People say that moving house is one of the most stressful events in life. Having been through this 3 times in the last 18 months, I can vouch for this. Somehow, much more than the huge physical and mental tasks of packing everything up and moving all your possesions and on top of all the logistical details that have to be remembered, there is a weight of emotional exhaustion that just can’t be explained by aching muscles alone.
So although we couldn’t have done our last move without the practical help of the people who turned up to lift boxes and furniture or to deliver meals, and although those physical things were very welcome indeed, I was aware that it was the ‘ministry’ of their company that they offered and of their generous hearts that was the most amazing gift of all.
Ruth, Jon, Yvonne, Peter, Tim, Paul, Robyn, Greville, Tim, Sam, Narinder, Pat, Nigel and Rosella: your help was fantastic, but just sharing the huge burden with us was even better. We feel like we have learned a lot about how brilliant it can be to just have people with you when facing something big. We hope that we remember it when we have a chance to do the same for someone else.
During the lovely surprise snow last month, I came across an AA van rescuing another AA van stuck in the snow and it seemed to me to be a beautiful image of Christian community. We all need help getting unstuck from time to time, so that we can get back on the road to help others.
At a conference where I was due to lead a seminar a few weeks ago, I had a momentary panic before my bit began, feeling unsure of what I was doing there or what I could offer, until I ran into some friends that I had hardly seen for the last 20 years who ministered grace and encouragement to me that I can only describe as miraculous and God-sent. Another friend, who has been unwell for many months, texted me throughout the day to say that she was praying for me.
I don’t think that what I am trying to describe here is simply human kindness; although human kindness is a wonderful and powerful thing. The word that I think would describe it better is ministry (although I realise that this word might not appeal to everyone).
Some of the earliest Christian writings describe this mystery as being ‘in Christ’. We are in Christ and Christ is in us and when we offer self-giving love to one another we are Jesus to them as they are to us. This is what ministry is. If you have experienced the grace and beauty of this, I think you will know what I mean. If you haven’t, try asking some friends to help you move house.