I guess there aren’t many eight-year-olds who have read the entire book of Revelation.
I was only eight when I watched the films, Thief in the Night and A Distant Thunder, which imagine what the world might look like in the end times. Anyone refusing to get the bar-code on their arm (the sign of the beast) was slowly starved to death because they couldn’t buy anything, chased by helicopters, betrayed by family and friends, and finally executed by the state. The film ended with the sound of a woman weeping as the guillotine swished down onto her friend’s neck.
Suffice it to say, I was fairly terrified about the end of the world.
What really scared me though, was the thought that I might be one of those who would deny Christ. How strong was my faith, really? I loved God wholeheartedly with all of my eight year old self, I knew that following Jesus was the most significant thing in life, and that it was important enough to die for.
But how did you know? How did you know if you would come through, if you would have the courage to face the guillotine; if you really, truly put God first before everything and everyone?
What if I was paralysed like Joni Eareckson – would I live my life completely for God? What if I were persecuted like Corrie ten Boom – would I forgive? What if I were abused, like Matt Redman – would I live in my healing?
(I may need to admit to being a slightly unusual eight-year-old. I guess most others were playing with Barbies. Ah, well…)
These little thought exercises I put myself through were perhaps over-dramatic, but they were good for shaping my priorities. When it comes to the big choices, the black and white, the gun against your head – will you choose Christ? I went through the potential scenarios in my head, and I did – I chose Christ. I loved him.
And I guess I’ve been waiting for that black and white situation to happen.
But it hasn’t. One part of me is profoundly thankful. One part of me is in trepidation, waiting for it to still happen, this great test of faith. And one part of me is a bit confused and not sure how to act.
I haven’t experienced great suffering or loss or persecution. I have had ‘medium’ suffering: happily married with a beautiful child, but living with a chronic autoimmune illness that has rendered me effectively housebound for years, needing to be in bed for the majority of the time. My life hasn’t been a black and white experience. It’s a murky mixture of grey.
I have thanked God for my situation, I have raged at Him, I have pleaded with Him, I have refused to speak to Him. There are times where I feel contentment, and other times where I feel an unbearable sadness. There are times where I know the closeness of His spirit, and other times where I doubt His existence. The choice to deny myself and the world, and follow Christ is not a clear big one-off act, but an ongoing, relentless discipline. (Which I fail at repeatedly.)
I need to hear again and again the truth that His grace is sufficient. I am Peter who denies my friend, I am resentful Martha, I am Mary who hears her Lord when she thought it was just the gardener.
As a child, I was prepared to be faithful in the big things. As an adult I am only just beginning to learn what it means to be faithful in the small. I was prepared for my life to be a dramatic tragic testimony, but this is tough in its own way.
It is the discipline of clinging to Christ in the grey, the murky, the confusing and the mundane. It is trusting in his grace because I am too weak to save myself. This is the path I am walking – the un-dramatic small steps of faith and faithfulness. I am discovering Christ in the middle of the grey.
Over to you:
When you think about faithfulness to Christ, which do you find harder – the black and white situations or the grey?