Thank you God…
That you’re there helping me to say ‘no’ to the things I need to say no to.
Thank you God…
For libraries. When the surrounds of my room with its souvenirs, memoirs and shelves full of books that I can’t bear to get rid of lure me back to that cushy, imaginary, godless world which I built in my teens on nostaliga and broken dreams, I’m just so thankful that you provide libraries. I’m thankful that you’ve provided an alternative to that room, where nearly every other object I touch is an invitation to haunt and distort my own memories like a poltergeist. Thank you for these clear, functional, public spaces; ‘neutral’ worlds where nothing, neither the furniture, nor the books, nor the décor, nor the ambient aroma of the building, can serve as a cognitive hook onto my old, futile longings for the never-materialised past wants that were absorbed into my pillow, my bed, my books, my bedroom floor. No, the library is far removed from these ambiental triggers. These are houses of ‘otherness’ and unfamiliarity, where every object is a blank slate, an artefact without any history that could lock me back inside the dream-world that I haunt. In the library, hand-in-hand with you, I can try and pave a way for myself in your far less saccharine world of the real, the concrete and the social, which you intended me to inhabit. My brave new world is Planet Earth, which you made for me to live in with you. Though more savage, more prickly and more raw, the world of the Cross is a more beautiful place to be.
Thank you God…
That you gave me a job to go to tomorrow. After so long unemployed, it is such a privilege to be able to say that I do the humblest of things, even if only part-time. Please bless my work, and let my co-workers witness you through me.
Today I took a notebook that I had started using as a journal and left incomplete about three years ago. It was the latest volume in a shelf full of journals spanning my life since age 11, and they nearly all told a reformulation of the same sin-ridden story, which got more and more lurid every time it was re-spun. I started reading and I was appalled. It was a chronicle of idolatry, lust and perversion. It made me feel sick, and it was sitting on my shelf because I had given it a right to remain there. At former times in my life I would go over to those chronicles and read them because I was feeling ‘nostalgic’. I used to do it a number of times a year; I used to analyze and annotate and meditate on them. I would spend hours at a time poring over them. I would look back at those times and chuckle, as you chuckle at a picture you drew when you were five and think, ‘Aw, shucks; what a genius in the making’ – but more morbidly. At no time would I look back on those sins without cherishing either the sins themselves, or myself for committing them – in the very peculiar way that we love to cherish the ‘tragic’, ‘romantic’ stories that we spin out of human sin, especially if they’re about ourselves.
I cut the pages out of that book with my Dad’s stanley knife, put them through his shredder two or three pages at a time, and chucked the basketful of remains into the paper recycling wheelie bin. I could still read isolated lines of tiny font from the typed entries as I carried the basket out; I thought of all the hours I’d spent conceiving these little brainchildren, and my heart ached a bit. Into the waste they went, a line here, a limb there… some people grieve more over the loss of a cherished self-narrative than that of an unwanted gift of new life. May God help me discard the former in order to embrace the latter.
One day, God willing, those pages will end up as toilet paper, as the slightly yellow recycled letter-paper they use at the council, or as ‘eco-friendly’ greetings card material. And I won’t be able to trace a single shred. Jesus flushed those sins a long time ago and he’s going to help me out of this cesspipe even if I’m still caked in newer layers of sin while he does it. I hope the Lord will see me hammer more and more nails into this particular coffin and help me to shred the rest of my sin-chronicles, book by book.
Something the Lord taught me today…
You know when you feel bad about something and want to repent and get it off your shoulders, but you feel like the shame is too much and that repenting isn’t enough? That happened to me today. My temper had got the better of me and I had made a hurtful comment. But then a thought about the nature of repentance flashed across my mind, and I found myself praying, “Lord, put my shame for that on Jesus”. Immediately, I was utterly disgusted that I had even dreamt of praying that. I envisaged Jesus carrying his cross, stumbling along in agony, covered in blood from tip to toe. How could I dare to pray such a thing against my Lord and Saviour who died for me, when I had no right to walk away Scot-free for saying such a horrid thing? I should be the one feeling ashamed here, not the sinless Saviour who died for me!
Then I realised. That’s precisely what Jesus came to do. The scars, the blood, the agony, Jesus went through it all so that I wouldn’t have to be held responsible for that horrid comment I made today. In fact, you could say that it was because of that horrible comment that he had to go through it. Let’s forget ‘churchy’ language and niceties here. “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow” is all very well. But what it means is that I can pray “Lord, put the blame for that horrible comment I made today on your blameless son Jesus whom I killed” and walk away knowing that I’ve been made innocent. It’s scandalous. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about it.
And it’s made me never want to sin ever, ever again.
I know that I will sin, and that Christ’s blood will cover it. But just as the scandalous nature of God’s love prompted me to cry out, “No! I don’t want Jesus to take my shame!” before remembering that the reality of Jesus’ suffering is God’s overwhelming love for a guilty humanity that doesn’t deserve to have its sentence waived, in the same way I hope that it will make sin seem ever-repugnant in times of temptation.