Today, despite other plans, I feel under pressure to write about the unprecedented riots in London and other cities and join in the debate that seems to be going on everywhere I go, from facebook to the radio speaker above my head in the gym changing rooms. But it’s one of those subjects where so much has been said already, so many opinions voiced, concern, horror and disdain expressed… what more can I add? What more wisdom could I possibly bring?
I have spent years praying for the younger generation, investing in all the younger people that I possibly can, crying for mercy for our land, for renewal and hope for the future that these kids represent – while also carrying my own children through their trials, as a kind of ‘living prayer’. This organised gang violence feels so heavy and frightening – is so depressing and overwhelming – and instead of feeling drawn to join the numerous calls to prayer across our country – I find that once again I just want to change the subject! Is my head in the sand? It’s all out of sight here in little Loughborough in the broad light of day, so I can easily avoid the television screens and newspapers and put it out of mind. But my reaction is about more than complacency and ‘I’m all right, Jack’.
Today I had my hair cut by a young man of my daughter’s age with a shaved head and tattoo, who is actually so different to what he seems on the rather intimidating outside. Spend a bit of time in his chair, dig a little deeper, and you find a true artist and professional, a lover of beauty and fashion, who has trained hard and now works as part of an entrepreneurial young team in a modern salon run by other friendly, shiny young people. He did an expert job for me and the whole experience was amazing, brightened by his warm smile at the end. It all served to remind me that there are so many ’20-somethings’ in our society working really hard and living respectable lives – a whole generation that is being tainted by the actions of a minority. I personally am privileged to know so many wonderful young people here in Loughborough – we should allow them some air-time too! It is not ALL ‘woe is me’ out there!
Maybe I am just fed up with the media bias at the moment… or maybe it really is OK to want to hear some good news stories. I’m not suggesting indifference towards those who have been robbed and terrorised, nor turning our backs on the problems; we need to be aware and compassionate towards those who are deprived and unemployable, doing whatever is in our power to help and to express the love of God as well as pray for the protection of the police, wisdom in policy and for all this to STOP… though it is surely unnecessary now for any more voices raised in appalled condemnation. But can I make a positive choice instead, a decision to focus on ‘something true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy…’ (Phil 4v8)? Surely this could be life-giving, a form of honour and praise to the Maker in the opposite spirit, a way to drive away the threatening despair and fill our gaze with hope again… a way to pray LIFE.
These are some of my Open Heaven friends in Loughborough: I have written about them before in The sound of a new generation. Loughborough is a special place for the young – 1 in 5 of the total population are students at the university – and it is no accident that Team GB, the the finest young athletes in the country, will be based here for the Olympics. My friends are just one example of young people in our land who are doing well, living life well – there are many others in London and Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and all across the country: I am sure they outnumber those who are destroying property and looting shops. As the Psalm says, ‘As for the saints who are in the land, they are the noble in whom is all my delight’ Psalm 16v2. As an older person it does your heart good just to look at them!
Yes, these friends of mine are mostly Christians – and maybe they are the privileged ones, the educated and employed ones – but there are also many simply decent young people out there, Muslims, Hindus or of no faith at all. They are the ones who will take this nation forward as the role models, leaders and teachers of the future: they are the next generation of fathers and mothers. In fact, it is their inheritance that is up for grabs here… As my young hairdresser said, ‘It’s terrible what’s happening’ – and surely it is his age group that have the energy and incentive to change their coming society, with our support and investment. All government and police can really do is lay down laws and forcibly stop criminal behaviour: the rising generation themselves will have to be the salt and yeast and men of peace that change things from the inside. Surely they will be the answers to the prayers being prayed today!
Meanwhile, forgive me, but here on Sally Ann TV I was actually in the middle of a panel game and we were waiting to find out what the 2nd most important topic in the Dyer family is/was… Because it’s only a week since we returned from our Grand Tour sur le continent, but the headline news stories – both the national riots and our own personal ‘father v son’ national newspaper article – have managed to elbow everything else out! I have so quickly lost the joy and wonder of all we experienced in France and Italy and that is a shame! I don’t want to become so weighed down that I forget my many blessings. Yes, these are serious days and of course we must watch and pray: (Be alert! The country need lerts!) But it is also summertime, holiday season, an opportunity to enjoy life, laugh and be refreshed: that is not wrong, but simply heartfelt gratitude for all that is good in this difficult world.
It has always amazed me that God Himself can remain so full of joy and delight at the same time as seeing the pain and suffering in His creation – and that Jesus was both a ‘Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53v3), and ‘anointed with the oil of joy above His companions’ (Hebrews 1v9). I suppose it is because the Lord never loses sight of HOPE. Hope is the very thing the commentators say is missing from the lawless young people on the rampage in the streets… which is so sad, because surely Hope IS a child.
So as darkness falls this evening, may the God of all Hope hear all the desperate prayers and be a ‘spirit of justice to him who sits in judgement and a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate’ (Isaiah 28v6) – and may those who carry hope rise up to forge the future in this land.