So in the midst of yet another busy (yet wonderful) week of tea-time-catch-ups, teaching and late-night-conversations, I grabbed a few hours this morning to listen to a sermon by Benjamin Nolot called ‘Strangers in Babylon’.
I’m not going to go into the massive detail of that message, (although if you get the chance, then I would recommend you check it out), but it’s great, and basically pulling some lessons from Daniel’s life in Babylon into the present challenges we face in the season before Jesus returns.
And I guess because over the last couple of weeks I’ve been engaging in lots and lots of conversations about some of these same issues and because I’m wrestling in prayer for and with some people about this stuff… I’m just super burdened right now.
Not in a bad heavy way, but in a good heavy way that I feel Holy Spirit is leading me in.
Let me be real clear.
Sometimes, doing life with people breaks my heart.
And I think it’s meant to.
Because truly doing life with people and running with people means that you meet them and they meet you… Where you are at. No where else. But there.
It means realness. It means rawness. It means messiness. It means beautifulness. It means the whole works.
And this last month, especially as I’ve been hanging out with my non-Christian friends, I’ve literally felt this burden in prayer for them which is literally breaking my heart.
Yep. I still think it’s meant to.
And it comes down to some really real issues. Like where we find our identity. And where we find our security. And when we feel happy. And if we ever really love ourselves. And if we can forgive others. And if we have hope for the future.
And it a very obvious way it manifests itself in the reality that most of my non-Christian friends drink way to much on a way too regular basis, and their reasons for doing so are rooted in some stories that I personally go to my knees over.
Now, I don’t drink alcohol. Not because of my Christian faith, (I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with drinking a glass of wine or a pint of beer because you enjoy it) but it’s a personal choice, rooted in working with people with addictions for so many years. Not drinking alcohol was unusual in England. It’s pretty much mind-blowing for most of my friends in Japan.
But anyway, regardless of your specific boundaries on alcohol, I’m not talking about healthy-moderated-drinking, and I’ll leave you to draw your own boundaries on where that is.
I guess what I’m talking about is best summed up in Eric Hutchinson’s massively catchy tune, ‘Rock and Roll’. It’s interesting, but I heard him talk about writing this song, and he described it as being written by him before he was old enough to go to bars and clubs, about what he thought bars and clubs would be like. Turns out he was pretty spot on.
Here are a couple of verses:
He’s been waiting around for the weekend
Figuring which club to sneak in
Fancy drinks and fifty-dollar cover charge
Lately it’s been a big hassle
Heineken and New Castle
To make sure he’s fitting in and living large
Disregard the lies that he will tell
And what he’s probably like ’cause
It’s not hard his charm is gonna
Get him through the night
If he wanna rock he rocks
If he wanna roll he rolls
He can roll with the punches
Long as he feels like he’s in control
If he wanna stay he stays
If he wanna go he goes
He doesn’t care how he gets there
Long as he gets somewhere he knows oh no
See her heavy make up and cut t-shirt
Every girl out wants to be her
But they look the same already why adjust
Reading the magazine secrets
Forget the topical regrets
‘Cause If she comes home all alone the nights a bust
It’s a must the swivel in her hips
And the look she gives
It’s all her trust if only in the morning
She knew where she lived
‘Cause if she wanna rock she rocks
If she wanna roll she rolls
She can roll with the punches
Long as she feels like she’s in control
If she wanna stay she stays
If she wanna go she goes
She doesn’t care how she gets there
Long as she gets somewhere she knows oh no
Yep. That there. That description. Breaks my heart. What a song to use in intercession?
There’s so much wrong with that picture that I find it overwhelming sometimes.
There’s no true joy in that place. There’s no peace with yourself. There’s no concern for others. There’s no thought about the future. There’s no dealing with the past.
It’s a numbing, kind of reality.
And I think we were created for more than that.
I’ve been talking about this pretty honestly with a number of friends recently. Christians and non-Christians. All kinds of opinions and all kinds of feelings. But the reality that it comes down to, when I sit in coffee shops and listen to people’s stories, is that most people are searching for something that they feel they just can’t find.
They’re searching for a break from a life that’s too stressful.
They’re searching for a confidence they don’t feel any other way.
They’re searching for an escape from the mundane of everyday life.
They’re searching for a break from memories.
They’re searching for love.
They’re searching for laughter.
They’re searching for acceptance.
Aren’t we all searching?
So world. I care. I love you. Even when you’re wasted, I love you. It breaks my heart to watch you self destruct and sell yourself short. It breaks my heart to see you covering your broken hearts in a faulty pursuit of joy.
My dear, precious, beautiful, full-of-potential friends. I love you. Even when you’re wasted, I love you. But it breaks my heart to watch you self destruct and sell yourself short. It breaks my heart to see you covering your broken heart when it could be healed.
I blogged a few months ago about the story of the prodigal son, and I’m going to leave you with this thought, and some photos of another beautiful week.
At the end of June I saw a very clear picture as I was praying. A picture of the prodigal son. I was praying for someone I’d just met a couple of weeks before that and God showed me these very clear images as I talked to Him. But since then, the story of the prodigal son has been really capturing my heart again.
It’s one of those stories that I’ve been reading since before I can remember, and I kind of thought I had it drilled into the core of my being… But as God so gently does when He’s awakening Truth in us, I’m learning that there are more layers in His Word that I could ever imagine.
One question in particular struck me a couple of weeks ago.
I read this verse, that I know so well…
‘When he was still a long way off, his father saw him…’ (Luke 15 vs 20)
We know the story right? This prodigal son, who had taken everything he inherited and all his Father had given and squandered it away. This prodigal son, who is now penniless and hopeless and friendless. This prodigal son, who is so much like me and so much like you… Decides to go back to his Father’s house and beg to just be allowed to live as a servant. And then we read these words: ‘When he was still a long way off, his father saw him’.
And we know the end of the story. His father embraces him back not only as a servant, but as a son. More is restored than the son could ever have asked or imagined.
But here was my question.
How did the father know it was his son?
He was still a long way off, just a speck on the horizon. He no doubt looked drastically altered. Malnourished. Wearing rags. He must have walked differently.
I mean, from that vast distance, how did the father know who it was? How did he recognise it to be his son and not just some local beggar? What differentiated him? What defined him? What made him recognisable? Was he wearing his favourite-brightly-coloured t-shirt? His stand-out-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtle-pyjamas? How did he know?
Because this is important, right? If we believe that this story speaks into our lives and our hearts as God as the father and us as the returning prodigal… This is an important question.
God, do you really see me? Do you really recognise me? How can you run to me with Your arms of restoration when I’m just a speck on the horizon? Am I not too far away?
I was in my church praying the other morning and I was talking this through with God.
The conversation went a little like this:
‘Peta, ask me your question..’
‘Oh, that little question… It doesn’t matter.’
‘It matters to you. It’s okay, ask me your question…’
‘Well, it’s just… How did the father know it was the son from that huge distance? How do you know it’s me? Surely he would have been too far away…?’
And do you know what God answered? In one of those beautiful moments of clarity? This floors me.
‘Oh my child. Don’t you see? You may have just been a figure in the distance, but I’d spent the days and moments of your life memorising your frame…’
He memorises us.
He doesn’t just know us distantly. He doesn’t just know our name and nothing more. He actually doesn’t miss anything.
The reason the father knows it’s his son, despite the time, despite the change, despite the mistakes, is that the father so deeply loved and longed for his child. He’d not just been a distant father. He’d been a father who saw every detail. A father who had memorised every characteristic. A father who had spent the time putting every-tiny-detail into immaculately accurate memory.
A father who sees.
A father who loves.
A father whose love changes everything.
I was reading a blog by one of my favourite design companies yesterday, considerthewldflwrs, and this quote hit me.
I’ll leave you with it. Because, even on foolish days and pyjama days and teenage-mutant-ninja-turtle-days, we were forged and formed in LOVE and by LOVE. In the person of Jesus who IS Love. And in His wild, fiery and complete love, we are known and we are whole.
It is important for us to know that our desire to be loved, to be beautiful is not shallow or evil. In fact, we were created from love, through a desire for relationship, and we are destined to be beautiful through our heavenly breed. Our need for these things can be met and fulfilled. But it demands from us a willingness to step away from the tame standards of attraction and infatuation the world falsely offers as whole and a willingness to step into the wild, fiery and complete love we were forged in. (considerthewldflwrs.com)