2017 is a very special year for us – it marks 10 years since we built the Tailrace Centre. That 10 year period has been without doubt the most difficult 10 years of my life.
We have faced so many challenges on so many fronts. From major health issues, to being faithful in adverse circumstances, to the complexity of pastoring in a world that is increasingly consumeristic. Sometimes the hours and expectations have been heart breaking. At times the choice to continue was a hard choice to make.
There have been many many tears and many nights of soul wrestling.
But the past decade has also been the most rewarding decade of my life.
I serve a congregation that has chosen literally to go deeper with us.
What Jesus has done over the past 10 years has been beautiful. He has taken our congregation and ourselves deeper and together we are discovering the beautiful truths of life in the Kingdom of God. I love the giving up of perfect faith and perfect theology for presence with Jesus. I have loved going deeper. The transformation that has occurred on the inside is beautiful to watch.
In our world of consumerism we the church have become very good at branding. We have branded maturity. It looks middle class with neat good lives. It has done what Jesus told us we had to move beyond. We had to move beyond the religion of the Pharisees who were concerned only with the outside life. This is why the past 10 years have been so rewarding. I am surrounded by people trying to do life like Jesus did. They want to move beyond brand maturity to doing life Real.
I love the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and I think this quote sums up the journey of the past 10 years.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I love how being real and being present transforms lives. It is really quite extraordinary.
Jesus has also been taking us on a journey of learning to love.
One of the hall marks I believe of Jesus in us is that the love he gives us is a love that gives. Everything in life that matters comes down to giving. I love their big hearted giving. They give time, treasure and talent and they give when their buckets are empty and when they are full. One of the things about being small is that we have learned that we can love people quickly and easily. We can redirect love so that it can be on its way. There have been so many moments when I have been in awe at the inconvenience of love.
I have watched teenagers, young adults bear love, give love and endure in love that has left me in tears. I have watched men and women bone tired, stretched by the hustle of life turn around and give again and again.
Ann Voskamp says, “It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved.”
I want to jump up and down and shout out I am surrounded by a company of people who do that! Who love in quietness. Who simply want to make the person in front of them feel loved. I love that we are becoming a people of love, not trying or going to love, but simply loving in the moment; loving the one in front of us. Jesus is helping us to become people of love and not just people who love.
Jesus has been our Emmanuel.
I was asked last year if I would do it again. If I knew what the adversity and the struggle was going to be like would I do it again?
The answer is yes. I wouldn’t change anything.
Because in all of the hard, the stretch and the hustle, the wading through brand maturity and Christian consumerism, our own false hopes and expectations we have discovered so much more.
We have discovered life with God.
Not just me but a whole heap of people who have been on this journey with us.
I love the peace, the joy, the contentment and the unity.
Life with God is good.
So 2017 is a very special year for us.
It will be a year of celebrating, a year of taking time to pause and to say thank you.
To all our mentors, family and friends who have loved deeply, who have been faithful and who have done the high’s and lows of the past decade thank you. Thank you for being my tribe. Your presence has taught us so much about love.
To Jesus who has always been present, who has loved us in every season we say thank you.