In these days of social networking and blogs, everyone feels they have something to say. I’m no exception. In my arrogance (perhaps) I’ve often felt I have a view worth expressing. As a young atheist in 6th form, I wrote an article for the school magazine on why there was no purpose to life, why belief in God was just ‘a crutch for religious nutters’ and why Sid Vicious was my hero! I was disappointed that the article wasn’t published.
Some 18 years later, I had a featured letter published in a national newspaper about how God, the Holy Spirit, had set me free overnight from cannabis dependency and given me purpose in life. Don’t you love God’s irony!
In 2009 I had an article published in Nursing Times, centring on a case study from my work as a nurse with homeless people, highlighting how a therapeutic relationship, empathy and rapport with a client promotes concordance, reduces the client’s stress and aids healing. The subject of the case study had a massive, deep, drug-related wound but had stopped attending his GP surgery for treatment. As a result of a therapeutic relationship of mutual respect, empathy and understanding, within an accessible service, the client did not miss a single appointment at our clinics, he was a pleasure to work with, and his wound healed with incredible swiftness. It was one of many beautiful encounters in my work and inspired me to write the article. I felt I had something to say to the clinical world. The article can be found at:
Of personal sadness to me, since the article was published, the client (who was the same age as me) died very suddenly.
I’ve had letters printed in local papers and national magazines. Nothing amazingly significant about that perhaps, but the articles and letters reflect more than a desire to ‘spout my views’ – they reflect a love of writing. I cannot draw, paint or play a musical instrument. But I can write and enjoy writing. I don’t express myself particularly clearly or confidently in speech, but I enjoy conveying my thoughts and feelings in print.
Why a blog? Because I think I have something to say? Undoubtedly. But equally, to fulfil who I am. A creative outlet. The enjoyment of crafting words and ideas together, to create something that is a reflection of ‘me’.
Which brings me to the other reason for a blog: Being a ‘child of grace’ (a phrase taken from the U2 song All Because of You). If I were simply aiming to express my own creativity as a kind of self-fulfilment, it would be nothing more than self-indulgence and serve no real purpose outside of myself. But there is a higher purpose: I am a child of grace!
Grace in the theological sense.
Not grace as in beautiful, as in a ‘graceful swan’, although this grace is the most beautiful thing on earth.
Not grace as in saying thanks before a meal, although this grace is the biggest thing ever to give thanks for.
Not grace as in ‘your grace’ as if I’m something important! Although because of this grace I know that I am important and special to my heavenly Father.
Grace is mercy. I’m forgiven. I’ve had wonderful spiritual experiences of being forgiven and of forgiving others. To forgive and to be forgiven is true freedom and joy – at least one of these spiritual experiences involved spontaneous laughter at the wonder of being forgiven!
Of course, forgiveness, whether you’re giving or receiving it, is never deserved. Otherwise it wouldn’t be forgiveness. Which is why it’s so liberating, so joy-inducing, either to give or receive.
But grace is more than mercy. More than forgiveness. Grace goes further. Grace means not only that the bad stuff is taken away, but that good stuff takes its place.
In my case, this included meaning and purpose, the desire, passion and ability to give my life to a caring career, the ability to be a husband and father, the gift of family, and so much more.
It may sound corny, but I was given peace. The homeless, hedonistic, haphazard, freedom-of-the-road traveller, who wanted no possessions or responsibilities, who’d been drastically damaged by a dysfunctional childhood and wanted nothing more than to get away from England and himself and to travel the world, had now not only found Jesus (or been found by him), but had found peace.
Now born (again) of grace, I had no more desire to travel but to return to England and use the gifts and talents I’d been given to care for others. A remarkable transformation of grace.
A family member told me later ‘You found yourself’. I glibly replied, ‘No, I found Jesus’! I realised later we were both right. As a result of finding Jesus, I’d found myself.
Grace means being overwhelmed by love. It means I can never turn back. I’ve tasted something real, something sweet, and nothing else now will do.
Being a child of grace means that I know my faults, my shortcomings, my failures, and yet – it’s OK! God loves me anyway. Better than that, he accepts me as I am. Even better still….he LIKES me!!! I have value, dignity, self-worth, self-respect – not because I’m anything, but because to God I’m something.
And………..this is the best part……..I see others that way too. Maybe that’s why I see so much beauty in the faces of the broken, hurting, vulnerable and homeless people I work with.
This is not religion. This is not a system of rules or rituals to earn brownie points with God. It is not even a way of life (although that naturally follows). This is simply a free gift, received with open hands and open heart.
Being a child of grace means living under the shadow of the cross. Grace flows from the cross of Jesus Christ – all that he did, all that he is, all that he gives, is centred on the cross.
All that I am, all that I have, is because of the cross. Much as Jesus’ crucifixion was a dark day, a day of death and seeming defeat, his act of self-sacrifice was in fact victory in disguise, revealed on Easter Sunday – light and life for the world, the greatest gift to mankind – to all who are humble enough to stop trying to prove themselves and to come like beggars receiving charity.
My goal – in life and blog – is not simply to reveal who I am, but to point to who he is. Like a star with no light of its own, but reflecting the sun’s light, to reflect the light of Jesus in some small way. In particular, for the shadow of the cross – the light of the cross – to fall on all that I convey in my life and online. For my views and opinions to be tinted with the radiant grace of the cross.
I write this with a belly full of pancakes! Tomorrow is the start of Lent – not something I’ve ever taken much notice of – but this year I aim to reflect and re-focus on my Friend and Saviour. Maybe you will find or re-find him too?
As a child of grace, I try to avoid being ‘religious’ but aim to live in the reality and fullness that God intended. God forbid that I should become too religious! Which means that, although my adulation may have shifted from Sid Vicious to Jesus, I still like to listen to the Sex Pistols, and songs like Pretty Vacant and God Save the Queen are still great tunes!