Tuesday, March 25, 2008


As I said on my latest post on my other blog - "Voices" - things are going really well for me right now. I'm suddenly really happy and I've never worked harder, two things I didn't think could occur in conjunction. Maybe I'm not as lazy as I thought I was!

I guess there's something about being busy that makes sitting down to watch TV such a luxury, or going for a walk so refreshing, or playing a board game with some friends so much fun.

But it's not just that, I for some reason feel in such a good place with God. That doesn't mean I'm suddenly getting my a into g and reading my Bible every day or minding my temper every moment etc etc. But when I feel happy, I thank him for it, and when I think of someone who needs prayer, I actually pray. And suddenly he feels so much more constant in my life. I know he's been there all along and I've always known that, but he seems much more tangible.

And - sorry to keep harping on about this being postgraduate thing - I think realising now that I've made it through my undergrad degree has been a real boost. I've made it through the pressure that university can be on Christian faith, made it through the pressure English classes especially were, and have come out a stronger, more real Christian than I was before. I've made it through Mum's death and though I don't think that will ever get easier (I miss her every single day), I do know that it can't swallow me up now.

I know this won't last forever. I'm not the type of person who thinks being happy is being interesting. I'm afraid sometimes I engineer my own moods. Then there will be other times when stuff goes wrong in my life and it will be sad. That's inevitable. So I'm praying that I can hold onto the way I feel about God and the way I am turning to him now even when I can't hold onto the fleeting joy-of-living that has me in its grip right now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

across eras

I was driving out of town tonight after meeting some friends for coffee, and briefly along Manchester St which is the street every city has that is notorious for prostitutes. It's a Tuesday night but I saw a few women standing on corners, felt very grim, and said a prayer for them.

It made me think a bit. The other day I met one of the masters students in the history department, and of course, as we postgrad students do (note that oh-so-subtle pride), we asked each other what we were doing our research on. Bladebladeblah, said I. Male prostitution, said she. Apparently since the rise of feminism, prostitutes have been emancipated, while male prostitutes are still stigmatized. I realise that this could be an interesting and valuable contribution to human knowledge, but really! Emancipated?!

What is wrong with our world? Women are out there standing on a street corner in short skirts waiting for dodgy old men to drive past, pick them up, and purchase them. Probably the victims of about half the murders in our town are prostitutes. Oh yes, feminism is the salvation of those women. They can really respect themselves now. Why not call them public servants?

They call it the oldest profession, and this confirms two things I have decided:
1) There's no such thing as the "good old days". Things change, yes, but underneath whatever particular veneer society chooses to wear on the surface, underneath is the gutter. Things have always been like this and humans have always had a tendency to scumminess. We have not degenerated, we have only become more open about our general scumminess.
2) There's no such thing as historical progress either. The world has always been backward and stunted and no matter how many theories or technology or miracle cures we invent, utopia on our own steam is a fuzzy dream that can never become a reality. On a personal level we may learn from our mistakes, but on an all-humanity kind of level we just keep on keeping on. Screwing up. Exploiting, objectifying, and taking advantage of the dire need of another human being to gain a fleeting selfish pleasure.

A Salvation Army worker my mum once spoke to said a prostitute she had made friends with finally agreed to come to church with her one day. She took her to an inner-city "liberal" church where she thought the woman would feel more comfortable. Sitting in the pews with his wife and kids was one of the prostitute's regular customers.

The world doesn't change, people don't change, there is a blackness at the core of humanity that doesn't go away. It's pervasive, it's frightening, it's across all eras and across all the world. I can see it in myself, and I saw it there from a very young age. The world doesn't corrupt us, we corrupt the world.

A negative picture? Yes. But the sooner we realise this, the better. Screw this politically correct crap that there can be such a thing as an emancipated prostitute. Prostitution has nothing but darkness and imprisonment at its heart. It's a reflection of our world, our dark, evil world.

And yet, somehow, God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:16-21)

What a God we have. What a love. He is the only hope we have. What is below is the only real emancipation we can ever experience.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
(Isaiah 61:1-3)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

God is nice but sometimes I am not

I just want to vent.

Why is it that:

a) there is this perpetual Christian need to show people that Christians can have fun too? It mostly manifests itself in forcing people to play games in which you have to imitate an egg, a chicken, a cow, a gorilla and a model. Or, hopping a short distance with a clothes-peg between your knees and trying to drop it into a milk carton. (Yes, this has happened to me in the last week.) It's not fun, unless you're maybe twelve or below! I resent being made to feel like a spoilsport who has no fun because I don't think going to a Bible study group means I have committed myself to stupid games I don't enjoy!

b) being a Christian means for some people that we have to be constantly crinkly-eyed (in Adrian Plass's words) and bushy tailed? And have to talk about how [insert study group name here] has changed our lives?

The Christian group of which I have been a member at university for three years is cranking up again for the year, and I have had enough already. I have tried and tried and tried to fit in, and I can't. I just don't think it's possible to make an effort to enjoy myself, or to become BFFs with people I can hardly speak to. The studies themselves have always been good but everything else has always been a constant struggle and I'm sick of it. I don't want to go on a camp people say is going to be so much fun because we have to take old clothes and get very messy.

It goes deeper for me. Something happened two years ago that almost destroyed my trust in the people there. Let's just say I am not interested in friendship that entails everyone having a jolly good time while things coast along smoothly, but as soon as something goes wrong in someone's life, well, silence and avoidance is the best option.

I'm not happy. I want to define that a little more, because I feel like I love God more than ever, and depend on him more than ever, and he gets me through every day. I say that without hesitation. But quite often I wish I could just skip all this annoying life stuff and go straight to heaven. There is a deeper joy, that God has accepted me despite all my shortcomings and that I am valuable to him as I am. But I don't sit comfortably among other people and I can't be a cheery bouncy happy-happy person. To be at this group means for me at least that I have to go hooray! life's a blast! all the time without any real meaning behind it. The group is not set up for unhappy people, and I think that what happened to me two years ago has really disabled me from settling in there. I have Issues (I hate that word but it's true) and I can't sort them out there.

There are a few people there I'd be really sorry to say goodbye to. But I don't think leaving would mean they're out of my life forever.

So. I have had enough of being negative. I am not going back to the group. It really is a wonderful group for a certain type of person. But it is pulling me down. I need a change. I want to start going to a Bible study with my new church, which is affiliated with a different Christian group and is full of people who made me feel welcome and a part of them as soon as I stepped in the door.