Apologies for the lateness of this weeks blog. Not that I apologise for being a day late but I know people get into a rhythm of checking in here every Thursday. Maybe you just thought silence was golden! I am up to my neck in painting and decorating, the only action on earth I can honestly see no redemption in. Bet they didn’t paint before the fall as there was no decay, it is therefore an action of consequence to sin in the world. That is why it takes me five years to get around to doing some in the house. I am taking a break from looking at all the splattering’s on the floor and thought I would check in and get this blog written. Then it will be dive back into it. I need some stress relief from the ranting, stretching, splashing, dripping and bit of painting I may have achieved.
Meet in the Middle.
On Sunday I travelled up to Nottingham to meet my pal from the north-east of England, Geoff. Considering we only met a couple of years ago we have found a bond so strong that you would think we have known each other for years more than that. We have travelled on adventures to other countries together, we share a journey of living outside the walls of ‘organised’ church and we seem to connect deeply in all areas of our lives. We can be open and talk together about absolutely anything. To me this is the deepest sense of connectivity and fellowship I have ever experienced outside my marriage. That either shows the lack of real relationships I have or it reveals how precious this one is. Because it had been a while since we had met last time we decided to meet in the middle of the country, in the in-between place half way between the Rhondda and Cramlington. This roughly turned out to be Nottingham. Hotel was booked and we both ventured to our destination early on Sunday morning. After a bus journey and a mile or so walk Geoff spotted me on my trek towards the hotel.
What I love about my times with Geoff is that we talk about any and everything. We are not afraid to cover those tricky thoughts together. As I thought about this on my way home I loved how interwoven our conversations were. Jumping from one subject to the next but all flowing out of a place of heart relationship. I smiled to myself as I realised there truly was an f’in fellowship. We talked family; our wives, kids and grand-children (Geoff’s side before anyone thinks otherwise!), our upbringings and the effect of them. It is great to find connection with someone genuinely interested. We talked about football; Geoff being a Geordie could only support Newcastle, and I talked about my team Q.P.R. We became pundits, experts and reporters all in one swoop. This connection led us to going to watch the Newcastle game on the Monday night at a local pub. We found one other Geordie there and had a good laugh and a bit of banter with him and one of the locals. Football and a pint, what friendship can be developed around. We talked about faith and failure; we covered many subjects and thoughts. Some thoughts may flow another time but the main thing I drew from our time together is the strength of true faith even when the scaffolding, manuals and structures we build around it are being taken down or are brought into question. Our faith has never been stronger, and our sense of Father’s love. We talk about Father a lot. Well He is worth talking about! We were honest about our failures in the past and present. Honesty is a key to any developing relationship. I just loved our time talking, not worrying if we covered holy or secular ground, both were equally measured in terms of being infused with God. In Him there is no dividing line of topic. Interwoven conversation that is good for body, soul and spirit.
Food and feet.
Real fellowship must be around food and tables. As we ate we talked. As we downed another tea or coffee or pint we chatted. Enjoying the surrounding of a small local café or a Wetherspoon’s type pub, we enjoyed the space to talk and laugh and share. I often wonder why so many events surrounding Jesus included food. What a place to bring lives together. The breaking of bread used to be part of the Passover or a love feast, both times of incredible feasting, why do we accept the man made nip and a sip of ‘Holy Communion’. An event so far removed from fellowship that we feel we have to be silent and proper and sombre. We need to redeem the breaking of bread from the boredom of personal silence to the excitement of the party atmosphere again. How can we fast while the Bridegroom is amongst us? Time for feasting and sharing of lives and stories and all the f’in things of fellowship. My feet ache too after our fellowship. We just walked those streets of Nottingham until there was no more streets to walk. We must have done the first ever charity shop crawl. As we walked we talked. We covered much ground in the natural and in conversation. We did not prayer walk but maybe deposits were left just because we walked there. Walking together along the way is not done so much these days because of transport and rushing to get somewhere. Aimless walking is definitely not seen as a pursuit of fellowship, but what precious time shared over the miles we trod. Like two vagabonds we had nowhere to be or nowhere to go, just sharing the journey. A picture of our own journeys in Christ at this time. The journey is the destination. Treasure each footstep and every conversation, because God infuses it all.
Back to the Back of Heads.
True fellowship being rediscovered. Realising the church setting is so foreign to fellowship and yet that is what we con ourselves into thinking it is. The back of your head may be a marvel but it will never converse with me. It will never share life and journey with me. It will never discover my joys and my pain. It will never see my strengths or my weaknesses. It will never know how many children I have or where I was born. It will never be interested in small talk or having a joke and some mindless banter. We can sit within a few feet of one another but never walk together. We can share communion together but never sit across the table from one another. We can both look the same way but never stand shoulder to shoulder. We can both look to God but never know about each other’s journeys. I do not want a return to the back of someone’s head, I want to share life. I want to share food. I want to share about faith and failings. I want to ask questions that may sound like I question the very fabric of belief and yet I want to leave the space to journey in the place of no answers. Surely this is the place of true f’in fellowship. Family, football, faith, failure, food, footwork, fun, the future hopes and dreams. Now I better get back to that painting!