Keep Safe. Be Kind. Enjoy.
Nestled deep in the British countryside is The Repair Shop, where a team of Britain’s most skilled and caring craftspeople rescue and resurrect items their owners thought were beyond saving. Together they transform priceless pieces of family history and bring loved, but broken treasures, and the memories they hold back to life. [Taken from the show’s website.]
There is a plethora of UK television programmes from a genre that has to do with antiques, usually owned by the public, who have no idea of the value that the pieces hold, except in sentimental value. When it was first launched on BBC1, late afternoon, I sighed. “Not another programme for old people! Really?” I chose to ignore the advancing years of my own life; I may not be old, but I am now sixty-one, and the aches and pain of that age remind me often that I am getting old, although I have no intention of behaving old… except for the frequent nap in the afternoon. It is necessary, combating my insomnia, caused by too many babies who didn’t like sleep. I digress.
I quickly got hooked, until today it is one of my favourite things on TV, even though it leaves me in tears far too often.
The Repair Shop reminds me of My Great Papa, the God of the Christian faith, who is often pictured as a potter, crafting pottery into something beautiful. The intention to detail as the master craftsmen repair items that I would probably have dumped; the joy they clearly get in working with such care to restore items back to something very close to their original glory; the patience it requires – nobody ever gives up, loses their cool or shows an ounce of frustration. And the pleasure shown by the craftsmen when the “customer” returns for their beloved old thing. The blanket is removed and the look on the owners face is always a picture. And the other craftsmen watch from their benches and join in the pleasure and joy, as though they have been part of the restoration – could that be a glimpse into the mystery that we call The Trinity, but have no idea what that means?
But The Repair Shop also shows what “church” should be and should look like. The world is full of broken people – sometimes simply from the wear and tear of life, but sadly often the result of neglect and abuse – people who need to be repaired and restored. If My Great Papa is the Master Craftsman, then surely church, whatever that looks like and is or isn’t, should be, at times, a repair shop? Sadly, for too many, and I am one, the church has become the place where much of the damage that we carry is inflicted, rather than where the damage is repaired.
The programme shows a group of people, all experts in their own field, but novices when it comes to what might be required at any time. They love their work – you can see the sheer pleasure they get doing the repair and the utter joy when the work is completed. Tired church has stopped enjoying those moments, probably we are no longer artisans in the role we play. And for too long, we have been fed the lie that pleasure and joy are emotions that Christians should not feel.
It is not unusual for one of the team to request the help of another to complete a job. The one drops everything to help the other, knowing that the one requesting will be the one who gets the credit. Oh, for church to be a community where there is no competition! And when the joy of unveiling the finished work erupts, the other craftsmen stop work at the bench to enjoy the moment. Church should always enjoy the success and completion of another.
And ultimately, “church” should be a place, a community, a family where the broken lives of both church and world can be repaired and restored, often to a greater glory and beauty than they had before. And while we celebrate their healing, My Great Papa smiles and sometimes chuckles at the great thing that has just been achieved.
I suspect there are conversations around the world, in churches of all shapes and sizes, about what church is going to be and look like, post-COVID19 and the lockdown. I don’t have answers, except to express the hope that church will become family, community – a place and a people where the broken and exhausted and lost can feel safe and loved; a place where somebody will draw alongside another, take their hand, and walk at least part of their journey of faith with them; a place where people, who are healed and restored, but still carry the scars, can administer the healing love of My Great Papa; an environment where the achievements and successes can be celebrated with others rather than competed against. And I could go on, but I suspect you get the drift.
The Repair Shop – a veiled image of heaven on earth? I hope so.
I have always been speechless… well, most of the time. As long as I can remember I have had a stutter; or is it a stammer? Or maybe both?
I quickly learned that participation in lessons at school were an invitation to be mocked and bullied, so as far as I could I stayed quiet…
My childhood at home didn’t really help either. There were occasions, just a few, when I would be teased and laughed at by my own parents. Added to which, we were brought up in a religious environment, where the ultimate position was something along the lines of, “This is what we believe; we expect you to believe the same.” Not dissimilar to, “Because I said so!”
As a young adult I made my own faith decisions. The church youth group was big, healthy and a lot of fun. I discovered that I could make people laugh and that people were prepared to be patient with me and listen to me. For the first time ever, my opinion mattered and counted for something.
As time passed, I learnt how to speak in public. It started with very short epilogues and then leading the youth group discussion, and then finally preaching on Sunday mornings. Friends were very kind, encouraging me into church leadership, which I loved… and needed. And then trouble. The thrill of being heard, of being influential, of being in the know went to my head. I became difficult even to the point of arrogance. I fell out with several church leaders over the years until I was shoved onto The Dark Path.
Bullied, threatened, abandoned and ignored.
Only this time I was content to not have a voice. It was my voice that got me into so much trouble, so I learnt to accept not having one. I hid, in the shadows, at home, in the safety of my family and those very close friends who stood by me and supported me.
While on my Dark Path, I had some counselling. My counsellor was a top bloke and very wise. I remember it clearly, the day he asked me to listen to a Josh Groban song. Not my favourite sound, but a song that talked about not being heard, not being listened to, except by The One, My Papa, The God of my story and journey.
My time on The Dark Path became a catalyst for walking, the same route along the beach, day after day, and while walking I learned that I never have to be speechless again, because there is The One. I would pour my heart out to him, day after day, week after week, and now year after year. To start with he listened and he still does. But gradually, over time, things changed, and I became more interested in what he had to say; and then content to just enjoy being aware of him.
More recently, I have been reading and thinking about the mystery that God is, and has to be. If there is a God, then by definition, he has an “otherness” about him. The understanding of him, and the challenges of life that throw up apparent contradictions and opposites and incompatibles, has brought me to a point in my journey and story where I am coming to live with the tension of being known by, and knowing, somebody who is outside time and space, and yet lives within the limitations of time and space. The result? Speechless!
Because there are not enough words to explain the God that I call Papa; because my vocabulary is too limited to describe the outrageous and endless love that he has drowned me in; because I never thought I could love him as much as I do while accepting that I will never love him as much as he deserves.
Only now I am content and satisfied to be quiet and silent and still. Speechless before the mystery and intimacy of My Papa.
“Come to the River, all who are thirsty.” We Are The River! We are your refreshment, your restoration, your rest, your cleansing! Not… Nothing or Nobody Else! Just Us!
I stand on the river bed, a bed of pebbles and stones and dried wood. The plants of the river are long dead. I am not alone. As I look there are others, standing. What for?
I am waiting for The River to return. A river that once trickled, sometimes, flowed and very occasionally raged like white water. The River I had in mind dried up long ago. It refreshed, renewed, restored then, but has now dried up. It is as if a drought has come and stayed.
As I look in the cloudless sky with no sign of the rain I long for, I begin to see. Like a laser beam piercing my mind and my heart, I start to understand. The River was the wrong river. It was never going to stay, for it was made of man made things, things that pretended to be The River while not being the river – religious rules, regulations, expectations, demands; valid spiritual practices that become routine, duty, habit devoid of life, of water.
And then out of nowhere, large, cold drops of rain appear. Slowly and deliberately the rain increases into a deluge. And between my toes and around my feet, The River forms and flows. My tired feet and legs are suddenly shocked into refreshment and vigour.
And I realise that this is The River! The River! What is The River? Who is The River? It is YHWH! My God! Papa, Mama and Yeshua The Christ! The Mysterious three-in-one! They are The River! My River! My Source of all that is good and fresh and real!
I am a son, a husband, a father, a friend. I am, a recently retired, local authority foster carer, a member of a crazy, creative, frustration and joyous “church” family. I am a pilgrim, a traveller, an explorer, an avid reader and novice writer.
And I am wounded and scarred, broken and damaged. And yet healed and loved beyond recognition. On a good day, I am Papa’s Little Boy and Papa to “the next one.”
On a bad day… I am self-righteous, self-absorbed, religious, judgmental, critical, negative, determined to be right and let you know that I am right, at all costs. On these days, my scars have been prodded and poked enough for them to hurt all over again. And when I hurt… here comes another bad day.
Why am I writing?
I have always dreamed of writing. So, when somebody prays that past dreams be fulfilled, including writing, and then somebody comments on my writing skills, it felt like a nudge, a heavenly elbow in the ribs.
I am certainly not trying to persuade, convince, convict or put right. I have had more than enough of that in my life, both as a giver and a receiver. Neither am I claiming some superior revelation and experience; it is my journey and my story, not yours.
I do want to explore and discover, provoke and stimulate, encourage and support… fellow travellers and storytellers. I am not looking to force our paths together, but if we should bump into each other? Well, let’s walk and explore together for a while and see where it takes us.