One of my favorite authors over the past ten years has been Theodore Dalyrmple. He is bright,articulate,and shines a spotlight on the sad lives of those in the inner city of London.I believe he is an atheist who is not hostile to Christianity. Mez McConnell is a former drug addict,and criminal who had an abusive childhood. His story shows the amazing grace of God,and demonstrates the importance of Christians reaching out to those whom no one cares about. I am going to intersperse highlighted sections from my Kindle from both authors(from the linked books) to give you a taste of their writing and of what life is like in the inner cities of Great Britain for many people. Dalyrmple will be describing the types of problems he encounters as he deals with many different people(indented writings). McConnell will be writing from the first person perspective as he describes his own life. Ultimately,McConnell’s story is what needs to happen for people who are at the end of their rope.These are but a few of the highlights. I recommend both books highly.Check the bottom of the article for links to the books.
As a doctor who has worked for the past decade in a busy general hospital in a British slum, and also in a nearby prison, I have been in a privileged position to observe the life of this underclass. I have, for example, interviewed some ten thousand people who have made an attempt (however feeble) at suicide, each of whom has told me of the lives of four or five other people around him. From this source alone, therefore, I have learned about the lives of some fifty thousand people: lives dominated, almost without exception, by violence, crime, and degradation. My sample is a selected one, no doubt, as all samples drawn from personal experience must be, but it is not small. Moreover, having previously worked as a doctor in some of the poorest countries in Africa, as well as in very poor countries in the Pacific and Latin America, I have little hesitation in saying that the mental, cultural, emotional, and spiritual impoverishment of the Western underclass is the greatest of any large group of people I have ever encountered anywhere.
Nevertheless, patterns of behaviour emerge – in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimisation by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Our house is cold and damp. There’s no carpet on the floors or paper on the walls. I have a bed and a blanket and a million bed bugs. They’re small and red, and they live in my mattress and in the folds of the curtains. They come out at night. I know they’re coming because they smell funny. They crawl on my face, my eyes and my hair. I get used to them. I’m hungry. Dad lost his wages on the horses again. Dad is always in the betting shop. Sometimes SHE sends me down there to get him. Dad looks embarrassed when I go in and he always makes me wait outside for him. I daren’t go back without him because if I do, SHE hits me. I’m hungry. There’s not enough food this week. There’s enough for cigarettes and beer but not for food. Dad disappears again and I’m locked in my room without food. It’s worse in the holidays because I have to stay there for days on end. I feel alone.
I’m so hungry. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and wonder what it would be like not to be hit. In my head I transport myself into the future where I’m big and strong. There is no hitting in my dreams. I can’t even remember when the hitting started. I can’t remember what it’s like not to be hit. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I just get slapped on the head. Often I’m punched on the back of the head and the kidneys. The punch to the kidneys hurts the most. I try and avoid that if I can. It usually means leaving my head wide open, but anything is better than the kidneys. I try to avoid curling up on the floor because SHE kicks me in the testicles. I don’t cry out any more for it doesn’t do any good. Sometimes I wonder where my mother is. This is all her fault.
On my right sat a man in his late 60s, intelligent and cultivated, who had been a distinguished foreign correspondent for the BBC and who had spent much of his career in the United States. He said that for the last ten years he had read with interest my weekly dispatches – printed in a rival, conservative publication – depicting the spiritual, cultural, emotional, and moral chaos of modern urban life, and had always wanted to meet me to ask me a simple question: Did I make it all up? Did I make it all up? It was a question I have been asked many times by middle-class liberal intellectuals, who presumably hope that the violence, neglect, and cruelty, the contorted thinking, the utter hopelessness, and the sheer nihilism that I describe week in and week out are but figments of a fevered imagination.
On being asked whether I make it all up, I reply that, far from doing so, I downplay the dreadfulness of the situation and omit the worst cases that come to my attention so as not to distress the reader unduly. The reality of English lower-class life is far more terrible than I can, with propriety, depict. My interlocutors nod politely and move on to the next subject.
My social worker is dead. He committed suicide. He fed a pipe from his car exhaust in through the car window and turned the engine on. One day he’s telling me how to work through my ‘issues’ and the next day he’s dead. I feel cheated. How could he help me when he couldn’t even help himself? That was the first time I consciously questioned life. More than that, it was when I began to realise that life didn’t last forever. I began to question my own mortality. I thought I believed in God. But who was God? What did he have to do with me? What had he ever done for me? Was there a reason for all this madness? Did there even have to be a reason? I didn’t know why we were here and it seemed that nobody else did either. Maybe God was someone we made up to make us feel better about ourselves. I went to the funerals but found no comfort there. We sang songs and we committed them to a god that none of us ever seemed to talk about.
School, which had once been my only refuge, now became the bane of my life. I lost all motivation to study and do well. I took perverse pleasure in handing in work that I knew to be wrong. I became uncooperative and sullen and grew to resent my teachers and fellow students more and more. What was the point of it all anyway? To get a good job? To earn lots of money? We were all going to die and it all seemed like a momentous waste of time and effort. What good will a job and money do when we’re dead?
Human behaviour cannot be explained without reference to the meaning and intentions people give to their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not. It is the ideas my patients have that fascinate – and, to be honest, appal – me: for they are the source of their misery. Their ideas make themselves manifest even in the language they use. The frequency of locutions of passivity is a striking example. An alcoholic, explaining his misconduct while drunk, will say, ‘The beer went mad.’ A heroin addict, explaining his resort to the needle, will say, ‘Heroin’s everywhere.’ It is as if the beer drank the alcoholic and the heroin injected the addict. Other locutions plainly serve an exculpatory function and represent a denial of agency and therefore of personal responsibility. The murderer claims the knife went in or the gun went off. The man who attacks his sexual consort claims that he ‘went into one’ or ‘lost it’, as if he were the victim of a kind of epilepsy of which it is the doctor’s duty to cure him. Until the cure, of course, he can continue to abuse his consort – for such abuse has certain advantages for him – safe in the knowledge that he, not his consort, is its true victim. I have come to see the uncovering of this dishonesty and self-deception as an essential part of my work. When a man tells me, in explanation of his anti-social behaviour, that he is easily led, I ask him whether he was ever easily led to study mathematics or the subjunctives of French verbs. Invariably the man begins to laugh: the absurdity of what he has said is immediately apparent to him. Indeed, he will acknowledge that he knew how absurd it was all along, but that certain advantages, both psychological and social, accrued by keeping up the pretence. The idea that one is not an agent but the helpless victim of circumstances, or of large occult sociological or economic forces, does not come naturally, as an inevitable concomitant of experience. On the contrary, only in extreme circumstances is helplessness directly experienced in the way the blueness of the sky is experienced. Agency, by contrast, is the common experience of us all. We know our will’s free, and there’s an end on’t.
It’s New Years Eve and there’s a big rave on in Bradford. There’s a lot to do. We’ve to go and score for a start. We pick up 200 LSD tabs, 100 Es and a couple of ounces of speed. We might as well make a few quid while we’re there. They reckon there’s going to be thousands there so we’ll have no bother getting shot of them. How mad is this? 3000 people rocking the place! I drop an E and some speed and wait for the party to really start. I can’t feel my legs! I’m flying! I just feel so much love! How can this be wrong? How can this be illegal? Just feel it! I never want this to end! My head is mashed, battered, fried. What am I doing? I haven’t slept for days. I can’t think straight. What am I doing? I don’t even know what I’m taking half the time. It’s not so much fun any more.
There’s got to be more to life than this, surely. Why won’t my friends discuss it? Why can’t we face the truth that our lives are going nowhere? I feel like we are missing something important, but I don’t know what it is. I want to ask questions, but I don’t know what questions to ask. I don’t know who to ask. I want answers, but nobody has any. Everybody has ideas and theories, but nobody has answers.
Violent criminals often use an expression auxiliary to ‘My head went’ when explaining their deeds: ‘It wasn’t me.’ Here is the psychobabble of the slums, the doctrine of the ‘Real Me’ as refracted through the lens of urban degradation. The Real Me has nothing to do with the phenomenal me, the me that
snatches old ladies’ bags, breaks into other people’s houses, beats up my wife and children, or repeatedly drinks too much and gets involved in brawls. No, the Real Me is an immaculate conception, untouched by human conduct: it is that unassailable core of virtue that enables me to retain my self-respect whatever I do. What I am is not at all determined by what I do; and insofar as what I do has any moral significance at all, it is up to others to ensure that the phenomenal me acts in accordance with the Real Me.
At the very heart of all this passivity and refusal of responsibility is a deep dishonesty – what Sartre would have called bad faith. For however vehemently criminals try to blame others, and whatever appearance of sincerity they manage to convey while they do so, they know at least some of the time that what they say is untrue. This is clear in the habit drug addicts often have of altering their language according to their interlocutors. To doctors, social workers, and probation officers – to all who might prove useful to them either in a prescribing or a testimonial capacity – they emphasise their overwhelming and overpowering craving for a drug, the intolerability of the withdrawal effects from it, the deleterious effects it has upon their character, judgment, and behaviour. Among themselves, though, their language is quite different, optimistic rather than abject: it is about where you can obtain the best-quality drug, where it is cheapest, and how to heighten its effects.
Among themselves, though, what must be the discourse as they establish contacts, learn new techniques, and deride the poor fools who earn an honest living but never grow rich? That their outlook is dishonest and self-serving is apparent in their attitude towards those whom they believe to have done them wrong. For example, they do not say of the policemen who they allege (often plausibly) have beaten them up, ‘Poor cops! They were brought up in authoritarian homes and now project the anger that is really directed at their bullying fathers onto me. They need counselling. They need their heads sorted out.’ On the contrary, they say, with force and explosive emotion, ‘The bastards!’
That’s how I met them, the Christians. The Bible bashers, gimps, freaks. Take your pick. They just turned up one day out of the blue. I wasn’t too sure at first. Maybe they weren’t Christians. Maybe they were the police. They had hired the gym in the Centre and invited us in to play football with them. I was highly suspicious. People just don’t turn up out of nowhere and ask you to play football, do they?
‘Why don’t you just shut up going on about God, Mate?’ ‘Because he wants to have a relationship with you.’ ‘You what? A relationship? What you on about, Mate? Are you off your head or what?’ ‘God loves you, Mez.’ ‘Well that’s a real comfort when I’m sleeping on my floor tonight. If God loves me, Mate, then why does my life suck?’ ‘Because of your sin.’ ‘Tell you what, why don’t you and I go outside and we’ll see if your mighty God can stop me kicking your backside. How about that, God freak?’ I had another panic attack today. That’s the third one this week. I can’t seem to control them. Sometimes my chest tightens up and I get pains in my arms and can’t breathe. I curl up into a ball and pray that it will go away. God, please help me!
Sometimes I’m nearly convinced by these guys. I mean, they are so into it. They are so excited about it all. I have nothing in my life that gets me that excited. I have nothing in my life, full stop.
‘Oi, Mate. You serving on D-wing tonight?’ ‘Yeh.’ ‘Will you give this to Johnno for me?’ It’s a little plastic envelope full of smack. Everyone knows Johnno. He’s doing life for killing his wife’s boyfriend. I pass it on and make two new friends. That’s the way it works. I could charge, but I decide that I need friends more than I need snout. That’s how it goes. Tobacco, letters, phone cards, drugs, they all get passed on from wing to wing. A favour here, a favour there. Building up friends in case of emergency.
‘Quick, before a screw comes!’ One by one we pour our slop buckets under the gap of the cell door. There are about a dozen buckets in all. ‘Who’s this one?’ ‘A priest, I think. He nonced a nine month old baby.’ Another nonce got it this morning. Someone stabbed him in the buttocks. Apparently he squealed like a baby. Why do I do these things? Where’s the justice in this world? How can one man get nine months for noncing a kid and another get three years for stealing a car? Sort that one out, God. Sometimes I think about God and all that stuff when I’m alone in my cell, but the noise of life just seems to block it all out. Some lad got raped today on B-wing. He was a first timer like me. We were on total shut-down until the busies arrived and sorted it out. Freaks me out thinking about it.
I got a letter this morning from one of those Christians. They want to know if they can come and see me. Why not? I don’t get that many visitors anyway. Maybe they’ll be good for a bit of snout. I decide to send them a Visiting Order.
LAST WEEK, a 17-year-old girl was admitted to my ward with such acute alcohol poisoning that she could scarcely breathe by her own unaided efforts, alcohol being a respiratory depressant. When finally she woke, 12 hours later, she told me that she had been a heavy drinker since the age of 12. She had abjured alcohol for four months before her admission, she told me, but had just returned to the bottle because of a crisis. Her boyfriend, aged 16, had just been sentenced to three years’ detention for a series of burglaries and assaults. He was what she called her ‘third long-term relationship’ – the first two having lasted four and six weeks, respectively. But after four months of life with the young burglar, the prospect of separation from him was painful enough to drive her back to drink. It happened that I also knew her mother, a chronic alcoholic with a taste for violent boyfriends, the latest of whom had been stabbed in the heart a few weeks before in a pub brawl. The surgeons in my hospital saved his life; and to celebrate his recovery and discharge, he had gone straight to the pub. From there he went home, drunk, and beat up my patient’s mother. My patient was intelligent but badly-educated, as only products of the British educational system can be after eleven years of compulsory school attendance. She thought the Second World War took place in the 1970s and could give me not a single correct historical date. I asked her whether she thought a young and violent burglar would have proved much of a companion. She admitted that he wouldn’t, but said that he was the type she liked; besides which – in slight contradiction – all boys were the same. I warned her as graphically as I could that she was already well down the slippery slope leading to poverty and misery – that, as I knew from the experience of untold patients, she would soon have a succession of possessive, exploitative, and violent boyfriends unless she changed her life. I told her that in the past few days I had seen two women patients who had had their heads rammed down the lavatory, one who had had her head smashed through a window and her throat cut on the shards of glass, one who had had her arm, jaw, and skull broken, and one who had been suspended by her ankles from a tenth-floor window to the tune of, ‘Die, you bitch!’ ‘I can look after myself,’ said my 17-year-old. ‘But men are stronger than women,’ I said. ‘When it comes to violence, they are at an advantage.’ ‘That’s a sexist thing to say,’ she replied. A girl who had absorbed nothing at school had nevertheless absorbed the shibboleths of political correctness in general, and of feminism in particular. ‘But it’s a plain, straightforward, and inescapable fact,’ I said. ‘It’s sexist,’ she reiterated firmly.
They came. These people travelled 250 miles to visit me for fifteen minutes. They even brought me a personal stereo so that I could listen to music. I don’t know who’s more freaked out here, them or me? ‘Right, time’s up, McConnell.’ ‘OK, Boss.’ ‘Thanks for coming.’ For the first time since I’d met these people they never once referred to Jesus or God. They talked to me like a real person and not some pet project. For the first time I began to take their message seriously. Maybe there was something to all this Jesus stuff after all. I mean, who would come all that way for a fifteen minute chat with a bloke who does nothing but give them grief ?
The gates swung open and I stepped outside. I had stepped outside many times before on my way to the fields to work. But this time I was not under guard. This time I was a free man. I took a deep breath and waited for the feeling of elation I was told would come. I watched as wives, girlfriends, children and parents met those released with me. But nobody came for me. I was a twenty-two-year-old, drug addicted, ex con with thirty quid in his pocket and a chip on each shoulder. A wave of anger and regret swept over me. Prison had not changed me. I narrowed my eyes in determination and headed for the nearest train station. Once again I found myself alone.
The relativism that has ruled the academy for many years has now come to rule the mind of the
population. The British middle class has bought the multiculti cant that, where culture is concerned, there is only difference, not better or worse. As a practical matter, that means that there is nothing to choose between good manners and bad, refinement and crudity, discernment and lack of discernment, subtlety and grossness, charm and boorishness.
The combination of relativism and antipathy to traditional culture has played a large part in creating the underclass, thus turning Britain from a class into a caste society. The poorest people were deprived both of a sense of cultural hierarchy and of the moral imperative to conform their conduct to any standard whatever. Henceforth what they had and what they did was as good as anything, because all cultures and all cultural artifacts are equal. Aspiration was therefore pointless: and thus they have been as immobilised in their poverty – material, mental, and spiritual – as completely as the damned in Dante’s Inferno.
Having in large part created this underclass, the British intelligentsia, guilty about its own allegedly undemocratic antecedents, feels obliged to flatter it by imitation and has persuaded the rest of the middle class to do likewise.
So I think I know what Marx meant when he wrote that religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the heart of a heartless world, the opium of the people. Of course, he misidentified the oppressor: in present-day England it is not the bloated plutocrat; it is your drug-dealing, rock-music-playing, baseball-bat- wielding neighbour. And inside this Pentecostal church the pastor addresses a large congregation that knows only too well what it is to live in the shadow of lawlessness, where psychopathy rules. He quotes the case of a seven-year-old girl, placed on a table in a pub by her mother and sold to the highest bidder to abuse as he liked for the night – a story I should be inclined to dismiss as apocryphal were I not to hear equivalently dreadful tales every day in my hospital.
I woke up tonight thinking about Jesus. If what the Bible says is true, then Jesus was innocent and yet he willingly chose to go to the cross in the place of guilty people. I mean, what was that all about? Nobody does stuff for other people without some hidden agenda, right? If God loved him, then why did he let Jesus do that? It just doesn’t add up at the minute. If my old man gave me up to die, I don’t think we’d be staying the best of mates! ‘Mez, have you thought any more about eternity, about the gospel?’ ‘Nah.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘It does my head in.’ I can’t sleep. I can’t think. I can’t even have a fag in peace. I just feel hyper all the time. Jittery. Nervous. I don’t know what I feel anymore. I just can’t seem to focus on anything other than Jesus. He’s just in my head constantly, mocking me with his sinlessness and his death and resurrection. I need to go for a walk.
I was sitting on a park bench when it happened. It was the 3rd of May 1995. I remembered that I hadn’t had a fag for three days and my head was well and truly mashed. I just sat looking at a flower. A simple daisy it was. I suddenly realised that this flower didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t the result of some cosmic explosion millions of years ago. It was created; it was quite clearly designed and perfect in every way. God was a reality that I had to face. Jesus has left me nowhere to run. I’ve been busted. I can’t hide behind my background, my life and my childhood anymore. I can’t excuse my behaviour, my feelings and my problems. I have to face the fact that I am a sinner. I have to take responsibility for my own actions. But I don’t want to. Everything within me is trying to fight, to escape these truths. I feel like I’m drowning. I can’t get my guilt out of my mind. But I’m scared that I’ll have to give up all my hate when I want to keep it with me. I’m scared that I’ll have to forgive those who don’t deserve it. I’m scared that my life won’t be my own anymore. I’m afraid of everything I’ll have to give up. I want to be in control. In control! That’s a joke! Is my life my own anyway? What would I have to give up? My misery, anguish, despair? I would be glad to get rid of them.
Every few months, doctors from countries like the Philippines and India arrive fresh from the airport to work for a year’s stint at my hospital. It is fascinating to observe their evolving response to British squalor. At the start they are uniformly enthusiastic about the care that we unsparingly and unhesitatingly give to everyone, regardless of economic status. They themselves come from cities – Manila, Bombay, Madras – where many of the cases we see in our hospital would simply be left to die, often without succour of any kind. And they are impressed that our care extends beyond the merely medical: that no one goes without food or clothing or shelter, or even entertainment. There seems to be a public agency to deal with every conceivable problem. For a couple of weeks they think this all represents the acme of civilisation, especially when they recall the horrors at home. Poverty – as they know it – has been abolished. Before very long, though, they start to feel a vague unease. A Filipina doctor, for example, asked me why so few people seemed grateful for what was done for them. What prompted her question was an addict who, having collapsed from an accidental overdose of heroin, was brought to our hospital. He required intensive care to revive him, with doctors and nurses tending him all night. His first words to the doctor when he suddenly regained consciousness were, ‘Get me a fucking roll-up.’ His imperious rudeness didn’t arise from mere confusion: he continued to treat the staff as if they had kidnapped him and held him in the hospital against his will to perform experiments upon him. ‘Get me the fuck out of here!’ There was no acknowledgment of what had been done for him, let alone gratitude for it. If he considered that he had received any benefit from his stay, well, it was simply his due. My doctors from Bombay, Madras, or Manila observe this kind of conduct open-mouthed. At first they assume that the cases they see are a statistical quirk, a kind of sampling error, and that, given time, they will encounter a better, more representative cross section of the population. Gradually, however, it dawns upon them that what they have seen is representative. When every benefit received is a right, there is no place for good manners, let alone for gratitude. Case after case causes them to revise their initial favourable opinion. Before long they have had experience of hundreds, and their view has changed entirely.
I said the Sinner’s Prayer about a dozen times again today. I don’t want to tell anyone about it because I would feel like a right muppet if I told people and then God didn’t let me in the club. This is getting out of hand. I’ve prayed about ten times today and yesterday and the day before that. I need to talk to someone who knows God a bit better than me, someone who’s got one of those relationships they keep going on about.
‘You sure it’s OK to pray in a car, Dave? I mean, I never heard of people praying in cars before.’ ‘It’s fine, Mez. If you’re a Christian, you have access to God twenty four hours a day, and you can reach him anywhere.’ ‘Man, how mad is that?’ ‘But what about the peace, Dave?’ ‘What peace?’ ‘The one that passes all understanding. I can’t sleep at night so maybe God hasn’t accepted me yet. Maybe I’m on the waiting list or something.’ ‘Mez, if you have truly repented of your sins and put your faith and trust in Jesus, then you have made your peace with God. It doesn’t make any difference whether you sleep well or not.’ ‘Serious? Nice one! How about one last prayer, Dave, just to make sure?’
I realised today that, for the first time in years, I don’t feel black inside anymore. I actually feel quite hopeful, purposeful even. For the first time in my life I actually feel at peace with the world. Church still freaks me out. Half the time I don’t know what’s being said, and those songs they sing! Some of the words are just beyond me. Man, what are this lot on! I feel like I’m going to a funeral every week.
I’ve started meeting up with this bloke from the church. His name is Mark and he knows everything about the Bible. It’s called a discipleship class. Haven’t got a clue what a disciple is? It’s just another one of those freaky words they seem to use? I think this lot speak some sort of secret language that nobody else understands. I tell you what, they ought to give you a dictionary of freaky sayings when you become a Christian. Man, I love my discipleship class. I get to learn about God and how he created the world and everybody in it, and I also get to ask every question I can think of. It’s much better than that church lark. You’re not allowed to ask questions there. You’ve just got to sit while some bloke goes on for forty minutes. I’m lucky if I understand ten minutes of it.
What had she known of this man before she took up with him? She met him in a club; he moved in at once, because he had nowhere else to stay. He had a child by another woman, neither of whom he supported. He had been in prison for burglary. He took drugs. He had never worked, except for cash on the side. Of course he never gave her any of his money, instead running up her telephone bills vertiginously. She had never married but had two other children. The first, a daughter aged eight, still lived with her. The father was a man whom she left because she found he was having sex with 12-year-old girls. Her second child was a son, whose father was ‘an idiot’ with whom she had slept one night. That child, now six, lived with the ‘idiot,’ and she never saw him. What had her experience taught her? ‘I don’t want to think about it. The Housing’ll charge me for the damage, and I ain’t got the money. I’m depressed, doctor; I’m not happy. I want to move, to get away from him.’ Later in the day, feeling a little lonely, she telephoned her ex-boyfriend, and he visited her.
I discussed the case with the doctor who had recently arrived from Madras and who felt he had entered an insane world. Not in his wildest dreams had he imagined it could be like this. There was nothing to compare with it in Madras.
I asked the doctor from Madras if poverty was the word he would use to describe this woman’s situation. He said it was not: that her problem was that she accepted no limits to her own behaviour, that she did not fear the possibility of hunger, the condemnation of her own parents or neighbours, or God. In other words, the squalor of England was not economic but spiritual, moral, and cultural.
By the end of three months my doctors have, without exception, reversed their original opinion that the welfare state, as exemplified by England, represents the acme of civilisation. On the contrary, they see it now as creating a miasma of subsidised apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries. They come to realise that a system of welfare that makes no moral judgments in allocating economic rewards promotes anti-social egotism. The spiritual impoverishment of the population seems to them worse than anything they have ever known in their own countries. And what they see is all the worse, of course, because it should be so much better. The wealth that enables everyone effortlessly to have enough food should be liberating, not imprisoning. Instead it has created a large caste of people for whom life is, in effect, a limbo in which they have nothing to hope for and nothing to fear, nothing to gain and nothing to lose. It is a life emptied of meaning. ‘On the whole,’ said one Filipino doctor to me, ‘life is preferable in the slums of Manila.’ He said it without any illusions as to the quality of life in Manila.
I’m glad that my faith doesn’t rest on how I feel. Most of the time I don’t feel particularly great at all, but I know that at any time I can turn to God in his Word and he’ll be there. He’s my Constant, the anchor in my life when I’m feeling adrift. I’m not one for all this emotional stuff, but I know deep down, in my own way, I love God and I love his Word. His love for me will never change. That’s much more certain than my fragile emotional state. If I’ve learned one thing this year it’s that the Bible stands above all our spiritual experiences and us. It’s the final arbiter in all things. It’s flawless and completely trustworthy on all things. The more I understand and trust the Bible the stronger I feel my faith becomes. I don’t feel so antagonistic toward people these days. I don’t much like them, but at least I’m willing to talk to them – even those I consider to be muppets. It’s an improvement, I suppose. I’ve got to learn to love these people. God loves me and all my (many) faults. Still, I find it so hard. Sometimes I wake up at night and pray that God will just take my anger from me. But then the next day somebody annoys me and I have to start again.
I look at my wife, my girls, my life and I see the power of the gospel. The true power, not just the intellectual proposition that says unless you repent and believe you will perish for all eternity. The glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is so much bigger than anything we could ever imagine. The greatest sermon that I ever heard was in a prison visiting room when two men walked in, looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘How are you, Mez?’ If I’m honest, that was the moment when I realised the gospel was true. Hell held no fear for me at that time. I needed hope; I needed the promise of, not only peace with God, but also peace of mind. I needed a reason to go on, a reason to exist. And I needed to connect with the human race once again. Jesus Christ has not only freed me from my sin, he has not only reconciled me to God, but he has changed my future and the future of my offspring for generations to come. He has broken the chains that bound me from birth. The cycle of pain and misery will stop with me. My children will never know what it is to be beaten at home. They will never know what it is to be abused physically and mentally by those who are meant to care for them.
Jesus was right when he said that the cost would be high if we follow him. I’ve seen many friends fall by the wayside in the years since Bible College. I’ve seen many people start on the Christian road only to stumble and disappear from sight. But I’ve clung to the cross, sometimes by my fingernails, and God has helped me to persevere through difficult times. I want to say that I‘ve forgiven everybody in my life, but I’m not sure if that would be honest. However, I’m no longer consumed by hate. I’m consumed by serving my Lord and Saviour. I’m consumed with Jesus Christ. I don’t skip down the road every morning whistling a tune whilst the birds sing in the trees because that’s not real life. But I will not let the past dominate my life and influence my future any more. The Bible says that ‘the old has gone’ and it truly has. I’m not a recovering drug addict; I’m not a recovering anything. I’m a new creation and all because of the power of God.
Mez McConnell’s ministry website - http://www.20schemes.com/