Monday, 18 January 2016

Making time, growing slowly, being still, waiting.

When Greg goes to meet his girlfriend's parents in 'Meet the Parents' he takes a gift - a pot full of dirt. When the parents open the present they are disappointed.... as you would be!

However, Greg tells them that the dirt contains one of the rarest seeds in the world and it will grow into a beautiful flower. I can't remember what it is,  I don't know whether it grew, but the potential was there if only they were prepared to wait, care for and nurture that potential for future beauty. 

When you plant a seed you can't see the roots growing under the surface, but you trust they are growing. You water the seed with the hope that they are growing but you don't know for sure if they are until the shoot begins to poke its way through.

As you wait the roots take their own path to reach the best nourishment and the best source of life so that the seed can bloom.

It's in those roots that the potential for growth begins to be realised. 

It's in those roots that a future becomes a possibility.

If you don't want to wait for the roots to establish you could stick in some cut flowers to make it look like its something, but without roots it will wilt and fade. 

Nothing beautiful and lasting will grow if roots are not given time and peace to establish. 

We can measure seasons and dream about when it might happen, but we don't know exactly when it will. 

We can look for the signs.

Watch and wait. 

Give time.

Give space.

Live wisely, plant deeply.

Be Still

Go Slow

Wait on God. 

"There is a time for everything, there's a time for everything that is done on earth". Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, 4 January 2016

Moving beyond fixing.....

Bottom set Year 10 in a difficult school - a girl, with problems at home. She suggests to her friend who is pregnant that she'd quite like to have a baby too because then she will have someone to love her. The teacher overhears this, ignores it, carries on teaching. The observer (me) overhears it and mulls it over for a while. 

Later on in the week the girl won't stop talking. The teacher stops. Again. Again. Again. The girl won't stop talking. The teacher says 'you need to stop talking' the girl says 'that's not what I need'. They argue for the rest of the lesson it seems. 

Next week there are exam papers lying on the teacher's desk. The girl - she asks what they are about. The teacher says they are for another class - but that if she wants she can help count them. The girl picks up the papers, she puts them in piles and she quietly listens as the teacher continues with the lesson. 

That series of incidents from when I was learning to be a teacher has never left me. The needs of the girl - at home and in school are evident. The teacher knows that getting a grade in maths will make a huge difference to the options for her future. The girl - she has other things on her mind. 

What can the teacher do to fix it? Not ignore her - that is what seems to happen all the time. Not make her conform - perhaps she is sick of being told what to do. She's different. Deal with it. 

But, perhaps the teacher's role is not to fix, but to welcome, and in that welcome, help guide her on a path to a better life. As she is invited to participate by counting exam papers and her contribution valued, she then begins to feel like this is a place she can belong. She's there. She's needed. She begins to journey forward as she chooses to participate.

Our initial reaction is too often to fix. How can I make this person's life better? How can I make them fit in to expectations so that they can get on in life? What can I do? What difference can I make? It becomes about 'me' and that's emphasised when we make sure we write down what we've done on social media for everyone else to see. 

We like to fix. I've had people try and fix me. I don't talk much, until I know I am in a safe place. But then when I talk, I occasionally encounter people who want to fix me. And that makes me angry. I don't want to be fixed. I just want to be. 

And I think that 'being' word is the key. For the girl - belonging, being there in that classroom with purpose was what she needed right then. For me, when I talk, I just want you to be with me, listen, help me learn to trust you, go at my pace. 

When we look at the world around us, often our response is 'how can we fix this?'. Then we jump quickly to fix - which is sometimes needed, but often reactionary, short term and doesn't offer long term solutions and reach down deep into the roots of the problems. 

I've been reading a book called 'Making Room' by Christine D Pohl. It's about hospitality in Christian tradition. I've been struck by her reflections on how Christians today offer hospitality. Our offers of hospitality are often about doing stuff for people or to people - fixing people through resources - and then when we are drained, we hide away from those who are different to us to build up our resources again. Pohl writes that Christians today are much better at collecting and providing for needs than we are at welcoming people into the community. We become people who fix rather than people who 'be'. Providing for others is good, and important, but when that becomes an 'out there' thing and not a 'welcome in' thing, when we 'do to' and forget to 'be with' we miss something of the hospitality of God's Kingdom. 

The early Christian communities were radical, rebellious and counter cultural because of equality within the community - no society reflecting hierarchy or privilege or special food for special people. They recognised the need and importance of fellowship and friendship.

As we recognise that same need within church community, then perhaps we need to be thinking about how we be with people and journey together. As we serve, invite others to serve with us. As we provide food, invite others to share in the distribution and then sit alongside them to eat. As we sit down, put an extra chair at the table. As we prepare, invite others to count exam papers. Small invitations to belong, to taste and to experience the love of God together.