Red car

Red Cars Everywhere

A few years ago, my wife decided we should buy a red car. I had never had a red car before. Suddenly, I was seeing red cars everywhere. The same thing is happening to me at the moment with DIY. I'm re-tiling the bathroom and, wherever I go, I see tiles. It also happens with words. Currently I can't but notice the word with.

It all started last autumn when I read A Nazareth Manifesto by Samuel Wells. It had a significant impact on me.

Sam begins by pointing out that many of us love to do things for people. We want to improve their circumstances, or bless them in some way, so we do something for them. However, this can sometimes become a source of frustration as what we do is misunderstood or devalued. Sam Wells argues that a better way to bless people is not by doing things for them but rather do thingswith them or even simply be with them.

When I was a teacher, I found that the best way to help children learn was to encourage them to ask their own questions and then work with them to find the answers. In this way, they took ownership of the problems and were self-motivated. It was far more effective than simply giving them the answers.

It's very much the same in my role as a development worker. When people identify a problem and come together to address it, I can work with them to try and create something. But trying to set up a project on my own, no matter how noble, is futile. We have to do it together, as a team, with each other.

There is a new Churches Together project starting this month called Trees of Hope. The plan is to plant hundreds of trees to help fight climate change. To be a success, the project needs a huge group of volunteers; everyone working together, with one another.

Doing things with others is, of course, a great antidote to loneliness and it can be great fun - just ask people at Men's Shed. But recently I've been discovering the importance of a different kind of communion, not doing with but being with.

My parents are in their nineties. They don't need me to do anything for them or with them. What they want is for their family to be with them. Anyone who has nursed a sick friend or cared for an elderly relative will know that 'being with' can be costly. One's own agenda must be set aside, and full attention given to the other person. We enter the realm of love expressed in service and sacrifice. It can be painful, especially on our emotions, but in these intimate moments, we can find treasure that lasts forever.

The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that Mary gave birth to a son and they called him Immanuel, which meant 'God with us' (1:23). When Jesus concluded his ministry, his final words were, "Behold, I am with you always" (28:20). Jesus spent his whole earthly life showing us how to be with people.

I hope that in the future, I'll more quickly recognise those opportunities to be with people. Like red cars, they're everywhere.


And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:20