If you want to study human nature in any meaningful way work for a charity. In provides the whole range of human experience - the glorious ruin of the human condition. You get the highs of seeing hope on previously hopeless faces, acts of love to the loveless, compassion to the needy, courage and honour found in the least likely places, injustice averted and acts of self sacrifice that go unnoticed and unheralded by the world. And you get the other side too: the evil of man towards his fellow man, the greed of the human heart and its insatiable desire for more, the wilful blindness of humanity to the desperate need of humanity and the corruption of all good gifts.
For the last week I've been at the Christians Against Poverty debt centre in Edinburgh following around the two best centre managers in Britain. I had some experience of the ground work of CAP last year when I was volunteering as a befriender but it was good to be reminded of what the work is like.
Back in Head Office, working in Finance, it can all become so distant and detached, nothing more than numbers to be crm unched and expense forms wrongly filled out. Going on visits with the two centre managers closed that distance, bringing you into the homes of clients and seeing first hand their stories and troubles.
Last Christmas was one of those rare perfect days that crop up every so often. There were just the six of us from my family and a guy from church and his girlfriend but it was a time of happiness, laughter, presents, good food and my brother failing to be good at yet another board game. It was one of those memories that are worth treasuring away.
It stands out in particular because in the months that followed I went through some pretty dark times as God and I had a few difficulties to sort out. By that I naturally mean that all the difficulties lay with me and I have quite a number of memories of days when continuing the Christian walk just seemed so pointless, days when I reached out for God and couldn’t find him, dark days, painful days because it felt like my God had forsaken me.
It struck me that this pretty much sums up life. There is so much happiness to be had in this world and so much grief as well. It is hard to meet anyone who is a stranger to suffering, it is hard to meet anyone who has not known times when they hurt more than they thought possible. So we have this dichotomy that runs throughout a man’s life and his very being: such more good, so much evil and pain.
I know, what am I doing? This section is all about the greatness of God; what on earth possessed me to write about myself? Well, that’s because over the last year I’ve really seen God at work in my life. And as Paul says:
“But, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 10 v 17
The last impression I want to give is that I’m boasting of my own actions, no, for what grounds do I have to boast? Left to my own I wouldn’t be a Christian, left to my own I’d be sunk in sin and rebellion and left to my own I would head there now. But I’m not on my own – The Lord is my Shepherd. This is then is a story of God’s work; not of mine.