Since I was a Relay worker, way way back many years ago (gulping to realise that I am at the conclusion of the where will you be in 10 years time talk, quick where is Nigel Pollock to ask scarily penetrating questions of the next 10 years?) I’ve been trying to kick the short termism that lies lurking in the core of my being. The giving up easily, the ‘I don’t like this so I’m going to stop’. (yes this does relate back to traumas growing up, no this isn’t a confessional so I’ll leave it there).
Back on Relay my excellent Staff Worker told me time and again that Relay is a marathon, not a sprint. I took this to heart, and starting doing things that required a bit more stickablity. Weirdly swimming was part of the answer, making myself swim 40 lengths of a pool each week, pushing through the voice that said, ‘stop, get out, what are you doing?’. Marathon, not a sprint. That phrase hasn’t gone away and in the intervening years I’ve learnt more about what that means in a myriad of ways. (I love the word myriad).
Throughout years of ‘paidfulltimechristianworkministrythingthatdoesn’tmeanministryis restrictedtowhatpeopledowhodon’thaveaproper job’ I experienced more of this way of thinking, change in peoples lives happens gradually, Jesus is with us for the long term, He opens peoples eyes slowly sometimes to the genius reality of Him in this world. I talked about this way of patience in ministry, of God’s timing and repeated the phrase, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint’.
Deep down I was still sprinting.
I was going from one thing to the other, enjoying the buzz of student work, if something didn’t work, it was easy to switch to something that does. People came and went, if you didn’t get on with a committee member you knew that they’d be off in a years time anyway.
I found this sprinting mentality affected my friendships as well. It was easy to drop in and out of others lives, dressing myself up for the occasion, hiding the bits of me I didn’t want them to see. Choosing how honest to be about my brokenness, discovering that being honest about my weaknesses somehow gained me more respect, more friendships.
But deep down I was still sprinting, not being around for a long time in any one place. Choosing who I spent time with at church, just hanging out with the people I liked and who liked me, not seeing many people consistently in and out, day to day.
And then I stopped.
Life now feels like a marathon, admittedly there has been more change in my life in the last 2 years than the previous 10 put together, there are sprinting moments, people change and move on but more and more I feel like I’m running a marathon and the cracks beneath the surface are beginning to show. I’m around people day in and day out, there isn’t really anywhere to hide. My colleagues see me on grumpy days as well as days when I’m joyful. It pains me to realise the grumpy days seem to be around more than the joyful ones. (before different people got to see different points of my grumpiness, now it’s the same people who see the same Kath time and time again). It’s painful to realise that I’m not the nice, kind, always encouraging person that I’d started to believe I was.
Church is loads harder because, again, I’m not in ‘encouraging’ mode when I’m there all the time, there isn’t a sense of – right, I’m here for this purpose, this is why I get paid, this is my role. It’s strange beyond words to go from ministry as a job, to realising that you were doing it as a job. Without that role, it turns out I’m not so great. I still want to encourage, to love, to recognise the people around me and love them, it’s just that I don’t much of the time. I take people for granted, it’s harder to embrace the call to love and be loved. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I’m not sure of the point of this post, other than to recognise that life is a lot longer than I think, that sticking in one job, in one place, with one family (in the wider fat God creating us for community sense) has always been my passion. But the reality of that is far from my idealistic dreaming when I planned to change the world back on Relay. It’s hard to stay, it’s hard to love, not because of others, but because I’m brought face to face with my shortcomings, sin and failings.
I’d like to end this with a tidy bow of ‘but God’s grace is enough, I’m saved, He can help me, He forgives me’ and with all my heart I believe those things. Right now though, I’m in the slog of the marathon. It doesn’t feel like that. Part of me wants to go back to sprints again, but part of me knows and longs for the depth that is found in the marathon. I long to be patient, to have strength and courage, to know the deeper wells of grace which work even for this ongoing sin that I see right now. God loves me so stubbornly and I long to see Him at work in Brighton, in the mess of lives shared together and in the day to day slog that this life can feel like sometimes.
(Really it would be great to end this with the announcement that I’m about to run an actual marathon. Sadly not, I have signed up for a 10k run though…which feels like a marathon right now…)