40 Years On

Today, I’m 40 years old! Of course that’s not my real age. It’s my spiritual age. If we celebrate a birthday each year from the day we’re born, is it not natural to celebrate one each year from the day we were ‘born again’? It’s these milestones that cause us to reflect on what has preceded the marker. I say marker because for me it’s another ‘milestone’ along the Way. Since Jesus described himself as the Way, this truly is the journey that we embark upon from Day One, yes?

I’ve been reading ’Searching for Sunday’ by the late Rachel Held Evans. Only yesterday I read “Scripture doesn’t speak of people who found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God.” Immediately, my old reliable ‘spider-sense’ of scripture kicked in… those who seek God will find him: a paraphrase of the actual verse (Deut. 4:29), but a truth nonetheless. However, I did realise what RHE was saying, because that has been a bugbear these past 40 years! So many think that the moment they ‘find God’ they’ve reached the end of their life’s journey. Somehow, they’re only sitting in the waiting room (a pew?) awaiting the train to come to take them to glory. The intervening years between finding God and physical death are just filler, during which they exchange whatever it was they did before, for a life attending church services and singing spiritual songs. That was what I came across when I began to enter churches, with many, if not all, of the congregants, in some churches more than others. I explained this in more detail in my vlogs:

It was something I could never grasp, because my Day One was simply the beginning; my choice to follow Jesus and spend the rest of my life trying to be ‘better than the person I was the day before’ – was that not what he called his disciples to do? “Follow me” is said by Jesus seven times in the gospel of Matthew alone! – all the while realising that this ‘trying’ was a natural response to his grace and love, not a way to gain it. After all these years, there are things that have not changed and I don’t believe will ever change in my life, like the simple acceptance of his grace. Grace did it all then, 2000 years ago and 40 years ago, does it all for all time, from the beginning to the end. That is what I stand on, and how I can do anything and everything.

Grace cannot prevail until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.

– Robert Farrar Capon

What has changed, though? Quite a lot, if I’m honest. I have had a few epiphanies along the way, too numerous to recount here on this short reflection. One that stood out to me was a day when I was called to visit an older man in his home for a job I was doing. He recounted his life to me, and it became apparent that he also knew my God, my Jesus. He had been a Benedictine monk for some time…. hold on, he was a Roman Catholic! As a staunch Protestant [Billy Connolly was right; we were staunch, only Catholics were devout!], I could not accept this man as a fellow believer; his doctrines were anathema (repugnant or offensive) to me!… No! I felt the same Holy Spirit in his heart that dwelt in mine, listening to this man who talked of God with such peace and reassurance, and no fear of his imminent death. Much later, my own brush with death taught me just how scary it actually is, despite all those who claim they have no fear. This was a brother of mine, in the same faith. I still disagree with the Roman Catholic Church on a number of doctrinal things, but the individual is not responsible for those who have gone before them and created that edifice.

I have since become more accepting of those who might argue doctrine with me, or might not or even wish to, in much the same way I am far less inclined to such arguments; there’s just far more important things to be concerned with, in my most humble opinion. Here’s a meme I made about 5 years ago:

What does tomorrow hold for me? Day Forty-years-plus-one? Who knows but God? I certainly cannot predict, which is something I quickly learnt: Christians are not supposed to predict anything. It’s like the knowledge of good and evil; we should leave all that to God alone. I think that ‘don’t predict’ should be preached as much as ‘don’t judge’. Evangelicals would hate it, but divination is not for us, believe me (Deut. 18:10).

I only hope that I am a better person than I was today.

Grace be with you.

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