It’s come to that time of year when I need to sit down and start writing lots of talks for the summer festivals. After a year of doing hardly any talks it’s a bit strange to be back in that process but it’s nice to be in a place where I can go out and speak and I’m looking forward to meeting people again. The last year has been a rollercoaster for me and my family and sometimes I still feel unsure whether I’m coming or going. I am going back to the hospital soon to start the conversation about when I should get the second leg operated on and to see if the MRSA has cleared up. People keep asking whether it’s easier or harder knowing what’s coming. I guess it’s a little of both. On one hand it’s very scary but on the other, it’s good to know roughly when I’ll be able to feel better.
Many talks you hear (and I have given them) will often discuss our ‘showreel moments’; spectacular stories of people’s lives that have been changed, stories of miracles and healing, a drug addict or gang member who has come to faith and turned their life around. I enjoy these stories. In XLP, the charity I work for, we have seen some amazing things happen both here in the UK and also in countries like Jamaica and Ghana. There are incredible stories of kids’ lives that have been transformed but for every amazing story that we do present there are many, many more heart-breaking ones that we don’t. It’s not only speakers who omit these stories; social media can be a way to showcase our highlights to the world. When talking with friends how many conversations start with “how are you doing?” to which we reply, “very busy” as we launch into all the activities we are currently involved in? Maybe we hang onto the idea that our worth is tied up in what we do?
In some ways I like hearing the amazing stories as it’s encouraging to hear about God working so powerfully in people’s lives. However, as Steven Furtick says, “sometimes I wonder if we get disappointed and insecure because we compare other people’s highlights reel with our ‘behind the scenes’”. I am convinced that God does work in the things that appear mundane in our lives and particularly in the struggles and the questions that we all have. He isn’t scared of our honesty. One of the things that has kept me going these last six months is hearing from people who have contacted me through my blog and social media. I have heard stories about how life has been incredibly cruel to people and yet they have managed to keep going, despite how they are feeling. I think there is something very powerful about sharing stories about our common humanity.
I had a Facebook message after one blog post saying that it was so refreshing to read about someone currently going through a difficult time, and not just reflecting on it years after the event. I have decided to turn some of my thoughts into a small book called “When Faith Gets Shaken”. This book does not answer the question of why suffering happens – even if I felt I could answer that, there are already many good books written on that subject. It instead deals with the issue of how to cope when suffering happens – what are the lessons I am learning on the way? How do I grab hold of my faith instead of letting go? It will show more of the ‘behind the scenes’ internal journey of trying to work out my faith which I don’t want to let go of. I don’t want it to be cheap therapy for me but rather a tool to inspire others who are finding life hard; to know that God hasn’t abandoned them and that he is still there whispering to them on the way.
“Spiritual growth is more than procedure, it’s a wild search for God in the midst of the tangled jungle of our souls, a search for which involves a volatile mix of messy reality, wild freedom, frustrating stuckness, increasing slowness and a healthy dose of gratitude” – Mike Yaconelli
I’d love to hear any stories, quotes, insights or suggestions you may have for the book. I’m a little nervous about writing it but it’s something I feel is important. Well, back to the prep. Maybe this summer is also the time to include a bit more ‘behind the scenes’ alongside the other stories.