If you see a turtle on a fence post you know “It didn’t get there, by itself.”
The other day I read an author who compared himself to a turtle on a fence post. He used this to illustrate that he did not get where he was in life solely by his own efforts. This is true of all of us. With this in mind I started to think about some of the people who have had roles in forming my life and ministry and I identified two unlikely influences which have had a major impact on my practice of evangelism.
St. John of the Cross wrote about ‘the dark night of the soul’. It describes an experience familiar to the Israelites as they are carried off into captivity in Babylon. Exile becomes a place where much is stripped away but especially worldly idolatry. This heart wrenching time of loss is used to prepare Israel to receive her Messiah. Modern writers and theologians speak of this time of ‘post-Christendom’ in these same exilic terms. I believe the Church in the West is going through its own ‘dark night’. This is a time of loss of numbers, loss of influence, loss of effectiveness…. Loss is always painful but not always harmful. In our post-modern post-Christendom culture perhaps we are being led to let go, to experience the loss of much that is familiar and even beloved, in order that we can know and share God and his love, for his wounded world.
I firmly believe in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross as a propitiation for our sin and I believe the cross accomplishes much more. Julian of Norwich helps unfold an important piece of this for me. She shares an image of God healing a wounded world through the wounds of the Son. These wounds are seven fold: severe bruising, bodily clumsiness, physical weakness, mental blindness and confusion, the inability to rise again, profound loneliness, and confinement to a comfortless place. These ‘wounds’ describe the fallen condition of humanity. Julian has great hope though. She believes that by the cross and the soon coming of Christ God’s almighty love can and will heal wounds. Her mystic visions illustrate the hope for an utterly lost world. This is not a cross your fingers type of hope but a confidence in the plan and love of God.
The hope of Julian informs the hope of Street Hope. We see the profound wounds and we know the power of the almighty love of God our Healer. I think that the world which resists meeting God through a judicial metaphor may be attracted to God as the Healer of the wounds of this world: the wounds of individuals, society and all creation. Her vision also inspires us to hold on in hope! We need that today as the night seems dark.