Sunday, 23 December 2012

Asda - Too much to do...

Every year at some point over the Christmas period you turn on the radio or the TV and will hear someone telling you about how for many people Christmas is the most stressful time of year. You'll hear the chat about how all the busyness of Christmas just gets to be a bit too much for some people (even with Asda or Morrison's help) and they end up feeling like Christmas is a chore to be got through. They end up worrying about how they will cope with Christmas, how they will afford Christmas, how they will get everything ready and how they will make everyone get along. Christmas becomes the cloud on the horizon which effectively ruins the month before and the month after (at least). Many might say that the day is worth it but I reckon a fair few would not.
                Now I have to admit I've never got this. I love Christmas. I love time off work. I love everyone else being off work. I love that feeling of being warm inside whilst it's cold outside. For me Christmas is absolutely fantastic and not at all stressful in any way. I mean really what is there to get stressed about? Then it dawned on me the reason that Christmas is not like this for me is that I don't actually do anything for Christmas. I tend to go to someone else's house, I eat food they have cooked and I give presents my wife has bought (and hopefully wrapped - otherwise they get them in a plastic bag). You see the reason Christmas is so brilliant for me is not cause I've found a way to make it really easy but because someone else does all this stuff so that I don't have to.
                The great truth about Christmas is that Christmas is the time we remember when God came down to earth to do the stuff which we needed to do but couldn't. You see if Christmas is often too much then life is all the more so. The pressure of trying to be the success we want to be, of trying to be the husband/father that we ought to be, of being as good, as fun, as popular as we want to be can often feel not only stressful but overwhelming.
                The Bible teaches that the reason we can't be the people we so desperately long to be is because we have rejected God and tried to do life ourselves. The problem is that try as hard as we like we lack the resources to do life as it should be. We lack the understanding, the wisdom and the will power to be the people we long to be so we keep striving and we keep getting more and more stressed about our failings. People so often think Christianity is just about giving us a spur to try harder but it's not. Christianity is about remembering that God came down to earth in the person of Jesus so that we could stop rejecting God and through accepting the work he did for us find a new way of doing life. A way which doesn't make us stress out about all that we have to do but which rejoices in what Jesus has done for us and allows him to transform not our external actions but the whole focus of our lives.
                So you can keep trying and keep stressing out about life or you can remember what Christmas is all about - the fact that because Jesus came you don't have to do it all yourself.

Monday, 12 November 2012

East of Eden

"certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of 'exile'. If you come to think of it, your (very just) horror at the stupid murder of the hawk, and your obstinate memory of this 'home' of yours in an idyllic hour (when often there is an illusion of the stay of time
and decay and a sense of gentle peace) 'stands the clock at ten to three, and is there honey still for tea' – are derived from Eden. As far as we can go back the nobler pan of the human mind is filled with the thoughts of sibb, peace and goodwill, and with the thought of its loss."

In the 1950s and early 60 cinema was full of landmark films which dealt with the issue of belonging, of feeling out of place a dissatisfied. Whether it was Rebel Without a Cause, On the Waterfront, East of Eden or even the less well known but excellent Hud it was a time when people were beginning to express something which people have been able to relate to ever since. Feeling out of place.  Feeling unsure about who they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to believe in. These films were so successful and have aged so well not just because of the quality of the acting but because we all know what it feels like to not belong. To feel out of place.

Yet this is a strange feeling to have. Why do we have this deep routed desire to belong? How can we so universally long for something which we have never really experienced. Even people who have always lived in the same place feel a need to belong and yet where would they belong more than where they currently are? What does belonging even mean? What does it feel like? What are we longing for?

The quote from the start of this is from a letter from JRR Tolien to his son and it seems to sum this up well. Our heart is crying out for something it has never experienced and the reason for that is because we were originally created for Eden and it is to there our hearts long to return. Our longing for home, or security, or comfort, or peace is all a longing for the Eden humanity was built for. So when Jesus offers water which truly satisfies and a real joy and peace he offers this because he offers us a return to the Eden we were created for. The Eden we are all longing for and the absence of which repeatedly plagues us.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Does humility have to involve humiliation

I think when it comes to us we'd like to answer this question with a resounding no. However, most of us in reality recognise that humility often comes through incredibly difficult and confidence shattering events. I have recently spoken to a couple of people who have talked about learning humility. Both of these people have gone through difficult times and have found that although they may have developed greater humility they have also lost a good deal else. They have lost some of the energy, enthusiasm and confidence which they had prior.

This made me wonder what's the alternative. Does humility always have to come as a result of difficult times? Does humility always have to come at the cost of confidence, energy, joy and passion? If not then what is the alternative?

Here are my initial thoughts. I wonder if humility can come through not some earth shattering crisis but through simply looking at, understanding and relating to someone who is so much better than you that it is impossible not to be humble. This is not a profound thought in any way but I wonder if so many of us need to be taught humility in such drastic ways because we have loat sight of Jesus and as such have not allowed his infinite worth to give us a more realistic and humble view of our own. If you need humility then don't wait for your world to fall to pieces but instead spend more time gazing at, appreciating and knowing Jesus.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Christianity - I could do it in my sleep!!!

Being a Christian is so easy now.
I remember those times at school when it felt such a battle just to keep going. When it felt like everyone just thought I was weird and I could never be cool and a Christian. That was difficult.

I remember those times at University. Those times when church felt like a hassle and it felt hard just to keep focussed and keep living it. That was difficult too.

But now, now is not difficult. Now is easy. No-one really minds all that much if I'm a Christian or not. In fact it gives them something to talk about. Now I'm part of a church who love Jesus and want to live for him. Now I have a wife and children and too much to fill my time with and being a Christian only helps all of that. Being a Christian is so easy I could do it in my sleep.

The problem is that actually for the Christian sleep is one of the great enemies. In fact I reckon it's much more deadly than opposition or difficulties.

In Mark 13 Jesus gives this warning...
'Therefore stay awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning - lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.'

You see the problem is Christianity can become routine. It can become part of what we do and life can bit by bit take it over. After all God can at times feel distant and other things much more pressing. Christianity can feel a unimportant after all as long as I still basically believe it then what can go wrong?

Jesus' answer to this is a lot. The great enemy for so many Christians is not that they suddenly stop believing. It's not that they fall into some massive temptation. It's not that they get defeated by some argument it's just that it becomes routine. It becomes less exciting and slowly but surely they fall asleep. They stop pursuing God, stop seeking growth, stop loving to serve, stop loving God's people the church and over a period of time they end up nowhere.  Jesus says beware of this. Beware of falling asleep because God is very real and who knows when he is coming back or calling you home.

Christianity - I could do it in my sleep.
Jesus says no you can't.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The desires of your heart

"May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfil all your plans!" - Psalm 20v4

The desires of your heart? These are things of tales and dreams not of the real world we live in. You can read in books of people being promised the desires of their heart but rarely does this go like they hope it will. For most of us in the real world the desires of our hearts seem a long way away and the means of getting them seems remote.

Psalm 20 is a great Psalm looking at dependence on God. In it we see all these 'May he' statements about God in which David is praying that God will do many things. So may he protect you, remember you, support you etc. These are things I thing we find it less hard to believe he will. When things are difficult we often pray out to God for relief but the desires of our heart? These don't seem like the kind of things God can do or is interested in.

No, I get the desires of my heart by...
Winning the lottery
Getting that promotion
Getting married
Having Kids
Paying off the mortgage

That's so often where I think I get the desires of my heart. God might be good at saving me in a crisis. He might be ok at relieving suffering but granting the desires of my heart that's not what he does. Except in Psalm 20 David prays that he will and then in Psalm 21 we get the answer.
"You have given him his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips." - Psalm 21 v2

If only we believed this? If only we believed that God would give us the desires of our heart maybe then we'd stop dreaming of the lottery win. Maybe then we'd stop pursuing any and every relationship. Maybe then we'd stop planning our 20 stage route to the desires of our heart and instead we would pursue knowing, loving and depending on God.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Degrees of Grace

A few weeks I was asked a question it went something like this...
'Isn't the idea of any one person going to hell infinitely worse than the idea that Jesus could have gone to the cross and died for us?'
Now my answer to this question revolves around one central difference.
Hell is the place where people get what they deserve.
The cross is the place where Jesus takes something which is diametrically opposed to what he deserves.

This led to some development of some rambling thoughts I have been struggling to keep in check and articulate for a while. You see the Bible repeatedly talks about judgment in ways which show that one of the central characteristics of God's judgment is that people get what they deserve. Often the picture is of things being reversed (for example the plunderer is plundered, the one who abuses creation finds that creation turns on it etc - see Habakkuk 2). Now if this is the case I want to suggest that perhaps we need to re-evaluate our view of hell. People have talked about hell as the absence of God, as natural consequences of the lives we lead, of penalty from God for our rebellion and so the debate rages. This got me asking the question of what, if like the gospel itself, it is all about grace.

What if in essence life comes down to what grace you receive?
1 - Partial Grace - The life we all lead now. We experience some of God's grace but not all of it. We do not suffer the consequences (be they natural or supernatural) for all the moments of our lives but nor are we spared from them all. We enjoy God dealing with us graciously to a degree.
2 - Complete Grace - This is what historically people have called heaven. This is where we enjoy God's grace in it's fullness. We enjoy his blessing, his forgiveness, his pardon and his acceptance absolutely. Here we live as recipients of grace and practitioners of grace in an existence where grace is the norm.
3 - No Grace - This is what historically people have called hell. This is where God ceases to pour his grace on us in any way and we stop relating to each other with any grace at all. As a result what do we end up with? Well we end up in an existence where all we get is precisely what we deserve. Having rejected God and seen grace as unnecessary, impossible or offensive then we no longer enjoy even the partial grace God blesses us with during this life.

This may be heresy for all I know but I think this seems to reflect the way the Bible talks about this world, heaven, judgment and the gospel. Perhaps this can help us re-evaluate our view of God's judgment and start to realise just why understanding and accepting grace is so crucial, not just for now but for forever.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Striving after mediocrity

The gospel, by which I mean the good news of a God who makes a way for us to come into his family, is incredible. Not only is it incredible but it achieves incredible things. The gospel is the news of a God who came to earth and died to rescue us. The question is what did he die to rescue us from? Now if you are a Christian I guess a few answers will have sprung to your mind.
Well they are all true, however, I wonder if sometimes we focus so much on these things that we forget what we has rescued us from now in this life. Every now and then I get a glimpse of my heart and when this happens I cannot help but be grateful at how often in my life God has saved me not from some future fate but from my self.

The natural inclination of my heart is to want to be good. Now I think everyone has this to a degree but I have it in spades.
In work I want to be a success. I find myself comparing myself to other people. I find myself looking for promotions and for how to make it bigger and better.
In sport I want to win. I want to be good at it. I want people to look at me play and say 'Wow he's pretty good at that isn't he'.
In conversation I want to be seen as witty and intelligent.
In home life I want to be seen as a role model as the kind of guy people want to be.

You see whatever it is I want to be good. But the fact is I'm not great. I work in an average sort of job, I play sports to an average sort of level, I'm not mute but I'm also not Stephen Fry. When I get a glimpse of my heart I see what Jesus has rescued me from. he's rescued me from a constant striving for mediocrity. He's rescued me from a life where I devote myself to promotion after promotion after promotion only to realise that in the end I still end up just somewhere in the middle. He's rescued me from a life where I pursue physical fitness and sporting prowess only to at the end of it realise that I'm no better than passable at it all. He's rescued me from a life of reading and socialising and moralising and faking only at then end of it all to realise that I'm nothing better than a decent guy to chat to for 10 minutes and a decent enough kind of bloke.

Without Jesus my life would be a constant straining to achieve mediocrity - I am so thankful that he rescued me from this and pulled me into a life which says stop striving for mediocrity and instead strive for insane brilliance. You see rather than striving for my own mediocrity the gospel shows me how to strive after God and his brilliance. When I get the gospel I am freed from this constant striving after mediocrity to pursue the God who made everything around me and in whom is life itself. When I forget the gospel I get a glimpse of life without that and find myself scrabbling around trying to make myself a little more average. I thank God for this little, tangible glimpse of salvation.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Science, Suffering and Sex

Recently I was asked to do a number of talks about common issues people have with Christianity. Again it seems like people see these three issues as huge stumbling blocks to Christianity. I want to suggest that these three issues are more often than not mere smoke and mirrors or red herrings. It never ceases to amaze me how often these three come up in conversations about Christianity so here I am going to spend a few lines just seeking to explain why I see these as fundamentally non-issues.

Science - OK so here's my issue with science - the Bible rarely if ever deals with science. Genesis 1 and 2 look nothing like the Origin of the Species. In fact the Bible encourages people to explore the world, to seek to understand it and through that to understand something more of the God who created the laws and environments which make that possible. I'm not here arguing that science will drive you to God but rather that science is not ultimately the reason you're not a Christian.

Suffering - So we move onto suffering. I have spoken to a number of people recently who have said 'I would believe all this Christian stuff except that if there was a God like this there would not be all this suffering in the world.'. Yet again it seems to me impossible that this could be the demonstration of Christianity's impossibility. You see for a start suffering has been around for a while. It's not like in the 21st century people suddenly started suffering and as a result of this suffering concluded that Christianity could not be true. People have always suffered. People in the Bible suffered and yet Christianity has never previously found this to be an insurmountable problem. Suffering may be difficult but that'd because it's suffering. The Bible talks about suffering a lot. The Bible is willing to face up to suffering and give some explanations for it. If suffering creates a problem with Christianity for you it's not because it's the question the Bible can't answer but it's because you don't like the answers it gives. If suffering was such a powerful barrier to believing in Christianity then the Bible would have to look very different, Christianity would not have survived millennia of suffering and the Christian life would not be one so often linked to great suffering.

Sex - And finally we move onto sex. How can you believe something which has such outdated views about sex. 2 consenting adults - why on earth would God care about that? So people go on and so many people are unwilling to even consider Christianity because they feel it would impact on their sexual experiences/expression. Yet again this cannot be your problem with Christianity. Just think for a minute about the calls Jesus makes on your life?
He calls on you to stop ruling your own life and let him do it.
He calls on you to love God with everything in you
He calls on you to love other people like you love yourself
He calls on you to not cling onto your money but see it all as a gift from him and as such rightfully his
He calls on you to love people who hate you
He calls on you to sacrifice your money, your comfort, your popularity, your time and all sorts in loving and joyful worship of God and service of others
He calls on you ultimately to take up your cross (be willing to die) and follow him.

Jesus calls on you to completely hand your life over to him and you think his big demand is about your sexual expression. People get hung up about Jesus' demands over their sex life as if this is a huge problem for Christianity when this is peanuts compared to the demands he makes over what remains (however promiscuous you are) the vast majority of your life. By all means get hung up over Jesus' demands. They are huge but to get hung up on sex is to get hung up on a detail and miss the truly radical stuff.

So science, suffering and sex - they are not your problem with Christianity. They often seem to be but in my mind it seems unlikely that they actually can be. However, all of Christianity's claims and calls only make sense when you get to see a God who became a man, who loved you enough to die for you and who then wins your heart. It's only then that you understand the sheer wonder of Genesis 1 and 2, of what the Bible says about suffering and of the radically demanding, but ultimately freeing, calls of Jesus.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Boardwalk empire - legalistic, graceless, joyless hypocrisy

So I've been watching boardwalk empire and kind of enjoying it (although fundamentally I think there's something missing from it for all its obvious effort and style). However, what has really struck me is the character of the Fed in charge of enforcing prohibition in Atalanta City, Nelson. Nelson seems to me an accurate portrayal and study of the nature of legalism. Nelson is portrayed as a Christian of sorts and is undoubtedly very religious. However, fundamentally he is not a Christian but rather a legalist. Someone who sets some laws and then uses those as his central way of viewing the world. Many people the world sees (and who see themselves) as Christians are nowhere near the Christianity of the Bible or Jesus but rather people who have latched onto some laws and now use these as their way of judging life. What we see in Nelson is that legalism creates a number of fruits none of which make him a likeable character.

The first fruit of legalism is gracelessness. The problem with legalism is that this becomes your truth through which you view the world. Therefore is people fail to keep your standards they are failures and obviously inferior to you. This leads Nelson to look down on and despise people who fail to meet his standards. This is perhaps most clealy shown in is relationship with his wife where any love or compassion or feeling is completely absent. However, this also impacts his view of himself. When he fails to meet his standards he despises himself and physically punishes himself to atone.

The second fruit of legalism is hypocrisy. Because we all fundamentally fail, legalism forces us towards hypocrisy. Either we hold standards we ourselves don't keep, like Nelson with sex and alcohol. Or we only make rules we can keep and therefore become hypocrites by doing things worse than those things we have made laws about. Legalist don't simple make laws they see as good they make laws they see as good but which they can also keep.

The third fruit of legalism is joylessness. As a result of legalism Nelson is not a happy person and those around him are not happy. Legalism becomes a weight over him and over those around him which creates a crippling pride which (as with all pride) at times inevitably leads to depression.

All of this is a million miles from the gospel and a million miles worse and yet many people in church exchange the grace, transformation and joy of the gospel for petty human legalism. The problem with this is not only does this fail to brings to God but whereas the gospel creates good fruit, legalism creates bad. Bad for us and bad for those around us. Nelson acts as a warning for all of us.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Pray for Muamba

Saturday was a strange day. As news of Muamba broke and you realised how serious it was I was reminded of the two players in leagues I have played in who have died whilst playing football on a Saturday morning. I too pray that Muamba will make a full recovery and that his family and friends will find comfort in a difficult time.

What has really struck me about this whole event is the host of people who have been calling on people to pray for him. everyone seems to have been talking about prayer and saying things like 'God willing he makes a full recovery'. Footballers who I have heard a lot of suddenly start talking about prayer and God.

It is striking how when disaster and suffering strike people are suddenly reminded of their own weakness and impotence and end up crying out to a God who they never normally seem to talk about. Suffering is a terrible thing and something which God undoubtedly hates. However, it is striking how in his mercy God uses suffering to remind people of their need for him. It's as if it takes something as dramatic as a heart attack to make people recognise their need of someone bigger and better than them. But in the midst of trouble, heartache and shock we get reminded of what we all know - that God is out there and we desperately need him. Just look at the reaction to Muamba and you will see that the sense of God is perhaps more present than most of us let on most of the time.

Monday, 12 March 2012

I don't want to be rescued

Having recently blogged on films such as The Wrestler I decided it was time to show that I was a modern man and in touch with my sensitive side etc by blogging about the period drama 'Upstairs, Downstairs'.

I am a bit behind and so am just currently watching the first season. In it you see the sister of someone (who is welsh) who has married into money talking about how her sister with her new found money wants to rescue her. She responds to this as follows,
'I don't want to be rescued. If I'm to be rescued I have to admit how ghastly my life up to now has been' - Or something equally posh but with the same sentiment.

I have no doubt that the people who wrote this knew how true this was. None of us like to admit that we have failed at anything never mind at life itself. To admit that we have failed to live the kind of rewarding, meaningful and enjoyable life which everyone is telling us we should have is basically impossible. To accept rescue is not only to say that we can't help ourselves but in this context to say that we have not been capable to live the sort of life we hoped to. It is to admit to having been a failure at life.

The heart of Jesus' message was that all of us make a failure of life. All of us fail to live the lives we ought and as a result fail to find the satisfaction and meaning we desire and fail to build the kind of relationships and world we long for. The problem is that to admit this is to write off huge portions of our life (10,20, 50 years) as a failure. As us failing to find what we were looking for and achieve what we wanted. Jesus offers rescue for all people. He offers the relationship with God we all long for and with it life in its fullness. However, in order to accept this we have to first recognise that we need rescuing. The problem is that like the woman in Upstairs Downstairs we don't want rescuing because to do that we have to admit that we have failed to do life adaquetely ourselves.

I wonder how many of us refuse to admit this and so refuse to turn to Jesus for rescue. Of course the problem with this is that denial doesn't make the problem go away. In fact it just makes us incapable of accepting the solution. It makes us incapable of accepting the rescue.

Friday, 17 February 2012

What happens on Sunday?

O.K. so a few months ago I suggested that treating Sundays as simply a time for absolution and a bit of warming our hearts up ready for the week ahead was not really where it was at in the Sunday world. However, I failed to offer any wisdom (or folly) about what should happen when the local church gather together on a Sunday. If it's not about absolution and firing ourselves up then what is it about? Is it just another ceremony? Another thing to go to? A way to make ourselves (or if we're lucky God and others) feel a bit better? Well here are my somewhat rambling and certainly not profound thoughts on what Sunday Gatherings need to be.

1. Sunday Gatherings need to reflect the wider life of the church. Too often Sunday's bear no relation to the lives of the people there. Until Sundays are a place where a people come together and reflect the values, relationships and passions of that people then they will always be either

a) an event which is there to contribute to life instead of a natural outflow and part of the life we lead.

b) an event which is separate to the rest of life and seems distant and unrelated to life.

2. Sunday Gatherings should function as a demonstration of the people God is calling into his kingdom. God is calling to himself a funny mix of unimpressive people and giving them new life and new relationships. A Sunday Gathering should be a demonstration of this as a wide range of people come together to show the unity which the Holy Spirit gives and to demonstrate the new values of the kingdom in the way they relate. We can do this outside of this gathering but by very definition a gathering is a great opportunity to demonstrate the gospel community.

3. Sunday Gatherings are a great opportunity for training and equipping Christians. As we come together around God's word, to hear him speak and to relate to him and each other we have a great chance to equip each other for our Christian lives as God uses these gatherings to grow us into the likeness of his son. This sounds incredibly obvious but I think there has been a move away from this within many churches as we attempt to free wheel our way towards godliness. I wonder to what extent we now only seek to inspire people on Sundays rather than using these opportunities to train and empower people to know, serve and love God better.

I am willing to be convinced that I've got all of these wrongs and happy to rethink how the Sunday gathering of God's people should function. I certainly have not got this nailed yet so feel free to comment or offer thoughts. However, my concern is that it's very easy for Sunday Gatherings to just happen and keep happening without any real thoughts regarding what actually they're there for.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Family, Stripping or the Adulation of Crowds

So a week or two ago (or maybe three or four ago) I decided that I was going to sit down and watch The Wrestler. I sat there not quite sure what I was making of it all until it ended and I suddenly found myself strangely intrigued by the film and particularly by the two main characters.

Mickey Rourke plays this old Wrestler who used to awesome and is now old and touring round these little wrestling places with a few people watching as he seeks to trade on past glories. He's pretty incapable of letting go. His identity is found in his past Wrestling glories and he continues to love Wrestling. Money is tight now but Wrestling continues to be his great passion. He decides to try to make it back to the big time and goes on a regime so that he can recreate his great grudge match 20 years after the biggest fight of his career.

During this time he makes friends with a stripper. She refuses to build relationships with men as it interferes with her work but she starts to get to know and like Mickey Rourke. The problem is that as far as she is concerned she is a stripper and relationships are not on the cards.

In the midst of all of this Mickey Rourke has a heart attack and is told he shouldn't wrestle any more. What happens now is Mickey looks for meaning elsewhere in life specifically in family. he tries to rebuild his relationship with his daughter and to build a relationship with the stripper. Now that he can't wrestle he needs to find meaning, identity and pleasure elsewhere.

After a slightly lengthy plot description here is what intrigued me about the film. The film is ultimately about people's search for meaning, identity and pleasure in life.

The Wrestler finds his identity in wrestling. In being the best, in being famous in hearing crowd cheer.
The Stripper finds her identity in being attractive to men. In being successful, in being beautiful.
The problem is that these identity's fail to last. They both grow old. The Wrestler becomes to old to be the best. The crowds wane and he ends up trying to live on past glories. The Stripper becomes old and ceases to be attractive to the clubs clientele. She struggles to know what the next step is if she can no longer attract and interest men through taking her clothes off.

So they both look elsewhere. They look to relationships. The problem is that these prove to be equally unreliable. Mickey Rourke proves to be incapable of being the kind of family man he longs to be and successfully hurts both his estranged daughter and the stripper as he seeks to build positive relationships. The stripper finds it hard to relate to men and pushes them away before finding that actually Mickey Rourke is more committed to the adulation of the many than any relationship with her.

The film ends with Mickey Rourke, unable to find meaning anywhere else, in ring wrestling his arch nemesis as crowds go wild and his heart finally explodes. Unable to find any identity outside of wrestling he is effectively willing to die to maintain that sense of meaning and elation which that moment brings.

You see this is what we do. We say finding identity in wrestling is stupid. Finding identity in family is good. Finding identity in stripping is bad and we grade the things we pursue and the things we allow to motivate and mould us. What 'The Wrestler' does brilliantly is it shows the unreliability and destructiveness of all these things.

We live for Wrestling and our body fails us and we are left with nothing
We live for Stripping and our attractiveness wanes and we are left for nothing
We live for family and we sin against them and the relationship is poisoned
We live for family and they sin against us and the relationship is poisoned.
We live for family and we die or they die and the relationship is over.
We live for the adulation of crowds and the crowds get bored.
We live for the adulation of crowds and we pursue destructive measures in an attempt to keep it.

We label these things respectable and unrespectable when actually they are all just insecure and often destructive ways we strive for some identity, some meaning, some purpose, some sense of importance, some sense of joy and like the Wrestler in our film even though they fail us we can't leave them behind. We continue to pursue them despite the fact they have not brought us all the things we so desired and hoped they would.

As I look at my life I see a man who finds it easy to pursue things which bring me a buzz, which energise and excite me, which make me feel important but which I know have failed me many times in the past and will fail me in the future. Jesus' promise is that identity, meaning, importance and joy are found in him welcoming us into his family. We now are his children and ageing and death and even sin cannot destroy or damage this. Society might think Family = Good, Stripping/Fighting = Bad but the truth is all too often these are both hopeless attempts at seeking identity in things which cannot cope with the rigours and reality of the lives we lead. If you would take a few minutes to look at those things you run round after I wonder if they would be up to the life you are going to lead?