My dad had a reputation in our family of nodding and speaking to everyone – of knowing everyone – but not remembering their names. I laughed along with the others – and now find I do the same.
MY dad looked after a patch of “waste ground” behind their home in later life. A piece of grass surrounded by a number of houses – their back gates all opening onto this “common ground”. No one bothered with it. So we thought him nuts for spending time and energy keeping the area tidy and neat. Yet yesterday I spent five hours doing the same with a very small lane onto which we and six houses back. No one else bothers.
My dad had a reputation for always being right. There was one occasion when I was younger where we were discussing something I knew for certain that he was wrong and I was right. And my dad acknowledged it! A first – a memorable first – and then he added, “ … but if you’re wrong … “ and carried on telling me why he was right. I don’t do that – obviously! 😊
But my mum. She was there day-in and day-out. Dad seemed either to be working at his proper job or working in his Christian job. Mum was passionate. As quick to anger as to comfort. She read books long into the night while dad was snoring. She was the one we went to with our “difficult” growing-up questions. She would listen whereas dad would tell. I see my mum in my day-to-day living as well.
We found out years later that mum and dad nearly split up. Never knew it at the time. But by then we were all grown-up with our own families. They stayed together but it was a close-run thing I was told. I found out for how easy that is some years ago in our own marriage – I called it “the empty nest syndrome” others called it my fault. When the house is empty and you look at your soul-mate and wonder who are they, what do we have in common, and what holds us together? We came through that but it was a close-run thing.
But mostly I have learned that who I am is my decision and no one else’s. Nature or nurture doesn’t really matter to me because those around me will let me know my attributes – good and bad. And with the knowing – I have a choice. Those choices are down to me and not to “nature of nurture”.
Our eldest daughter wrote something for my last decade birthday I have come to hold onto …
My dad grew into a wonderful Grandad who said yes, my mum into a beautiful Grandma who never stopped saying yes … and then at the end of their lives it was my privilege to be with our Dad the last three months of his. A precious time for me when he “grew into” a real human being. One who had been hidden by the labels we gave him. Labels which we thought was the real person. But wasn’t.
So too my greatest wish is to be seen for who I am as I change through my life – not all those what I should be and ought to be – all those labels I have been given that mean I should be – that I ought to be (but am not really).
My journey with God Soft Hands Jesus might be similar/different to many or none. Yet what I have learned is that he and I have gotten behind the labels. I see him as “Love without condition” rather than all the biblical “correct names”. He doesn’t care what I call him or what others call me, what labels I have picked-up, what past I have had and how that determines me. I think he and I have got behind the labels on both sides.
He sees me as me. Me who changes. Me torn between this and that. Me who tries and fails, tries and succeeds, gets tired and stops trying, gets tired and re-energises, me who can see the plot clearly – and me who loses the plot completely.
He loves the Paul who would always say no, and the Paul who will always say yes. Just as I have come to love him who will always be here, there and everywhere.
And as for the obvious question: “But you can’t love an imaginary person.”
My answer is I can and always have.
I don’t know everything (or very much at all) of what is inside anyone’s head and heart other than in brief glimpses I take and they give me. I imagine the rest. Yet I love and am loved.
Just as I love the imaginary person I am in my own head and heart. The me behind the labels and expectations, the should be and ought to’s, the why can’t you be more like this and less like that … The me I look back and think I was – the me I look out and think I am – the me I imagine I will be in the future. And much as we each try to see that in each other – we don’t.
Not all the time.
So why should I reject, pick apart or debate for eternity “Is God Real?”
I have a friend who sees me as I see me. Who sees me better than I see me. Who has been before, during and after. Who rarely tells and always listens. One who sees me as precious and present. Sees me as I Am all the time.
Isn’t that what we all want – what we all seek in others who are “real”?
Why would I tell myself to “stop being silly”?