It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and my wife and I are walking to breakfast. Suddenly, my foot encounters a slightly raised paving stone and gravity starts to do its thing. This is not a good thing when you have your hands in your pockets. I got them out in time to break my fall by the tiniest amount, but not by enough to stop my head hitting the ground.
For a while, I don’t know how long, I just lay there, groaning and groggy. I can hear voices, particularly my wife’s, but I’m too stunned to react. Slowly, though, I start to focus and to try to sit up. That’s when I notice that both of my hands are totally covered in blood, which is now pouring onto the pavement. Cloths arrive, brought by people who are rather blurry – not because my vision is damaged by the fall, but because my glasses are broken and lying on the ground – and I start to get mopped up. The first wider arrives, cleans me up and says I should go to the minor injuries unit.
Of course, being a man and, therefore, totally stubborn in these matters, I just went back to my chalet and had a cup of tea. A couple of Band Aids later and I’m getting on with my day. Albeit, much more carefully as I also hurt my right knee, right elbow and left wrist in the fall.
In an odd way, this is a metaphor for the whole day. I have been to a seminar led by Justin Brierley about whether science points to God. For many, this whole thorny issue has become a stumbling block to being able to believe or to be able to share faith with others. The mistaken belief that science and God are somehow mutually exclusive has become such a prevalent narrative in modern society that the idea that science can actually enhance faith or bring about opportunities for evangelism seems impossible to some.
Then, in the evening session, Abbih Oloyede spoke about praying over loved ones, friends and colleagues as we sought to bring them closer to God. She spoke of Jesus sending out the 72, equipping them to share the Gospel with all those who they met. In the time of prayer afterwards, however, Cris Rogers concentrated on overcoming the stumbling blocks which are in our way, many of them internally. Those things which hold us back from sharing our faith with others, be it fear, unpreparedness or difficulty in talking which means that we find it difficult to discuss our beliefs, to tell others the good news.
Those stumbling blocks are all around us. Eventually we will hit one and fall face first into the pavement, just as I did this morning. Whether we fall or not is not the issue, it will happen and we need to accept that. The important thing is what we do afterwards – do we just lie there in a groaning no, bloodied heap, or do we get up, clean ourselves off, work through the pain and get on with the job in hand? This is our choice, but not one we need to face alone. God will always be there with the sterile wipes, band aids and cloths to help us to clean up and get patched up in order to carry on.
We may carry the scars of the falls with us, but these aren’t signs of our falls and failures, but of our survival and resilience. We need to bear them proudly as they demonstrate that we are not perfect, we will always get it wrong, but that, ultimately, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We can face any failure of our own, because we know that the victory we are working towards has already been achieved, on the cross.
So, forget the stumbling blocks. They’ll happen. Just remember to get back up again.
Oh, and keep your hands out of your pockets.