2. After the Porch

After the Porch…

Six months of gurning. Six months of face-twisting sipping as I slowly acclimatised to sugarless tea and coffee. Through embittered lips I’d send fierce thought arrows to God.

‘I’m doing this for you, you know, to let you know I’m really sorry I messed up’.

Yes it was an unfair accusation – because it was my choice. But I figured it was the price I had to pay.

My whole life I’d ladled in heaped spoonsful of sugar to many, daily hot sweet drinks, so this was a significant step to take…OK, so I’m over dramatizing slightly- but it really did take a long time to actually get to the point of enjoying a cuppa again.

And all the time God was silent.

I was apparently doing this for a silent, faceless God. Not even one who was powerful or loving enough to send unexpected gifts along the way to sweeten the process. Not a sausage of encouragement.

Except that, unexplainably he felt so real I couldn’t actually give up and say ‘s*d it’ I’m not that sorry.

Because I was.

Sorry for hurting other people, sorry for letting myself down.

Sorry for making bad decisions.

Sorry that other people had dumped their rubbish onto me.

Sorry for beating myself up all the time.

Sorry that life had dealt too many raw deals. 

Sorry for so much that had mis-shaped my life.

Sorry I’d not been just better…

Just sorry…

I knew deep down in the deepest core of my ‘knower’ that there must be a brighter, kinder, more fulfilled way to live.

A yearning to start afresh which somehow involved wiping the slate clean. Show this God who’d been little more than a legend, a myth and peripheral to my life that I was serious.

I needed to find a way forward – to find some peace, discover who I was, who God was.

There was a God-shaped hole in my life and I needed to discover how to fill it.

Then one day I slurped my morning cuppa, it tasted good, like tea was supposed to taste.

And I smiled and slurped again

And I felt God smile as I allowed the warmth to slip down my throat.

His warmth spread right through me as I reflected on the cost of that need to show him how sorry I was. It was as if he wrapped his warm love right around me and said. ‘Welcome home… I’ve watched and wondered, would you, could you do this? It wasn’t my test it was yours and you succeeded, now here we are… drinking tea together and it’s all right.’

Over the next few months nothing changed, yet everything changed.  I still ricocheted from one dilemma to another, but was that a light at the end of the tunnel? Sadly not, it was a metaphorical huge steam locomotive belching smoke and blaring whistles about to run me over.  It would be so easy to say my sugar-free life became smoother after I did my deal with God, Sadly not. I still lurched from strain to stress but was it my imagination or in the worst of times could I almost feel some kind of gentle awareness around me? Not a ghost or spooky kind of presence, just an awareness of kindness, of strength and peace beyond my own reservoirs of kindness, strength or peace. Perhaps I was just daydreaming…Trouble is, when the locomotive of life comes steaming towards you it tows a waggon load of hassle complete with a dumper truck of old hurts to compound everything. So unravelling everything I needed to unravel and dealing with everything I needed to deal with wasn’t going to be a quick fix or simple job. There was a lot of angst and issues to unpack and dump.

After a day’s work I’d go for a walk round the village and sit on the park bench by the canal to clear my head. One specific summer evening I got chatting to a lady I’d not met before. It turned out to be a life changing chat. She was lovely and apparently a trained counsellor and bizarrely a Christian who had recently moved to the village with her newly retired vicar-husband.  In an unguarded moment I started pouring out a little of life’s current woes. Her response was to listen without interrupting or judgement. The next day, she popped a note through my letterbox with her phone number and an offer to give me a weekly slot for counselling at a much reduced rate to help me untangle my thoughts and reactions.  It was a timely, practical and un-patronising response and just what I needed even though I’d never considered counselling before.

After my Big Gesture to God giving up sugar I’d not actually embraced any further spiritual ramifications or thought more deeply what that was about or for. However I’d saved  myself an average of twenty spoonsful of sugar a day so that wasn’t a bad thing and I’d met a someone who was the perfect helping hand when I needed it. I reckon God has a vastly different time table to ours, and he was happy to wait until I was ready to take the next step. I also reckon God is a gentleman so he doesn’t force where he’s not welcomed, and his technique for making himself known uses more of the ‘carrot’ than ‘stick’ way of moving forward. He’s a God of infinite patience but when he steps up the game it’s usually rather challenging and not uninteresting…