Monday, 11 July 2016

"You Make Me Brave" (Amanda Cook & Bethel Music)

Part of the Lyrical Lifeline Series

I don't know why I so often find myself writing blog posts when I'm exhausted - it's probably not the smartest move. 

I think it's maybe because I get tired of presenting the polish, weary of buying into the idea that image trumps honesty. It might also be because I like to write about encouraging things, and those tend to be the things I reach for when I'm worn out.

Like this song. 

Lots of Bethel and Amanda Cook songs, actually. But tonight, this song in particular. I didn't put it on - it came drifting down the stairs into the kitchen where I was cooking and its timeliness brought tears to my eyes. I am not feeling brave.

I am six months pregnant. I am supported by the best people in the world and I've had an incredible run of it so far; I appreciate the privilege and am beyond, beyond grateful. That's my disclaimer, because I'm not feeling that right now. Right now I am achy, I am terrified by how much and how fast my normally-static body is changing, and labour is starting to look pretty real. I'm wondering why I ever thought I was selfless enough to take this on and am totally overwhelmed at the thought of how much the new person on the other side of this experience is going to need me. Actually need me. Not just hypothetically want to be around me, but genuinely be dependent on me. The introverted, recovering perfectionist part of me struggles with that. That and the madness of moving house.

So I am teary, and not just because I'm tired and hormonal. I'm teary because this song reminds me that this is not about me. It was never going to be about me. I might not feel strong and selfless, but I am called to a life of faith not feelings. I might not feel capable and competent, but I am called to self-abandonment so that doesn't matter anyway.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, 
but Christ lives in me. 
The life I now live in the body, 
I live by faith in the Son of God, 
who loved me and gave himself for me."
(Galatians 2v20)

"Ah, Sovereign LORD
you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. 
Nothing is too hard for you."
(Jeremiah 32v7)
And You make me brave.

'Lyrical Lifelines' - songs that save my world

Monday, 4 July 2016

"The Last Gift" - Abdulrazak Gurnah

There was something timely about reading the majority of this book in the week after the Brexit vote: immigration was at the forefront of my mind – a topic of conversation being explored across various media from all sorts of perspectives, ranging from the nuanced to the unsavoury and frankly frightening.
In the middle of that, this book spoke with particular eloquence.

We can’t talk constructively about these big issues without being open to information and challenge. We need factual sources we can trust. But sometimes it seems that what effective public discourse really requires is the ability to step into someone else’s story. Fiction does that. This book does that.
It’s a story I didn’t particularly love. I feel a bit embarrassed that I’m not raving about it, because the cover boasts such high praise and the (Booker prize-shortlisted) author is clearly celebrated for his proficiency. Who am I to argue otherwise?
I didn’t love it because it took me a long, long time to connect with the narrative – to really get to that point of caring about the characters and their dramas.
I’ve puzzled about why that was the case. I think it maybe had something to do with the third person narrative voice and lack of direct dialogue – not experiencing things first-hand but being told about them, recounted through beautiful but slightly arms-length prose. I wonder whether there was also something inherent in the story itself – there is so much alienation between the characters; they aren’t communicating with each other and maybe, as a reader, you’re supposed to feel that sense of being on the outside of things too.
But since finishing I’m asking a bigger question. I’m wondering whether I didn’t relate to the characters because ultimately their lives are not like mine.
It’s a story about people whose personalities and problems are not the same as mine; whose backgrounds shade their present experience in ways I can’t connect to. Their interpretation of the world is almost entirely “other” to mine – even where, on paper, there should arguably be overlap.
Maybe I didn’t love this book because a part of me just likes to surround myself with stories that reinforce my own.
And that just won’t do.
That kind of narrow-mindedness is at best unhelpful, but at worst dangerous. So I’m glad I persevered with this book. I’m glad I put in the time to get under the skin of someone else’s story. And I’m glad that we have the freedom and artists to help us glimpse different dimensions of the life we all share.
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