Dear Everybody (including those who told me off for not writing a letter in August and have their pens / laptops poised to let me know that I have disappointed them in September as well)
I forgot to mention in the letter I didn’t write for August a small incident that clearly demonstrates the flaws and fascinations of what we prehistoric ones regard as modern technology. Whilst holidaying in Normandy we thought it would be nice to have fresh bread and croissants every morning for breakfast. Unfortunately the village bread supplier had predictably decided to take a two-week holiday during the period when tourists plan their vacations in Normandy. A pain in the neck. Geddit?
We needed to find somewhere a short drive away to supply our needs, so I spoke the French word for ‘Baker’s shop’ as clearly as I could into my phone and waited with interest to see what my friend Google might suggest. It was definitely a BOULANGERIE I wanted and asked for, but half a minute later we were supplied with an amazingly long list of places in our part of Normandy where BLUE LINGERIE was readily available. No contest, of course. Underwear is just underwear - offerings from a French baker constitute a breakfast. However, a slight puzzlement remained. The existence of multiple outlets for blue lingerie in that particularly rural section of Normandy is a surreal, Dali-like notion.
And so, seamlessly, we proceed to good old Paul’s list of items needed by those who wish to put on the armour of God. Last month - sorry, the month before last - I mentioned embarrassing problems connected with insufficient tightening of the belt of truth. What next? Well, what about the helmet of salvation?
What does a helmet do? It protects your head, and, presumably, the things inside your head. Your brain, thoughts, feelings, motivation, heart - all those things. Where does salvation fit into that?
Sitting back and thinking about this question for a few minutes reminds me of times in the past when things have looked pretty hopeless. There was a particular period in my life when all I could hang on to was the love of family, and a few friends who were powered more by love than religion. Sometimes I would take one of my small children onto my lap and draw warmth and safety from the knowledge that, at this moment, on this day, at a time when that child could not possibly understand what I was going through, my head and heart and hope survived because of their love, and the constant love of others.
The thief dying by inches on his cross next to Jesus had a much more unexpected and last-minute experience of the same kind of thing. Suddenly, at a time when failure and pain and death must have been displacing everything else in his head, he saw, in the eyes of the man beside him the barely believable possibility of happy ever after.
‘Please remember me when you get there.’
‘No problem. I’ll see you later.’
Perhaps we need to rescue and resurrect the promise of happy-ever-after, a fairy tale concept if ever there was one, and a prospect that is, unless we’ve been grossly misinformed, at the very heart of everything that God is trying to do in this world. It seems sad to me that we should abandon the sweetness of this magical promise, perhaps because of a fear that we might end up thinking and behaving like children, and - horror of horrors! - even use the wrong language. We rarely enjoy a sense of true romance in the journeying that we have done with Jesus. Not the romance that happens between human beings, wonderful as that can be, but the romance of joy and despair and tough struggle and deep puzzlement and sudden revelation and the recurring flood of light and hope when darkness seems impenetrable.
That hope, that divine assurance that living happily ever after really is on the cards, is the helmet that protects and holds my head together. Now and then I forget how important it is.
Thank you for joining me on my ramble.
Much love, Adrian.