Pause for thought: God’s deep, abiding love
Happy New Year! Yes, I’m saying it again in mid January! But I’ll explain why….
I wonder if you, like me, watched a lot of television over the Christmas holidays? One programme I watched was on ITV called Without Sin with Vicky McClure. It was a drama series exploring a mother’s search to find out what had really happened when her daughter was murdered. Not an easy watch for Christmas! As the title suggested, lots of people felt guilt about what had happened, and at the heart of the story was the unexpected growing friendship between the mother and the man accused of the murder. I won’t say too much about it in case you haven’t been able to watch it yet.
Another TV show I’ve started to watch, which began to air several years ago, is Happy Valley. It has at the beginning of its first season a terrible tragedy in which a policewoman (Kirsten) is deliberately run over and killed by the villain of the show (Tommy). Kirsten’s widower blames her colleague Catherine (played by Sarah Lancashire, and the flawed heroine of the show) as there had been an argument between Catherine and Kirsten just before this event. But Catherine courageously says that she could never have known what the consequences of her words to Kirsten would be. Her words may have led Kirsten to act in a certain way, but Kirsten’s death should only be attributed to the driver who ran her over deliberately who we (the audience) know as Tommy.
Guilt, betrayal, grief, friendship, forgiveness, love. These are all themes that make up our lives, and certainly make for compelling viewing too. We watch dramas with these themes because we try and make sense of these experiences and emotions. Even in straightforward situations where someone is clearly to blame (as in Without Sin and Happy Valley) we can still feel really bad and wonder if what we have done or said has contributed to a terrible situation. Life is messy, and it takes courage to accept our role and blame when things go wrong, whilst also not being overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and blame for things which are beyond our control, or are the evil actions of others. Sin isn’t just what people do, but what we find ourselves caught up in. Sometimes ideas of blame are just not helpful, we can lose perspective and feel overcome with negative feelings. Where can we turn? How can we find relief? Maybe the idea of the new start we get at the beginning of a new year can help.
On twitter over the holidays, I saw Steve Chalke quote Henry Nouwen’s words as a message for the New Year:
I have come to realise that the greatest trap in life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection. When we come to believe in the voices that call us worthless, it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us ‘Beloved’.
This is why I’ve said happy new year again! At the heart of the good news of Jesus is the fact that every day (let alone every year) is a new start. In fact, I no longer make new year’s resolutions as I know that I will always fail to keep them. And is that bar of chocolate really more damaging to the world than some of my other words and actions, my relationships, the way I use my money, gifts and talents? Each new day is a clean slate, where you and I can be forgiven and free. Actually, coming to terms with the reality of forgiveness, and of God’s deep, abiding love for me, for you, that I am and you are beloved, seems to me to be a great way to start every year, every month, every day.
Revd Dr Manon Ceridwen James