Experience

We held our first Church in the Pub evening on Sunday night. We’ve just kicked off a series of looking at big concepts in our world. We asked lots of questions.  We hopefully left with a whole load more questions and a sense of wonder as we grappled with things on the edge of our understanding. We’re looking, each week, to chat about big ideas that affect us all as humans and also see what our Creators perspective on the issue is.

This week we looked at experience: What is experience? What do we make of ourselves as humans if we don’t have amazing experiences? Are we just living for the weekend? How do we feel about telling others about our weekend? Who says whether it’s been full of good experiences or not? Who gets to define what those experiences are? Have experiences become more of a commodity than a thing of value in our lives? Are we defined by the number of experiences we’ve had? Can we live knowing that we’ve not experienced much and can we live with people not knowing about the amazing experiences we’ve had? Are we trying to live life through experiences?

I like questions. I loved chatting about those things. We also showed a clip from the excellent film “Into the Wild”. Chris sets out in search of the ultimate experience, living off the land with no-one else around for miles. Through his search he chats to a few people, tries to convert them to his philosophy that experience counts more than human relationship. This is his encounter with Ron, a man he meets along the way:

Ron Franz: I’m going to miss you when you go.
Christopher McCandless: I will miss you too, but you are wrong if you think that the joy of life comes principally from the joy of human relationships. God’s place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.
Ron Franz: Yeah. I am going to take stock of that. You know I am. I want to tell you something. From bits and pieces of what you have told me about your family, your mother and your dad… And I know you have problems with the church too… But there is some kind of bigger thing that we can all appreciate and it sounds to me you don’t mind calling it God. But when you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines through you.
Christopher McCandless: Holy shit!

Sadly Chris works out that human relationships are vital to life and experience a little too late.

But it got me thinking. Most of my desire for experiences (and I think we’re talking the big ones, the life changing ones, the put it in a box and call it an experience ones, rather than the everyday experiences of drinking a cup of tea) is so I can prove that I’ve lived a good life, that I’ve enjoyed it to the full, that I am a person of significance because I’ve had certain experiences.

But do you see the problem? It’s a big fat problem.

That way of thinking is all about me. There isn’t space for thinking how can I  love others, how can I put on hold my amazing plans for the weekend and sit with a friend who needs some company? There isn’t much space in that way of thinking for the life of love we are called to. There also isn’t much peace in that way of thinking as I’m constantly striving to prove my life to others.

At the end of the evening we looked at Psalm 139, we looked at the God who declares that he made us, that we are formed by him and that he is the one who ordains our days. Clearly there is a whole new set of questions there but there is also peace. I do not have to list the experiences of each day on facebook to give my life value. I am free to sit and know that I have been made by someone, I am loved by someone and I am called to live a life so much bigger in loving the people around me.

This Sunday we’re looking at independence. I have no idea where that discussion will go but I think it’ll be fun finding out. Come along, explore the concept and enjoy the slant of God’s perspective on the whole thing.

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