“You can’t stay here” I said aghast as I visited Jo who was homeless living in a boiler room with water washing through it like a river.
“It’s not that bad, I’ll be okay!” was the reply (and she lived there for a further 6 months).
The people of Israel lived as nomadic desert people for 40 years, they were happy to trudge around in the heat and the absence of water, because this was safe, comfortable and familiar.
I am someone who hates going to the dentist and normally when the pain thresh-hold gets to the point when I can bare it no longer I stagger to the dentist, until I’m agony I put of going. Telling everyone “I’m fine”.
Is there pain that is unresolved that is getting worse?
Are there things in your life that hurt but hasn’t reached agony yet so you’re in pain and popping painkillers like smarties?
Over the last two years of our interregnum we have had a real challenge with trying to develop a culture which doesn’t tolerate people being nasty to each other. The least helpful thing when trying to change the culture was people saying “it’s not that bad” or “its just how people are” or other such excuses.
People talk about being Pastoral, and yet sometimes “sorting it out” is the most pastoral thing we can do, intervention is often scary, bringing change and risk, the familiar cycles are broken and the status quo is interrupted, sometimes things carrying on as they always had sometimes isn’t the best for anyone involved.
Ironically though, I am actually someone who hates conflict, I know others thrive on it, but I’m not one of them. Yet sometimes following Jesus sometimes means doing and saying the tough things that need to be done because they are the right thing to do.
It is an uncomfortable place to be the one that acknowledges the elephant in the room, and being the one who suggests that maybe this elephant in the room needs dealing with again takes bravery, but the bravest thing of all is actually dealing with the elephant and taking it out of the room.
It feels very unpastoral to cause this upset and to challenge things that have become part of the DNA of where we are but perhaps the least loving thing for those we are called to shepherd and pastor is to let the status quo go on unchallenged.
Perhaps like the homeless person at the start of this blog, you feel that “if you stay here you will become sick, and possibly die”.
Perhaps like the toothache this pain can be sorted out with 10 minutes of discomfort in the dentists chair, the pain can be cured if we take decisive action.
Sometimes we need to see the peril in a situation, or feel the pain to make us change.
I have said at Church “unless we reach out this Church building will be closed”
I think that in order to move forward you not only sometimes have to make the compelling case for moving to a new place, but sometimes we have to say “we can’t stay here”, we have to make the case that where we are is not a place we want to stay.
Bishop Lee once wrote a piece which talked of a woman living in a hellish place, but not wanting to leave, she was asked “why do you want to stay here” and she replied “it maybe hell, but I know the street names”.
We feel safe in the familiar, even when the familiar is harmful to us.
Change is something, that all of us find to some degree threatening.
I was talking to a landlord the other day and they were talking about how their regulars don’t have much cash and so making a living is tough, many of the regular customers are getting old and dying (or going into residential care) wants to modernise, do food, entertainment and quizzes etc, duke-box etc. Yet the fear is “will I loose the regulars”? Also, it’s a risk I could update everything and still not attract new customers. His response was “I can’t afford not to do it” in other words if the pub goes he and his family loose out, he needs to do all he can to try and make the pub viable and successful.
Often the risk is not to do something, the more dangerous risk is often to do nothing at all, that is the more risky behaviour.
Ironically, when we take no risk the thing we fear most actually happens, we perversely become self fulfilling prophecies.
One of my favourite films is Dead Poets Society, where their mantra was “carpe diem” -seize the day.
I’ll close with the thought that often it is the opportunities that miss are those we regret the most.
I believe that God is a God who wants to change and transform, and we often miss out on the wonderful signs of his Kingdom because we are begrudgingly satisfied we what we are used to rather than dreaming dreams of what could be.
So, let’s dream dreams, let us not settle for what we have, but step bravely out into the future, we may not always win, but for me the biggest failure is the failure not to try.