For a self-confessed activist, John Buckeridge finds it hard to just ‘be’
I’ll never forget the time I spent with Dave. As well as leading the youth group, Dave spent time with individual teenagers in the church, including me. Sometimes we watched football together, which has led to me becoming a lifelong supporter of our hometown club, Portsmouth. Other times we met for a drink and talked – mostly about God, the church, politics and women. Most vividly, though, I remember the golf.
We played with scruffy, borrowed clubs at a local council course. Most times I’d lose three or four balls into the deep rough, which tells you all you need to know about how badly I played (nothing much has changed since). What made those rounds of golf so memorable was the walking together, the talking together, but most of all, the being together. I can still remember how comfortable and at ease I felt in Dave’s presence. We didn’t need to talk all the time – we just enjoyed each other’s company.
Spring Harvest’s ‘Apprentice’ theme for 2009 has got me thinking afresh about the nature of being a disciple of Christ, and helped me consider where my life lacks balance. I’m an activist. One of the dangers that faces any activist is the temptation to find a sense of worth and identity in what we do rather than in who we are. Stopping and just being with God does not come easily to me – I am not a contemplative person by nature – so I decided to do (yes, a classic response for an activist!) something about it.
I am trying to make time, at least once or twice a week, to be still and rest in God’s presence. I usually start with a short prayer, confessing my sins, asking for forgiveness, cleansing and infilling, then thank God for his love and grace. Then – and this is the difficult bit for me – I stop. I don’t ask Christ to speak to me, I just practise being in his presence. A few precious times I’ve been overwhelmed by the sense of his closeness. But mostly, I have to admit, my mind wanders horribly or I don’t feel anything much at all. But for me right now, part of being a follower, an apprentice of Christ, means stopping my activity, my striving, my asking, even my listening for him to speak to me or show me a sign, and just being with my Lord.
Choosing to carve out precious minutes for contemplation, attributing value to being rather than doing – means swimming against the tide of our times. Sometimes I find it helps me if I picture Christ physically in the room while I sit at his feet – like his first followers, like Mary (Luke 10:38-42). But she wasn’t just choosing to be contemplative rather than actively help to cook dinner like her sister Martha. Mary broke the social and religious taboo that excluded women from listening to a rabbi teach. She went against the prevailing culture and Jesus commended her choice. Being an apprentice of Christ in our busy, noisy, active, materialistic, self-obsessed, moneymad culture will mark us out as different.
This Easter, I hope and pray this edition of Christianity will challenge, encourage and resource you, wherever you are in your apprenticeship journey with Christ.