It is my dream
Are we following our dreams - or Jesus? By Michael Shaw
I was a student in the mid-90s. It was the era of Blur and Oasis, as well as the Stone Roses, Suede and Pulp. One of Pulp’s best known songs Common People told the story of a young woman from a wealthy background who wanted to be ordinary. The point of the song was that, even if she lives that life, at any point she could call her Dad and he would rescue her.
Image | Roman Denisenko | Unsplash
I was in a conversation with a young woman, who works for a national justice organisation. I spoke about my situation in Devonport, about the high levels of deprivation I see around me. In response, she said, 'It is my dream to live on an estate.'
As I was reflecting on the conversation, while I admired her passion and enthusiasm, those words struck me. You see the thing is it is not my dream to live where I do, far from it; my wife and I often dream of a different life, I have an alert set up with one of the online estate agents of houses that we could never afford but can dream about living in. I live where I live not because it is my dream, but because this is where God has called me, and until he calls me elsewhere, then this is where I will stay.
But then I thought more, it is not the dream of my neighbours' either, or some members of our church community. This area is maybe one of the few areas they can afford to live in, such are the low house prices and rent. This is not the dream location for many.
However, even they have some choice, but others have been moved here because there is a high level of social housing. They were not given a choice to live here, they just had to move here. They would probably love to have greater choice about where they live.
For others, Devonport has been the only place they have ever known, they may never have lived anywhere else, and that stretches back several generations. They have any aspirations drummed out of them, and have been constantly told (both consciously and unconsciously) that they are not worth anything more and their dreams will never be fulfilled.
Then there are the men and women who live in the homeless hostel nearby or the various bedsits that surround it. When they were growing up it was not their dream to live in this temporary way, but a life event, abuse in childhood, loss of job, partner or home has left them seeking sanctuary in this place and the location is not accidental: not many other areas in the city would allow a homeless hostel in the heart of their community.
Our conversation moved onto programmes, and models for how you get people in the wider church into justice. To me though there is one simple model that I have followed: deep listening. I come to a community like Devonport not to be the solution, but to learn. To recognise that each day is a learning day, that my clever solutions are probably not that clever. The model of Jesus was incarnation, and incarnation is costly, it was costly to Jesus, but if we are to follow Jesus, the incarnation is the only model we have.
I doubt it was Jesus’ dream to become human, live the life of a homeless itinerant preacher and die the death of a thief.
Like so many in my community it is not my dream to here, but while the world tells us to follow our dreams, Scripture tells us we need to follow Jesus, and following Jesus is not always a comfortable life!
Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth
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