I’m currently in the middle of a ‘Faith Sharing Weekend’ which is a chance for students to engage in mission in a more focussed way. My group have been sent to Durham Prison. When I am finished I will write some reflections but at the moment it’s still raw and a haze of activity; I’m sure you’ll understand.
So why am I writing?
I received an email today from the guy who auditioned for Any Given Friday. I want to protect his privacy so will be vague about specifics. The e mail came after a day in which I collapsed on my sofa after a very intense day in the prison and was overwhelmed with… ‘darkness of the spirit’? I want to just dwell on this for a moment before moving onto the email, if I may.
In the ‘Faith Sharing Weekend’ I’m going to be performing three sections of a short play that myself and a colleague have written. It looks at the thief who is crucified next to Christ and is the first to be welcomed into paradise. It takes in the morning he dies, the road to Calvary and on the cross. It’s a complex piece with sensitivity needing to be given to the audience of prisoners. The character is manic and aggressive and as the day goes on will ease into the moment of his proclamation of a belief in Jesus. As my mind is cluttered with three separate large events bubbling away in my head and some essays on the back burner, I’m finding it difficult to get my head into the script, which is also still in a fluid state. Yesterday I was positively freaking out about not remembering the lines and this made me completely deaf to the needs of everyone I came into contact. I became completely self centred and most conversations revolved around my problem (which is extremely minor compared to others!)
At the end of the afternoon spent in the prison the group and I gathered round a meal to gather our experiences and to pray for the people we had met. I was struck then, as I was during the afternoon, of the gifting of my group. Several of them are really good at starting conversations with strangers, something I struggle with, and most of them are great encouragers. For me, a person who struggles with pride, is extremely attracted to this elements of people and I often fall back into, particularly when I’m tired, manipulating people into encouraging me.
When I got home I rang my wife (who was away visiting family) and spent some time reflecting on my day. I was so aware of my many failings and how I had acted all day. I had not been following Christ, I had manipulated people, missed out on opportunities on sharing in other people’s lives, lacked faith in God’s provision, panicked and basically hindered God in my life. As I started to beat myself up I slipped even further into this ‘darkness’. I condemned myself and this made it even worse.
I opened up my emails and found this guy’s email. It started by giving me his choice of monologues for Any Given Friday but then quickly moved onto explaining that he wouldn’t consider himself a Christian and he had concerns about being involved in this event because ‘I’m not sure if it would be sacrilegious for someone who’s not a Christian to be so involved in celebrating such an important event?’ What sensitivity! When I first read the email I was so encouraged and really felt like God was encouraging me in my ministry and was showing me that He was with me. Then the questions, paranoia and self centred condemnation started again… What if this is just an excuse to not be involved and the voice inside saying “He’s wanting to find the way out of this project and, although, he expressed interest in exploring faith he’s not interested.”
I was struck by how all of us face doubts about ourselves and it’s a fine balance between knowing our own weakness in order to rely on the strength of Christ and the feeling of being convicted of sin and the need of repentance. As this ministry begins to move onto a new stage in its existence is it any wonder that I’m feeling ‘under attack’. The Bible teaches that the forces of this world will fight against the Kingdom of God being grown and I feel like yesterday was a day when I gave up the fight and was battered by them.
I ended the day with prayer… I felt a little better but I left the time with God in faith that He will work.
Let’s hope that I can regain some strength today to do God’s will, to die to myself and take up my cross for Christ…quite literally!