Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chocolate, Cider, Science and God. My faith journey part 2

This is a continuation of a series of articles about my faith. You can read my earlier post here.

So I left Uni with a faith that was still bruised and dented, but mostly intact. I'd had further girl trouble (all my own doing, I might add) which didn't help but for some reason I blindly carried on, thankfully.

I chose to take a 'year out' which was the done thing those days (and still is, I suppose). With most year outs, you typically had to raise funds to pay your way (to cover the cost of travel or accommodation), and most Christians who did this were usually sponsored by their home church (or people from their home church) or worked three to six months to secure the cash. It may seem odd that such organisations do this, but I can understand why they do. These outfits don't have much money and they want people who are committed to work for them. By paying their own way, I guess it makes the volunteers much better workers because they've actually made a personal investment in their time there.

Me, I had no home church and didn't think about actually raising the money myself, so opted for the charity that didn't charge volunteers to come and work for them. Everything was provided: food, accommodation and travel. Result!

What's more, I'd badgered my friend who I previously sponsored £50 – to go on a mission trip to South Africa – to give me the money back.

[I'm astounded at how selfish I was and what an unserving attitude I had back then. Hmm ... I hope I've changed since then....]

Anyway, I headed off to rain-soaked Cardiff with my pet rat (yep, that's right) and complete lack of understanding about what I was about to commit my year to. Seriously, I don't think I actually had an idea about any of it. I suppose I had this notion that it was something noble, 'working with kids'.

What is turned out to be, was, well, something far more complicated. Yes, it involved working with kids, but that was just one aspect. Me and five other unwitting volunteers were to live in a house together on Cardiff's Llanedeyrn estate 'in community'. I just thought that meant, well, living in a house with other people, but it turned out that the 'community' thing was a lot more.

'Community' turned out to be, ironically, the source or both great happiness and supreme frustration for me and my colleagues. Two guys and four girls sharing a house and working together means you get to know each other pretty quick. It meant learning to be honest with one another, getting to know people on a pretty deep level. There were intense moments of frustration, but also great moments of camaraderie and friendship.

What was interesting was that people outside of the community remarked on the bond that we had as a group – they noticed how we almost knew how each other thought. We served each other through simple things like making sandwiches for lunch or giving them a hand with club prep. Crucially though, we were not just existing together, we were also serving God together and I think that's what was different about our household.

There were some really bumpy moments during that year, but I look fondly back on that time as one when my faith seemed to grow from strength to strength – not just because I was learning it, but because I was actually doing it. I chose to stay on for another year, assuming that I would experience something similar the second time round.

Unfortunately, my expectations were very wrong. I don't really know why my second year was such a mess, but it could have had something to do with my fellow housemates – perhaps we were the wrong mix or something. It could also have had something to do with the people in charge (I wrote an article about that whole thing here), which is my preferred theory. For me, things seemed to spiral out of control as my quality of work suffered along with my sanity.

When the following summer came round I was raw and bewildered, yet again confused about why God would allow such crap to land on my lap. I had let people down and done stupid things, not just out of my own incompetence, but also because of poor management. I don't think my faith suffered per se, but my trust in those who professed the faith was severely affected.

Amazingly, I chose to stay for a third year.

Looking back on that decision, I really wish I'd cut and run. I was effectively blackmailed into staying on, mainly because I had nowhere else to go but in reality I could have gone back to my parents and they would have helped me out. One of the big factors, however, was that I had met Wifey in the midst of all this. We had become an item (she wasn't my 'Wifey' back then, of course), and she had become a trustee of the charity. It almost felt like I had to choose: either stick around and keep the girl, or leave and find yourself on your own.

Given my previous relationship disasters, I didn't want to give up on a good thing (a really good thing, actually), so I stayed.


No comments:

Post a Comment