One result of reflecting on life and my cancer diagnosis over the last couple of months, is a desire to write an account of my days, starting with where I came from, the family I was born into. I know I am not alone in wanting to do this at a time like this. It may be vain, even presumptuous, but I am going to do it anyway. I am going to publish it on my blog, a bit at a time. Don’t worry, I don’t expect lots of people to read them. I am doing this for me.
Part of wanting to do this comes from my personality. I like to be ready for things. I don’t like having things sprung upon me. I remember a time in my teens when my friends organised a surprise party for me before I moved away. For the first half hour, I was furious, because I had other plans for the evening! So perhaps I am preparing for the possibility that one day, my life will flash before my eyes, and I don’t want any surprises!
But I also want to do it because I am constantly in awe of the things that God has allowed me to experience in life. I don’t even pretend to understand the verse in Psalm 139 that says, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be”, and like the Psalmist, I find myself echoing his words, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain”. I am deeply grateful for the wonders He has shown me, and that no matter where I have been, or what I have been doing, I know God was there.
I have thought long and hard about what to call this series of blog posts. “Confessions of a turbulent priest” came to mind, but my life can’t even hold a candle to Thomas Becket, the original ‘turbulent priest’. I also thought of “A life less ordinary” but again, that has already been taken by someone who has moved mountains rather than my paltry molehills.
In the end, I am going to call it “Crossing the Line” inspired by a song by American Christian band, Superchick. As I look back, my whole life has been about crossing lines, as were my parents’ lives. Refusing to be pigeon-holed, refusing to be confined by ‘the norm’, refusing to back down when principle was involved.
As the song says,
‘Try to change the world, they'll think you're out of your mind Revolutions start when someone crosses the line’
Not that I have changed the world in any significant way, but I am proud to have played my small part alongside many others who have been determined to do the same.
For me, this has been life in all its fullness. (John 10:10) and I thank God for the opportunity to live it. The song has another lyric which I hold dear.
‘Everybody dies, but not everyone lives!’
Even though I am facing the prospect of a much shorter life than I had imagined, I am proud to say that I have definitely lived. Despite my failings and inadequacies, I have seen and done things which still bring a smile to my face, or make me pause to reflect. God has taken my rebellious personality and used it for His Glory and I am truly grateful.
The last thing which confirmed this for me were some of the kind comments which people wrote on my recent Facebook posts about having cancer.
“In my mind’s eye, you're still in training at St Paul's, twenty plus years ago, breaking all the stereotypes of what a prospective vicar should look like as you revved your way to the services on a motorbike & donned in leather & Mel, again breaking stereotypes of what a vicars wife should be, as you walked down the aisle in a plum red wedding dress.
The pair of you have broke from convention times over & consequently have touched & spoken into so so many lives, who otherwise wouldn't have heard of this Jesus dude & all that He is & brings.”
And Charlene (who I have never met outside of Facebook) wrote:
“I was so disgusted with “God speak” of angry-call-themselves Christians, but treat whole groups despicably, when you became my Facebook friend and I felt like there was sanity again in Christendom for me. And I felt like it was ok again to have a bit of faith - faith and trust in the power of prayer.”
So thank you Sam, Charlene and so many others who have encouraged me and crossed the line with me over the years.