Staying true

Mbazwana Market

I enjoy music tremendously. I’m terrible at remembering band names, or song titles, but the one piece of dedication I excel at? Listening to albums on repeat. Again and again.

In June, I am going to see a band called The Movielife with some close old friends. As part of preparing for this, I’ve purchase their first two albums, which I didn’t already have, and am now spending all my exercising time listening to their entire catalogue, over and over.

Generally, there are aspects to a band’s lyrics I agree with… and disagree with. Often I’m not on board with a fair amount of the words, but rather enjoy the music itself – ultimately, when going for 40km bike rides, having a regular, engaging rhythm in your punk rock is more important than whether or not you have the same political leanings as them.

“You live your life just for others.
They change their act and you change yours too.
Things they change, I’ve lost track. What am I to do?
I will stay true to myself, I will stay true to myself.”
The Movielife, “Read My Lips”

Yesterday, I cycled to the nearest town for my weekly men’s health clinic. It’s the highlight of my workweek, because I spend part of the afternoon walking around the marketplace having conversations with locals about health, holding impromptu consultations on the street and all round having an experience of genuine community engagement.

One conversation especially stood out. A young man had gone to university to study theology, with a plan of becoming a pastor. His conclusions from his studies were that “all people are the same“, and seemed not to involve any particular moral model beyond “each to himself“. He is now living near the beach, selling fish, raising pit bulls, and drinking whisky.

Much as with the lyrics above, his focus is on living the life that makes him feel content, with less regard for others. Whilst I would argue that such a viewpoint has the ultimate effect of a deep emptiness: selfish decisions that provide short term “happiness” at the expense of life-long joy, it did make me wonder about our goals as a family, as individuals, as followers of Jesus.

I’ve been reading Ephesians 3 this week, and I’m struck by the contrast: Paul is writing a letter, and he starts by showing how the life choices he is making are not exactly leading to a comfortable life short-term…

 “This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called.”

But he goes on to talk about unthinkable levels of awesomeness. Not just an individual life, but LIVES, plural.

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

So, I’m going to continue searching, continue asking questions, continue trying to make my life as authentic as possible. But I am convinced the foundation of that needs to being true to the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ, not through endlessly chasing the vague goal of “me”.

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