I write, beginning with a wholeheartedly unjustified tale of woe, moving onto joy in it's fullest form.
It began two weeks ago, when I travelled home on the train to spend a few days
frolicking in Leicester. It was an amazing weekend with friends and family galore.
Having much experience in the purchase, enevitable little wear and loads of tear of
cheap false economy shoes I wasn't at all surprised or saddened when my cheapest of
the cheapest boots (bought a couple of months previously) decided it was time to
fall apart along the way.
In light of this, having the kindest and most generous of parents, I was given some
money to invest in a pair of new, sturdy shoes, waterproof and all. Having little
time at my disposal for shopping I hit M&S before jumping on the train home, pleased
with my slightly pricey but lovely new boots, fitting all of the aformentioned shoe critera. On arriving home I burst through the door, pretty much making my
first words to my housemates the story of the shoes. I proceeded to spend most of
the evening (and part of the following day) spraying them with protective spray and
generally admiring them. I even took a photograph of them and emailed it to my dad.
I wasn't by any means unhealthily obsessed with the boots, but I really liked them,
and enjoyed wearing them.
So imagine my horror when getting ready to go out the following Saturday night, I noticed a small tear in the suede fabric close to the seem on the top of the right foot. So it wasn't big or particularly noticeable but it shouldn't have been there after just four days and looked to have potential to get larger. After some consultation with my housemate Andrew (whose patience and empathy were incredible) I resolved to return to M&S for hopefully an exchange. Imagine my horror when on arriving at the returns/exchange/ordering desk I learned there were no more shoes of this kind left in the store, or available for ordering online. Imagine my further trauma when calling various M&S branches across the UK to see could I order them from perhaps somewhere where my family or friends lived, and might be able to collect them for me. Imagine the most unneccessary upset when my efforts were to no avail. Imagine me recounting the story to all who would listen over the past week.
A horrible episode revealing to me the extent of my reliance on material items for my content though this was, my Boots trauma over the past week has been teaching me.
I have learned of the constant need to remind myself that life is not about what I can buy in the shops, what I look like or even how warm and dry my feet are, amongst other good things at risk of becoming ultimate things. I need some perspective.
Sometimes I think the kids in my youth group might have more of this than I do since they still remember the bible verse they learned during this year's holiday club back in August, which is pretty foundational to the Christian faith.
It goes, in some sort of children's bible version, something like this;
'Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ' (Phillipians 3.8)
I believe that this is true for me, because I am a Christian. I believe in a God who knows how I should live my life better than I do, but how prone am I to wander from my commitment to keep God's will and way as the foundation to all I do, say and think? How keen am I to fix my eyes on the goodness of God's gifts to me rather than the supreme authority, love and justice of the giver? I have been challenged to consider where my rationale for having hope, joy and contentment come from. Where do you find hope, joy and contentment?
Certainly the writer of the words above did not find his contentment, hope and joy in material possessions, physical freedom or an easy life, writing from prison under great persecution for his beliefs. Presumably no new suede boots, university education, freedom to go out and play in the snow, to say what he liked without persecution and easy close relationships with those around him then, Hence, his joy did not come predominantly from what he could buy, how he could look and his close relationships (although there is joy to be had there). So what is the ultimate for Paul, and what is the ultimate source of my joy, hope and contentment? He goes on to write:
'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice' (Phillipians 4.4)
And I believe that the nature of people, the nature of God, and his promises made in Jesus Christ* are unchanging through eternity** and as relevant to me, as they are to Paul, and as they are to you reading. So my hope for Joy, is found only in the Lord. This is why they say, 'preach the gospel to yourself everday', and 'constantly remind yourself of the majesty of God'; because only he is worthy of such adoration. No pair of shoes can bring me the righteousness of Jesus Christ and a relationship with the true, living and loving God.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.***
*John 3.16-17, Romans 5.1-11, Ephesians 2.1-11
***Hymn, "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less" (Edward Mote)