valuable than I’d recognised in the moment.
It made me think about how in every moment of connection with whoever we meet, we have opportunity to draw out more of the image of God in them, to affirm and speak life to them, or to unleash the expression of our current feeling or mood on them, viewing them as disposable and non-consequential. Why is it so hard to choose the former over the latter?
A few weeks ago as I was walking with pram and dog, I walked over a bit of pavement that this guy was mopping outside of his restaurant. I was struggling with my hands full but hadn’t realised that walking across like this would offend him, and he began to shout at me as I walked on. In that moment I could respond with grace and mercy, or could look to justify myself and retaliate; I probably hit somewhere in the middle. But this situation has stayed with me, as has the challenge to respond to everyone as if the interaction will have consequence and that contact will shape and impact the other person and myself in a long lasting way.
We are so concerned with our own stuff. As I walked past the West End and towards the calm sea, it felt representative of how it feels for me often in approaching God, and why I struggle to respond better in these moments. I can feel like I have to walk through and get to the other side of a lot of my own stuff to get to a place of stillness, silence and peace. My own head is loud and the needs I need to meet in me can dominate my time with God and the way I am with others – increasingly I wonder whether for some of us, the way we engage with mission has become as much a pursuit of personal fulfilment and need meeting as it is picking up our crosses and following Jesus, and walking down the road of self-denial to make ourselves less of the centre of our world, our relationships, the outworking of our faith. I see it in our language, our attitudes, our updates, our social media, our behaviour – good and bad. We must test our hearts and observe our own actions.
Perhaps if I could get over myself a little more I’d be a whole lot more available to be used by God and a whole lot better at living in the place of waiting and stillness, of peace that defies our efforts and goes beyond our understanding, that we all are so desperate to achieve. Perhaps if mission really was fuelled by the magnifying of God in the midst of our context, we would become a whole lot more concerned with God’s agenda than the pressing need of our own, and we would be freer to respond to those around us with more grace and kindness.
The challenge for me in the coming weeks is to get better at responding in the moment, to get better at valuing each conversation I have as consequential for me and the other, to understand a bit more that it’s not about me, and to find ways of arriving at the place waiting and stillness, even in the busyness around me.