46. Good shepherd or black sheep
As I stood back and surveyed the overall picture that my family played in this real life drama, I paralleled them to those, who think God is not interested in us. “HE is too hard to work out, so I can’t be bothered searching any deeper”, sums up their attitude. For stubborn unbelievers finding God is hard work.
Anyone, who searches in the bible with an open, hungry heart, will find the door to God’s wonderful forgiveness and eternal life. How tragic that my own family did not show the slightest interest in my daily magic. They missed out on some wonderful goings-on, right under their noses.
Their perception of me as mental patient had another downside, which hurt. My children’s thinking, naturally, went toward that of their mother. They adopted her viewpoint, the notion that God can’t be in any of my writing, the numbers are just too bizarre to follow. This diminished my standing and undermined my authority, in the eyes of my two sons, Tim and Jon, living at home with us. Consequently, my relationship with them was not close, far from it. As expected on political and even moral issues, they also stood for different viewpoints to mine, leading to some lively discussions. My role in the family increasingly moved not towards that of the ‘good shepherd’, but to ‘black sheep’.
One moral concern caused quite a clash between me and my eldest son, Ben. Modern thinking hardly distinguishes any more between married couples and those, who just live together. A recent statistic showed that in Australia 70 % of couples lived together, before getting married. My son, who is not living with his girlfriend at this time, expressed the same view; he did not think it is necessary, to get married before deciding to live like man and wife. On his visit during the school holidays in early October 04, we had some fiery debates, about morals and politics.
Because I can express myself better with the keyboard than at shouting matches, I decided to write him the following letter, which I only mailed to him after he had returned to Sydney. For those who think that I am being too open in private matters, I reiterate that according to my family, including Ben, only perhaps ½ dozen people log on to follow the story. (May I ask those ½ dozen to keep this matter to themselves).
If I understood you correctly, you said to me Saturday morning that you told L: “If the relationship does not work out, we’ll just end it - no harm done!” (If I misunderstood you, then you may want to explain to me, what the deal really is, but it’s all up to you).
Saying this to a girl, who really loves you and wants you, puts her onto a level of an employee, a servant girl, as it were. It must frighten her that one day you may just meet Elle McP, the second, and fall for her. This kind of thing happens to the best of lovers. If you read my story online, you would read how I nearly came to commit adultery, but by the grace of God walked the other way. (But most of my writing is rubbish according to your mother and siblings).
L. said, she does not want to get married or have children? THINK for a moment, Ben. Is she really saying this? Or could it be she is fearful of losing you, if she goes against any of your wishes?
You are an attractive man, Ben, and intelligent, no doubt. This is why I ask you to really think, before believing some of the philosophies of ungodly academics and so-called ‘enlightened New Age thinkers”. We all want to be somebody, be respected for our views, make a point and leave a mark on life. There are some who do this by being radical, radically against institutions like marriage, church etc. which shows, ultimately they are against God.
If you accuse Christians of using their faith as a crutch, because they have nothing in life, then you are spot on. Ultimately Ben, all of us have nothing, are nothing and can do nothing without that life giving power, which is God, the ONE and only. We need HIM. You need HIM.
It’s not easy to see it, when all is going well, you love life, you have a good income and good health. But believe me, with the enthusiastic, fun-loving spirit of Jesus inside you, life will be so much more fun. A life of freedom from guilt and shame. Living too long without HIM sometimes people don’t feel any more guilt. This is real sad.
L. will do anything to keep you Ben, I know. She loves you, I can tell. But if her love for you is based on fear of losing you, it is on shaky ground. This is where a commitment, a public declaration to say, this is the woman I want to be my wife ‘until death us do part’ liberates her from that fear. You have promised to love and cherish her. She does not have to please you for fear, but wants to please you out of love.
Love you son,
My son has since told me I was mistaken. I am still unclear, however, why he kept it a secret that he was committed for life and loves L, his girlfriend. A public declaration to say, we are a couple and committed to each other, commonly done at a wedding ceremony, would make life so much simpler for everyone. It does not have to cost tens of thousands of dollars, unless one wishes to spend that much money.
I can’t resist the parallel thought that many Christians, who argue that faith is a private matter, and who never talk about their commitment for Christ to others, are a bit like a couple just ‘living together’. Love and commitment are very closely linked. To not make a public declaration leaves room for an exit, via the back door. “If it doesn’t work out, we can end it without any harm done”. Very often, if things don’t work out or, when facing the first big storm in the relationship, the back door does indeed look very inviting as an escape route.
I saw another similarity in this game of life, the role played by our friends, those who had read my story and believed it. Those were like the ones, who communicated to me either not at all or in a distant, coded fashion. I found it astounding, that nobody had ever dropped a hint to my wife. Why had nobody sown a seed in her mind, which would grow so big, she would have to see it?
I likened this group of people to the Christian church, which confesses Christ as Lord every Sunday. They meet together and sing about HIM, they sit and listen to stories about HIM, and may even find themselves stirred to pass on HIS wonderful message of faith, love and hope. But the reasons for it not happening, are as abundant as excuses for not going to a wedding or meeting, one does not want to be at.
If the followers of Christ really believed the implications of being saved, wouldn’t they want to tell everyone about God’s wonderful, life-saving words? Thankfully, many do this very effectively. Others substitute genuinely sowing good seed and diligently watering it until fruit is produced, with ‘religious’ activity, to keep the church apparatus functioning. The bible promises fruit, if we sow on good soil. Some will bear 30, some 60 and some 100 fold.
To talk about God, in today’s secular world, one still feels uncomfortable, as if a taboo had been broken. What does secular really mean? A secular world is full of humans, who deny that there is another dimension to our humanity, the spiritual, unseen one. It’s the dimension, which can only be seen with eyes of faith and strengthened by testing it with a courageous mind and determined will. Discovering your spiritual dimension and sharing life-giving water with others is risky. It exposes you to ridicule by others and doubts about yourself. Many shut off the tap again, when this happens. But the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Exactly 4 weeks after the devastating fire at Mitcham Shopping Center, another huge blaze destroyed a number of shops on Henley Beach Road. Again it was on an early Sunday morning. I briefly visited the scene after church. There were similarities, apart from the timing factor. Arson was ruled out at first, but mid-week, it was back on the agenda.
I was unsure how many people still regarded me as a freak, after they received letters or emails from me for no obvious reasons. These mostly humourous letters or emails I wrote, one of which follows below, satisfied my hunger for creativity. They also gave me a feeling of being heard, despite receiving little in the way of direct replies.
After listening to a conversation, with my transistor glued to my ear very early one morning, I sent the following letter to a radio program:
PO Box 9994
Adelaide SA 5096
I woke at 4.12 am this morning and tuned in to a repeat (obviously) to an interview you did with Tim Winton, the writer from WA. It’s difficult for me to express what I really thought about it all deep down. You see, I am also a writer of sorts. Except HE is famous and I only publish on the internet, which is hard to tell, how many people read my raving and ranting. (Actually in SA they call it rannting, named after the Premier Mike Rann; he is a good Premier, always giving a good example).
One thing Tim and I have in common is our interesting names, both surname and Christian name. (Actually, did you know a group of non-Christians want to bring in a law to change the word “Christian name”, because it is politically incorrect? Also a Men’s Liberation group in the US argues that the word “surname” originally was spelled sirname, but some lady didn’t like it and she got her way? I didn’t know it either, but now you know what rannting on means).
Tim backwards is Mit, which in German is “with”. Much nicer to have someone with you than against you. After I first arrived in Australia in ‘69 (yes, 1969 in case you wonder) when people asked me, who I worked for, I wondered - with all the trouble and strikes, they ought to have rephrased the question: “Who do you work against?”
Winton as a Christian name (oops, sorry Allah, - Alah has one ‘L’ or two? Nonsense, he’s onto P’s, just rannting on again!!) would need an s. Still I like the first three letters ’win’ and ‘on t’. You know who did that, don’t you? In your interview I heard it come through strongly - the fact that Tim was for the ONE that won and died on the t.
I must check out some of Tim’s books, especially the new one coming out about ’Turning’. You see, both of my free online books are about safety, one on the road, the other in the air, figuratively speaking. You’d be amazed how difficult it is for students, to simply and safely turn around and drive the other way. The chapter on turning is my longest. Turning around and driving in the other direction is one of the most common reasons for failing a driving test. The other turning, in the air, is even more complex, but so rewarding when done in sincerity.
To make is easier for learners to turn when using a side street, I explain: "Sometimes at an air show you see small planes drawing letters in the sky? Well, when you do a turn using a side-road, let’s call it P-Turn, just imagine we are doing a “Pee” on the road. Speaking in pictures helps my clients.
When I started this letter I didn’t know where it was going, but I am sure I arrived at the right place.
PS. Did you know in NSW they don’t call it rannting? They say: Bob’s carring on again!
(The premier in the state of New South Wales at the time of writing is Bob Carr).
More and more I stumbled across conversations, programs or literature, some of which to read, was like a breath of fresh air. I had even noticed a marked reduction in sexual references on television advertisements. Instead, many featured little children. The gradual social change, a shift, which would later be reflected in Australia’s federal election in 2004, was remarkable. Many Christians had reason to rejoice at such wonderful improvement in moral standards and attitudes.
The time had come for Christians to take their place in society, showing true leadership in all areas. The days when Christians hid behind church walls, leaving ungodly leaders, inspired by humanistic, godless doctrines, rule the nations, were over.
Despite this revival of the Christian message, there was still very little reported in the mainstream media. How long would it be before the ancient barrier, built around God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, would be torn down, like the Berlin Wall was in 1989?
I had the inkling that many readers, churchgoers and non-Christians alike, accepted my writing, enjoyed the lessons and had started a journey of their own. If some seekers heard the message of God’s love and forgiveness for the first time and found HIM, my wackiness did serve a purpose.
If lukewarm churchgoers were stirred afresh to action, to live a life of passion for Christ, our churches would be transformed once again into the powerhouses they were meant to be.
Friends, it doesn’t require stain-glass windows or a manicured lawn.