I think about a lot of things that never make it onto this blog and never get spoken. A lot of things I have no right to speak or write about. What right do I have to write about what my government is doing to people who rely on benefits to live? I am not one of those people. What right do I have to write about the horror that fills me that 60,000 Syrian people are now refugees? I am not one of those people.
There are also things about me that I don’t write about. This post has been brewing for months and was going to be multiple blogposts but a thing last night coalesced ALL THE THOUGHTS and now you’re in for a whopper.
I read Wild Swans as a teenager and then again last year. It’s a massive book spanning three generations of women in China and both times I read it the bits that stuck in my memory the most, leaving bile in my throat, were the sections on the great famine. Chairman Mao was told and knew that what he was doing was ludicrous and would kill people but he went at it anyway, continuing in his selfish madness until millions died. It wasn’t ignorance, don’t give him that credit, it was wilful, power-fuelled greed. I’m not a fan of catastrophising (except with the anxieties I invent for myself, but that’s a different blogpost, ahem) and I’m not saying the situation in the UK is the same as that of a starving China, but my heart sinks every time I see a newspaper because I see that same wilful, power-fuelled greed in our government now. The same bile rises in my throat. Our government has been told over and over again that the reforms they insist on pummelling the country with make no sense, but they do it anyway, over and over again, drip feeding hatred through our country. I see devastation in our future.
But words, what do they mean really? Other people write far better than I can. It’s actions that are on my mind. Which brings me to the things about me that I don’t write about. I don’t think I’ve ever written on this blog about why I decided to study Islam at university. I wanted to become a missionary. I was even going to go to Bible college for a while. It’s not something I mention much. Say that to a Christian and they will start praying for you to move out to the Middle East and convert 1,000 people in a week. Say that to someone who isn’t a Christian and they will despise you.
Instead, I went to university, travelled to a few places in the Middle East, lived for a while in Syria, married my love and got a job. Can’t say I spent my childhood years dreaming of the career I have now. (Actually, I wanted to be a pilot but dodgy eyesight scuppered that.) Over the last five years I ignored the job I had by focusing on applying for and doing an MA. I had a thing to keep me occupied and it did that very effectively. But I finished my MA in September and, me being me, I’ve pondered ever since. What now? What do I really want to do with my life? What, more importantly, does God want me to do with my life? I do love studying and would definitely relish the challenge of doing a PhD. And I think that is a good thing to do, this is not a blogpost declaring my decision to shun studying forever. Islam is not particularly understood (understatement) and I wouldn’t mind playing a part in getting it understood a bit more. The feedback on my dissertation was that it was highly original, which in academic-speak is a very good thing. It shows promise, I could really go for it, contribute something new to the field. I’d like that.
But do I like it enough? Do I like it enough to give up a lot of time and money on it? Not sure. Which brings me onto the deeper ponderings, the ponderings that have so far not made it to the blog and have barely been spoken. Is a PhD enough? Is my job enough? Is any of this enough? Is it (and I have hesitated before saying this word) worthy? I am an idealist and always have been, much as I try hard to cover it up with a layer of cynicism. While I was studying I didn’t have to think about any of this because I didn’t have time. I worked to pay the bills and buried myself in Arabic the rest of the time. Now I’m enjoying the freedom of not studying, and I’m trying really hard to learn how to relax – not easy! But niggling away in my mind is the true and solid fact that I can not continue like this for too much longer. I think I have to go on like this for a wee while because if I don’t learn how to relax and control my anxiety I will snap. But only a finite amount of time can be spent not getting dressed at weekends, knitting and watching TV programmes about fairy tales.
You know (don’t be fooled into thinking this is a tangent), I am sick and tired of Christians. I am sick of watching them in the media and at the front of my church. I am sick of being told how hard done by Christians are, how much pressure Christians are under to conform. I keep being told that conformity is a bad thing, that we must not bow to the pressure we are under to hold the world’s values. Conforming is weak, it is liberal, it is bad. We should apparently be different, we should stand out.
That is right, we should be different, we should stand out. But we should stand out for the right reasons. Society barely even recognises us and it certainly has no idea what being a Christian actually is. We should be recognised because we are Christ’s people, because we love. We should love the dirty, the despicable, the people nobody else will touch. That is why people should notice us. Not because we hate gay people or because we refuse to let women have the high up jobs in the church or because we think killing unborn babies is wrong. We should not be noticed because we shout the loudest. But because love shines from us and we are everywhere, looking after people.
I think things like this and I grind to a halt. Because it’s no good me getting angry with our Christian leaders when I’m busy letting thoughts simmer and not doing anything about them. I don’t know what to do. Should hubby and I up sticks and volunteer at a refugee camp in a desert with the Red Cross? Should I spend my weekends in soup kitchens? Should we actually become missionaries? Hubby and I have been discussing volunteering with this charity or another along similar lines next Christmas Day. We don’t have children and will never have children so we are free to use Christmas to help people rather than stuffing our faces with too much turkey. But what about the rest of the year? I can’t do all the things.
At this point I sit still a bit and recognise that God gives callings for a reason. We can’t do all the things, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for being unable to do all the things. I should also not jump into something without knowing it’s right. It’s a scary thing to pray but I would like God to tell me what he wants me to do. I haven’t even properly prayed it, but I think he knows anyway. As things filter down, as I watch and wait, one thing keeps poking at the corner of my vision. Homelessness. Homeless people are everywhere and it’s fucking cold. Homeless people here and abroad. Homeless people living in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan. Homeless people living outside train stations in London. They’re everywhere and I walk past them every single day on my way to my well paid job in my nice warm office. I have my phone in my pocket and my mp3 player thumping in my ears, my scarf around my neck, hood up to protect me from driving wind and rain.
So when I saw a friend yesterday say that she feels guilty because she used to be homeless and now is not, because she has a warm home and others do not, I was horrified. No, no! It is not you who should feel guilty, it is me. It is everybody like me. We have real guilt because we walk by every day and what do we do? Is buying a cup of coffee or knitting a scarf enough? This is where words must find their end. I despise my government because it does not care, but should I not ask myself if I truly care first? I despise some Christians because they do not care, but should I not ask myself if I truly care first? I still do not know what to do, I don’t know what I want to do or what God wants me to do but now I ask – please God, show me what you would have me do to love your world.