Mind the Gap

The train pulls in at the station and the announcement is heard: “Mind the gap”. It is an iconic sound of London, a warning that there is a gap between the train and the platform a gap where danger lies.

When I began to boil down my notes I was not sure where it would take me, I just knew it was the next step of my journey. I was not expecting it to converge so quickly. A fog I had been grappling with for years seemed to blow away and I knew where I was heading, reaching its climax in the last three posts. I had only ever meant to tidy up my notes on Genesis 3, but then the story took over and it led me to an uncomfortable place. It brought me to the edge of a gap. Truth must be lived, yet I wasn’t living it. So I found myself hovering at a precipice, until I decided I must follow this path and face the gap that was opening up with increased clarity: as God’s representative on earth, I was lacking, we all are.

Maybe I am idolising the goal and should set my sights lower? But then, if I am called to follow Jesus, I can’t quite imagine him, settled down, living in a mid terrace, doing a 9 to 5. Not the Jesus of the Gospels anyway. It would not be long before the sinners, the prostitutes and the broken beat a path to his door. If I were his neighbour, I’d want to complain to the council. Yet, maybe I am more like Christ than I realise and it is just that the people around me are hard hearted. I can imagine my wife’s response to that. There again, maybe I should just repent of my sloth and rebellion: Dust and ashes, and all that. Yet, is this even a possible goal? So many options. Maybe I just need to see a doctor and get a life.

However, I cannot write a theological narrative and just move on. Theology is nothing unless it means something and this gap must be faced. I must allow myself to be nailed to its uncomfortable truth until it becomes my reality, or until I hear God.

We can look back on history and see that we are not alone in our failure to bear witness to our God of love, yet this is no excuse. It is not an excuse, but perhaps a lesson, a lesson it has taken us nearly two thousand years to learn: We cannot close the gap, for it is not in our power – and never has been. Something the first disciples knew, but somehow never quite passed on. We tried too hard. We shouldn’t have tried at all. The first disciples knew they could not do it. Peter tried, and learned when the cock crowed the third time. Saul tried, and learned on the Damascus road, becoming Paul. All that effort, all that determination, amounts to nothing. And once we know we can do nothing, we release God to do everything. For this is also what the first disciples knew: nothing is impossible, and that one day the church will have made herself ready. A day that is getting closer, for, without doubt, God is today wooing his church back. The hour has not past, and now may even be the time – the time to end the gap.

Toronto Diary

My life changed in 1995. Some friends returned from Toronto, where God had turned up and people fell down. Bizarre. Then it happen for us – most, anyway. But not me. Yet, my hunger for God grew and I became desperate. Now, I know falling down was not the issue, but I also knew that it was not wrong for a child to ask for a hug, and that is how I saw it – God’s hug. I felt that, if I were serious, I needed to put myself in God’s way, which for me meant going to Toronto, so, by the end of June I was on a plane heading there.

At the end of the last meeting I was lying on the floor enjoying the presence of God. Over the previous few days I had begun to fall and once, to my surprise, even shaken violently. It had been an exciting week, but now it was time to go. No sooner had I got up than I fell. I tried slower this time, but I felt waves pushing me down again. This time I lay there for a while before I tried again. Bang! No sooner had I sat up than I was thrown down. I was amused. I did not know what was going on, but God had heard my heart. After a while I tried again and was able to stand – for a few seconds anyway, before finding myself back on the ground, face first. I then began to flap around like a fish out of water, which continued until I became exhausted, wondering if it would ever stop. I finally managed to stagger back to the hotel and into bed and as I lay there I began to laugh and thrash around with my hands and feet in the air. I realised it was exactly as I had done as a young child when my father tickled me. God was delighting in me, enjoying me like a father with his child. I don’t know how I managed to get to sleep, but eventually I did.

The morning after we got back I woke at 5am and got up to pray. I blamed jet lag, but as I was still getting up early seven years later there may have been other reasons! That season has since come to an end, but the physical manifestations have not. Sometimes I have not been able to work out how my body does some of the things it does. Often I sense a heaviness that leaves me barely able to stand. Once on the ground I shake. On one occasion I shook so violently that I worried I was going to break something. I realised I had a choice: either ask God to hold back or release him to do what he wanted. So, I gave God permission to break every bone in my body. Fortunately, the only thing that has ever been broken has been a chair I fell on!

It has been fun, but I don’t naturally like to draw attention to myself, and yet here I am, very publically, looking foolish. It has certainly been humbling, but would I have him stop? No. Only my pride would have him stop and God is slowly breaking through that pride as I learn to let go and trust him. Learning too about a God who does not always fit within my neat little boxes! I don’t know why God has dealt with me this way. I certainly needed that hug all those years ago. Perhaps I still do.

A dream, a word and them bones…

Her bridal dress was in tatters. She turned around and smiled, but it spoke only of death, her flesh barely clinging to her body. The only thought in my mind was, how could she still be alive? She looked as though she had died long ago and been rotting in the ground, and yet still she lived…

I’d been up in the night praying about a warning against the antichrist in one of John’s letters. A warning that we would be deceived if we did not preserve the truth that was within us. Yet it was my own thoughts I was touching, not those of God. I had given up seeking God and was heading back to bed, when some words entered my mind, “I’m wooing my church back”. In an instant my perspective changed. John’s warning had not been enough. It was no longer warning lest the church become deceived, but a realisation that we had been deceived already.

Ezekiel looked out upon a valley full of dry bones. It was desolate without any sign of life. Yet God was asking, can these bones live?

The church has drifted a long way from its first century roots. Yet, my dream still horrified me, because I knew the corpse was how God saw the church and I was shocked. It was a hopeless picture, just as Ezekiel’s was a hopeless picture. But just as God breathed life back into those dry bones, so he is wooing back his church back. Toronto was the start of something. In the early days we expected so much, and it is easy now to look back and wonder what it was all about. Yet God is once more breathing on dry bones. Life is coming back.

Jason’s Choice

As the credits from the film began to scroll across the screen, a message flashed up: ‘It is your time to choose.’ Uhh? Jason had been half dozing, whatever he thought he saw, it was not there now, just the credits. He reached for the remote and the screen went blank and as he did so his eye noticed the heading on the paper he had dropped on his way out that morning. ‘Choose now!’ It was an advert for a car, yet it was strangely co-incidental after the message he just imagined. He was beginning to feel himself trapped inside a film script, with someone trying to reach him.

A few moments later the doorbell rang. It was his neighbour dropping off a small package left while he was at work. It was not an interesting looking package, probably just some marketing gimmick, still it was intriguing. He emptied its contents onto the table. Two small polythene bags and a note spilled out: one bag contained a red pill, the other a blue and the note read, ‘It is now your time to choose.’ Any last sense of being in control left him. Whatever was going on, he was not in control.

He had the oddest sense that the pills were safe and he was free to choose either pill: The blue pill maintaining the comfort of his illusion; or the red pill risking what he might find when his illusion was shattered. However, he also knew that he had to choose. He could not make no choice at all. It was also obvious to him that he would finally take the red pill, but it still took him a while to summon the courage. Finally, he braced himself and swallowed the red pill, which  slid down easily. But, having prepared himself for almost anything, he found himself quite unprepared for nothing and he finally spoke out, ‘Has anything happened?’

A voice from the corner of the room said, “What were you expecting? It was only a Smartie.” To Jason’s surprise there was now a man standing in the room.

“Where did you come from? What’s going on here?”

“To be honest, I’ve been here all along, but until you made your choice I could not show myself. There was nothing special about the pills, they were actually just Smarties. We used them to help you make your choice.”

“So am I still seeing the illusion?” replied Jason.

“You mean like in the film? No, the world around you is real enough.”

“So what was the point of the choice?”

“The point is, that while the world may be real, it is not all there is. Like me. I’ve been here all along, but you have not always seen me. The world you know is only the part that you experience directly. Yet it is but a shadow of the greater reality that lies beyond. Slowly you will begin to see.” Jason looked at the remaining pill, which did indeed look like a Smartie. When he looked up again he was alone.

Jason sat on the sofa pondering what had just happened for a while and he become tired and started to doze off, when he was awoken by the sound of the credits from the film. He had been dreaming and he laughed quietly. As he reached for the remote, he noticed a small plastic bag on the table containing a blue Smartie.