There are points where my experience overlaps with his. But over the last six or seven years life has felt more or less like an extended pounding with a meat mallet. Here are five things that have helped soften me up:
- Moving out of home for the first time. My first flatmate and I were very different people with divergent habits — and levels of mess-tolerance. But we had some great times. And I had to tackle some of the selfishness and the fixed ideas I’d managed to develope about truly irrelevant things.
- Marriage (and the dating process). What … you mean it’s not all about me and I have to work hard at listening!?
- Starting a new Beach Mission. I quickly learnt that the whole ‘planting’ thing sounds great but involves a whole lot of hard work and heart ache in practice. Especially when you realise that having recruited and dragged people along on your crazy, ill-conceived experiment, your biggest — and most demanding — responsibility is not preparing or planning programmes but frantically fighting impending relational breakdown on more fronts than you thought possible.
- Researching ‘hell’ for a doctrine essay. Spending a solid amount of time trying to understand people I didn’t agree with taught me to be at least sympathetic to the often quite visceral concerns that motivate them (not to mention the occasional legitimate critique of some traditional and popular ways of talking about hell).
- Being a Christian. It’s often hurt, but learning to live as a child of the Father — who trusts in Jesus and in whom the Spirit of God is at work — I think (I hope!) has genuinely made me a softer, gentler person. For one thing, I’ve become less afraid of exposing my vulnerabilities (after all, the fact that we’re not self-sufficient is one of the key things we confess about ourselves as Christians, right?).