Stuck in a Lift with Jesus


Posted by in June's Magazine

Now Fraser. Don’t go getting all holier-than-thou just because you got a job as a church secretary. We all know you too well. We know how you like to dance, how you like to swear, the company you keep. We see you, propped in that corner of the Persevere, and we know this article won’t be finished before more than one large chardonnay is allowed to barely touch the sides. We won’t quite buy it, from an angel with as dirty a face as yours.

But then tell me what you mean by holy? Tell me, and I’ll tell you what it means to me. Because where holiness is whole-i-ness, where atonement is at-one-ment, I am learning to stand tall. Or as tall as my five-foot-nothing frame allows. And that walking with God usually means walking with my demons a bit as well, and they seem to need more exercise.

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And the road is an interesting one. I am a convert you see. No bright lights, no visions, no magic. Well, not much. Maybe the story started at one of those courses designed to bring you rationally and smoothly to your happy faith place, alpha or discovering Christianity or some such, when I must have been nineteen or twenty, but in truth the tea and the biscuits and the bible never quite cut it for me. It was later, very much later at night that maybe the spirit started to move in me. When I found myself in need of somewhere to go, somewhere to run to, with someone to run from, and, almost out of ideas, I thought to knock on the door of the couple who ran the bible study. Drunken and tearful at four in the morning I said simply ‘I need somewhere to stay’. ‘I’ll find you some pyjamas’ came the reply. And in the morning there were spare keys waiting for me, and a note saying I could stay as long as I liked. What would Jesus do? That.

And I have a recollection of sitting in one of those giant bay windows that Edinburgh does so well with that lady, and her asking if she could pray for me, and then hearing my voice praying too, and not really believing, but not really believing I had any other options. Over the next while I did start to believe a bit, and then a bit more. I quite liked what Jesus had to say. And if you are in the process of converting God has the habit of showing off a bit. The taxi that has been diverted and just happens to reach your out-stretched arm. The woman who steps out of Papa John’s offering you pizza when you have just blown your last fiver and are too hungry to think what you can make for tea with one onion and a can of tuna. But it wasn’t ever me. I was never going to be able to give up the booze and the boys and be clean-living enough to keep this up full time.

I remember one discussion with the Bible study crowd. “Who would you pick if you could be stuck in a lift with five people” went the question, and it’s a good one. David Bowie. Ghandi. Ainsley Harriot. The universe has offered plenty of good options over the years. But one of the guys floated Jesus and I was horrified. My thought process was, no way, then it would be no fun at all. It would be all best behaviour; I wouldn’t be able to tell any of my jokes.

But of course that was the problem. I just hadn’t found the place I completely belonged, and I was trying too hard, and I just hadn’t added all the bits of myself together quite yet. And I’m sure it doesn’t have to be a catholic-protestant thing but it just so happened I eventually washed up at the cathedral at the top of the walk, suddenly finding a place where my faith didn’t have to be something I made a big effort with on Sundays and then side-lined. I even started to think that I wanted a man who shared my faith too, which would make it real, rather than something I was pretending at. And would say that when I became a Christian I let Christ into my life. But when I became a Catholic I let Him into my lift.

And there I try and keep him. Witness to every dirty joke and sweary diatribe. There when my heart breaks with love for my husband and children and there when they drive me to despair. Of course, I don’t always believe, and anyone who tells you they do might well be bonkers or lying. But faith is that hope which lurks in your darkest moments and says maybe, just maybe, where you open your heart, you make space for someone to dance there. But of course. I’m the church secretary. And I have drunk one and a half glasses of chardonnay. I would say that, wouldn’t I? ■

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