A wedding

I am a waitress. I like my job, because I am proud to serve people locally sourced food, and I love talking with guests from all walks of life. Last weekend, I was working at a wedding, and I had a significant conversation with the bride. I have spent a whole week thinking about that conversation, and I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you. Firstly, I was taken aback that on her special day, when everyone wanted to talk to her, dance with her and take photos with her in her beautiful dress; I was astonished when the bride stopped for a few minutes to talk to me. I was serving behind the bar at the time, in uniform and getting a bit hot and tired, and she looked at me with interest and a warm smile and asked me to tell her more about myself and what I want to do with my life. Never being one to miss an opportunity to share about God’s justice, I said “I want to advocate for people who are victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.” She looked surprised!

“Wow that is really selfless!” The bride responded, looking intrigued. I asked her what she is doing at the moment, and whether she enjoys it. The bride said “Oh I’m an estate agent, I’m the devil compared to you”. After saying this she picked up her drink, and left me stunned and totally at a loss about what I might have said to turn the conversation around to something more positive. I have been thinking all week about how I wish I had an opportunity to say something that would bless her and be life giving.

Firstly, I want to speak to the lie that says because you have a career or a bill paying job, like an estate agent, your job is less important than your calling and must be separate from your calling. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “Thou shalt be be a full time salaried worship leader” or “Thou must be paid to be a pastor”. No! Paul kept his job making tents so he would not burden the church while he preached and travelled. Joseph served God by serving people in Egypt in a house, in prison and as Pharaoh’s number 2, but his job was not the whole of who Joseph was! He was also a father to two boys, a husband, a brother who forgave despite great personal reason not to! He was an instrument of grace and forgiveness in every area of his life, from the lowest moments when nobody was watching to the grandest moments when the whole known world was watching. Maya Moore said it like this:

Don’t wish for success too fast, because it could crush you. In the journey that I’ve been involved in happened quiter than people realise; and when I get there they’re like, “Wow where did you come from?” And I’m like, “No, I’ve been here”, being built all this time, one layer at a time. Obviously the Lord opened doors, but there was a journey, and every day you gotta go through it and when you get there you’re ready for it. I don’t want people to think that what they see is all there is. People that “get there” are people that love the process. They throw themselves into the process, the stuff that happens off of Instagram, the stuff that happens when literally no one is looking except God, the ones that embrace the process and don’t run away from the hardness of it, those are the ones that you see, and admire.

Maya Moore (2019) ‘Trained in Faith’, The Grove Podcast.

Many of us have to stay in jobs that do not align with our calling all of our lives, like my granddad John who worked full time in a factory all of his life. He was still fulfilling his calling! He was having conversations all the time with colleagues that were speaking life and not death to people. He was a godly father at home, and he was leading a church and participating fully in midweek meetings and Sundays. The table at my grandparents house was always full of people who needed a home, and they found it with my family who lived with grace and always cooked enough for extras. This was not always easy, my Nan and Grandad would sometimes have preferred to cook a quiet meal and be alone, but there is an expression of God’s justice and righteousness when we extend hospitality.

There are so many ways to live for justice, no matter your job. This Lent, we have the opportunity to participate in #SlaveFreeLent, which is a way of encountering how I interact with products produced by the 25 million people who are still in forced labour today. #SlaveFreeLent is a social media campaign that sends messages to your phone each day of Lent with information about products we regularly use and possible swaps we could make. Let me know if you join my sister, my friend and I on the journey of #SlaveFreeLent this year. More details are here.

But changing the products I consume in order to care for people who have been forced to make them does not mean much long term if I do not let my heart change. The story of justice designed by a loving God who wrote down his thoughts and plans in the Bible declares that we are all waiting for a wedding. I read the account this morning in Revelation 19, of the joy we will feel at the wedding of the Lamb. One day, the God of justice will right every wrong and make all things new, and the church who is described as the Bride of Christ will be beautiful and completely fulfil her calling and commitment by marrying Jesus. Every wedding I am ever part of in a small or big way is a reflection of Jesus perfect love for the church. But just like Maya said, every day, when nobody is watching, is an opportunity for me to be built, so one day I will be a spotless bride.

Thou dost seek a bride all pure and holy,
Those who now belong to Thee alone,
Those who give Thee all their hearts' affections,
Of Thyself a part, bone of Thy bone.

A letter & a toothbrush

Yesterday evening two important things happened. I opened a letter, a real letter I can hold in my hand in a pink envelope from a special friend of mine who is currently living in Swaziland, Africa. It has taken this letter aproximately three months to reach me, and I was really touched to receive a letter full of love and encouragement, packaged beautifully and written with care. I opened it with expectation, happy to hear from my friend, knowing that I would read something full of the supernatural peace of God. It is the first letter I have received from Swaziland, although not the first to reach me from Africa. I have been writing letters to girls in Africa since we first began to sponsor a girl in Uganda, ten years ago. I have watched her grow up in photos and enjoyed hearing her personality speak to me as she grows in maturity and in the ability to express herself. This letter spoke of the care my friend has for me and the interesting things she is experiencing at the moment in another country. She is spending time with her family, and enjoying some rest. Letters are one of the ways I experience God’s justice in my life. I began my journey of asking God to show me more of his heart of justice because of my conversations in letters with Ugandan girls. God speaks to me of his love and care for me as an individual when I open a letter from my friends, and he reminds me that by writing, I can impact one of the biggest injustices that I can see in our world today, the injustice of loneliness. It can be easy to isolate ourselves or fill our time with distractions in order to cover over the cracked places of our hearts, drawing back from people because of past hurts. It takes me effort and time to write to someone else, but because I am engaging with the process of opening my heart to another human being, I am declaring my love for my friend as an individual, my thankfulness for their presence in my life, and my desire to see them healed of past hurts by a caring Daddy God, My Father God.

After I opened my letter, I opened a new toothbrush packet. It is a bamboo toothbrush, because I am trying to use less plastic products. If I try to change all of my wasteful products at once, it is too overwhelming and I will justgive in. It can be easy to become bogged down in all the products I know I have not changed and still have lots of packaging and to lose sight of why I want to be less wasteful. I am reminding myself in this moment that changing products one at a time is not admitting defeat, it is not being so slow that I will fail, it is going slow in order to complete a task. In the words of Hamilton, “I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait!” Thanks, Lin. I remind myself in this moment that every Keep cup, every bamboo toothbrush, represents a long term commitment to the human cost of suffering. I am valuing the world’s poorest people who do not get to choose where they live and what they need to survive.

What do you think? Have you started using less plastic in your life? Which products have you changed and why? Have you found it easy to find ethical alternatives to products you need?

Is there someone you can show care and love to today by writing a letter?

Love always, from Beth.