Sunday, January 16, 2011

It is very difficult to tell the truth: Reflections on Mobilise Student Worker Weekend

I was a guest at the Newfrontiers Student Workers weekend in Sherwood Forest over the weekend. I was invited as a member of a Newfrontiers Church and UCCF Leadership to give a seminar on 'Working with CUs' which I hope was beneficial. I loved being able to meet with many student workers across the country, people on the same page as me - lovers of grace and the local church, generous hearted people who I hope will grow to be friends.

Nick Sharp the leader of Grace Church Nottingham spoke on Saturday night. His session on courage was outstanding. He showed us a ministerial vulnerability that is all too rare and yet deeply attractive. During it he told a story from War and Peace (a book I'd now like to read!) to highlight how we love to tell heroic stories and be triumphalistic when reality is rarely so glorious. He tells of Nicolas Rostov who rode into battle, fell off his horse and fled. Tolstoy tells of his return to society to tell his story...

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"Rostov was a truthful young man and would on no account have told a deliberate lie. He began his story meaning to tell everything just as it happened, but imperceptibly, involuntarily, and inevitably he lapsed into falsehood. If he had told the truth to his hearers — who like himself had often heard stories of attacks and had formed a definite idea of what an attack was and were expecting to hear just such a story — they would either not have believed him or, still worse, would have thought that Rostov was himself to blame since what generally happens to the narrators of cavalry attacks had not happened to him. He could not tell them simply that everyone went at a trot and that he fell off his horse and sprained his arm and then ran as hard as he could from a Frenchman into the wood. Besides, to tell everything as it really happened, it would have been necessary to make an effort of will to tell only what happened. It is very difficult to tell the truth, and young people are rarely capable of it. His hearers expected a story of how beside himself and all aflame with excitement, he had flown like a storm at the square, cut his way in, slashed right and left, how his saber had tasted flesh and he had fallen exhausted, and so on. And so he told them all that."
How hard for the young to tell the truth - to be vulnerable and honest. We like to tell people what we think they want to hear. God had been speaking to me about that last week. I've felt the Spirit saying to me after a conversation with my pastor that there's an issue in my reluctance to ask for help at times - my sense of being an achiever can be utilised in the gospel but can equally be a bridge for my sin - then Jim Walford challenged us with the gospel to be those who are prepared to ask God for help in prayer, since we can't do this life ourselves. And the same came through Nick Sharp's teaching.

The gospel has been disarming and exposing me in my self-sufficiency, and then deeply encouraging me to be one who will tell as it is, unafraid to show weakness and to be one who lives in the real world in which God is God and I am not. In which to look to the gospel not to myself. That frees me to be encouraged - to be courageous - and boldy do the things I cannot do, but God might have for me to do, in which I'll be able to admit that I often feel out of my depth, feel like a fraud.

And seeing that, I might just cry out to him more.

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