Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The one with the toilet queue

Last week I met up with two very good friends whom I hadn't seen in a while.  The sun joined us as we walked around Christchurch to find a good coffee shop to sit and catch up properly in.  Christchurch is lovely, but it doesn't have a Starbucks!  So, after much deliberation, we decided to enter Neros, as at least they serve Chai Tea Latte.  The three of us chatted merrily, filling each other in on several month's worth of life.  Much needed and thoroughly enjoyed - thank you ladies!

Following much sipping and chatting I could no longer ignore nature's call to pay the 'ladies room' a visit.  So I made my way upstairs to the balcony and joined the queue for the toilet, and there I waited for a very long time!!  A long queue?  Surprisingly, no!  When I got there an older couple were discussing the toilets,  and as I sat down on a leather chair to wait, I overheard the lady telling her husband that the lady's room was obviously out of order, as it had been locked for a very long time.  I continued to sit patiently, albeit slightly frustrated, as I was missing out on important conversational time.  After a while, one of the toilets became free and the queue decreased by one.  Again, I waited, and just as the toilet door opened, another lady joined the queue (actually - she pushed in front of me!)
Not wanting to miss my slot - I jumped up and casually told her that only one toilet was available as the other one was locked and obviously out of order.  To my surprise, the lady responded with a firm 'well, we shall see about that' and walked over to the toilet door.  Well, guess what?  It wasn't locked at all!  It was just a little difficult to open!  I had been waiting ages for nothing - all because I overheard something in someone's conversation!

Yes, I felt silly.  I felt a little embarrassed.  I also felt cheated!  I could have been downstairs with my friends instead of waiting on the balcony.  And yet, I really had no one else to blame but myself.  I had overheard that the toilet must be out of order, and hadn't thought to check for myself.  Would you have done the same?

When I finally rejoined my friends, I told them of my mistake, and as I did, I began to wonder whether I fall prey to the same mistake in other areas of life.  How often have I simply taken someone else's word for something and not thought to check or work it out for myself?  Sadly, the answer is far too often!

Maybe I am not the only one?  As a child, negative words from teachers, or responsible adults, may have stopped you believing you can do something.  When a Careers Adviser told me that I wouldn't get into teaching, I believed her.  I had no reason not to, she was the expert after all.  Disheartened, I chose a different college course and considered an alternative career path. As it happened, my college tutor saw something different in me and encouraged me to apply for a teaching degree.  Had I not been encouraged to rethink my abilities, I would never have thought it possible that I would be accepted to study teaching.  The words of the Careers Adviser several years earlier had stuck in my mind and I absolutely believed them.

You can't achieve those grades
You can't win that race
You wont succeed in that career
You will never get married
You can't do that because you are too young
You can't do that because you are a women (yes, I went there!)
God will never use you
You are not good enough to be a Christian

Perhaps you have had something similar spoken to you, that you just accepted?  If it is something you really want, can I encourage you to check it out for yourself.  You do not need to believe everything that has ever been said about you.  Sometimes other people do not get it right and do not know best.

Let's look at it another way.  What if you had been told that chocolate tasted horrible when you were younger, and took their word for it, and therefore never tried any.  Can you imagine what you would be missing out on?!!  We all know that wouldn't really happen though!  It would be crazy to accept someone else's opinion on the taste of chocolate, right?  We are smart enough to try it for ourselves and reserve judgement until then?

And yet, many accept other peoples opinions on something far more important and life changing than chocolate.  I did when I was younger.  I was told God wasn't real and I believed it.  That is, until something happened that nudged me to work it out for myself.  And when I did, I realised how foolish I had been to accept someone else's opinion on the reality of God. I am not saying that everything became clear straight away, but I started on a journey to discover God for myself.  Maybe one day I will share that journey here.

In the Psalms we are told to 'Taste and see that the Lord is good' (34:8).  Just as with the taste of chocolate, we can never gain a realistic and true understanding of God unless we find out for ourselves.  It is something far too important to merely accept the words of other people.  We have to 'taste' and 'see' for ourselves.  In all honesty, I was a little afraid when I began to 'taste' God for myself - but now, over twenty years later I know it was the bravest, and the most awesome life-changing thing I have ever done.  I really did 'taste and see that the LORD IS GOOD'.

If you are still living under the shadow of other peoples' words and opinions, whether it's regarding your abilities, character, options, or, more importantly, regarding the reality and goodness of God - please can I encourage you to begin to work it out for yourself. Your life is too important not to.

Don't wait pointlessly in the queue like I did at Neros -  Get up, walk to the door and check it out for yourself!  You could be missing out on something amazing if you don't.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The one with the game of tag

3:15pm on a Thursday afternoon can only mean one thing - school pick up. Yesterday, an incident happened on the way out of school that caused my thoughts to change from what I could cook for tea that evening - to something entirely different ...

As I walked back through the playground chatting casually with a few of the 'playground mums', children ran playfully, totally absorbed in a game of tag.  Shouts of 'you're it' and squeals of laughter filled the air as five or six children darted around, their royal blue jumpers colouring the small playground.  I half-heartedly listened to the 'grown-up' conversations, as I marveled at how the children see the short journey through the playground as an opportunity to run, play and have fun, and at the ease in which they seem to be able to join in with others without standing awkwardly around waiting for an invitation.

How I wish I felt comfortable enough to do these things now.   When did I stop running, skipping and squealing with laughter and begin to walk sensibly and quietly?  When did I cease looking for opportunities to have fun and start to look for ways to prove my maturity?  Why does growing up so often mean the same as growing boring?

I know that in 1 Corinthians 13:11 we are exhorted to put childish ways behind us, but does this really mean we need to stop having fun?  Surely this passage refers to maturing in our Christian walk, and not to life in general? 

Maybe, just maybe, it would do us all good to be 'childish' every now and again.  This does not mean we need to cast aside all our adult responsibilities, but to let the child in us run about aimlessly for a while in the sun, or sing a song whilst walking down the aisle, or giggle uncontrollably with friends over nothing.  I miss these times :(

And what about the ease in which young children join in with each other, and how strangers quickly become friends?  Another angle for reflection:  Do I behave like a child in this sense and invite new people into a group and encourage involvement as though I have known them for ages?  Or do I tend to keep them at a distance, discouraging full participation?  Am I prepared to remove the barriers in order to allow others to join in?  In theory, yes ... in practice ... I will try.

Back to the game of tag in the playground ...

Chasing, laughing, shouting, twisting and turning - and then - the fall.  My niece, in her attempt to outrun the tagger, tripped up and fell on her knees in the middle of the playground.  My heart went out to her, as not only did it look painful, but everyone had seen.  How embarrassing.

What did she do next?

She brushed off her knees, got back on her feet and continued with the game.
Wow.  Good for her.   She hadn't wallowed in self-pity or embarrassment.  She hadn't let the fall stop her from having fun.  She got up and carried on.

I reflected on this bravery, and realised how often as adults we allow little knocks or falls to have such a negative impact on our journey. We fall down and feel hurt or embarrassed, and instead of brushing our knees off, and getting back up, we stay down or limp away in shame - never to give it a go again.

Is this really the best way to live our lives?  It may feel like the easy option at the time, but how much will we begin to miss out on if this is our response? What opportunities for growth will pass us by if we simply give up when we take a fall?

Can I encourage you not to allow life's knock backs to stop you. Brush off your knees, learn from the fall,  apply a plaster if necessary and continue on with your journey.

Learn from the wisdom of Chumbawamba (Tubthumping 1997) .. 

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down   :)
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