One of the greatest sadnesses of my life is that my family aren’t Christians. I’ve been praying for them now for 23 years: and in that time there have been some wonderful encouragements and conversations. But still I long for them to know Jesus. And sometimes I grow weary of my own petitions.
It’s hard, sharing your faith with the people you love most. It should be easy: after all, you’ve got opportunities and masses of motivation. But you can want something so much that it chokes you. You can have a million conversations and say nothing. And you can preach your relationship out of existence.
As a child, my dad made sense of the world and held it in place. But when I met Jesus, someone else took charge of the world. My dad became a man: generous and flawed. I realised with a shock, that I could lose him. And that he too, needed rescue.
It’s a tricky subject to broach over dinner.
Dad, you know how you fed me and cared for me and taught me everything I know? You know how you explained the world and told me not to be afraid? You know how you taught me to think for myself?
You did a good job. But now – I’ve met someone else. More than anything else, I want you to know Him and like Him and trust Him, just like I do.
But you don’t. And I can’t make you.
This week though, I was encouraged by a piece in the Sunday Times by Jeremy Clarke.
Clarke is not a Christian and is undergoing treatment for cancer. But his mum, aged 83, helps out at her local church. Every Sunday she helps set up the communion table, but this week, she needed his help. He writes:
“I was incandescent. She should know by now that I am far too busy on a Saturday afternoon listening to the second-half commentary on 5 Live…to drive her to the flaming church and back again. And for what? To arrange a brass cross and six candlesticks in a line along the altar shelf and add a box of wafers and a decanter of wine?
…After we’d laid the table, she tottered to the back of the church to get the coffee cups and saucers ready. Meanwhile, I stood at the lectern and noisily read the vicar’s notes. The text for the week was Hebrews 12:1: “Let us run with determination the race that lies before us.” Beneath that, headed “Prayers for the sick”, was a list of parishioner’s names. Mine was at the top. I said to my mother – my querulous voice carried easily to the back of the church – “What’s my name doing on here?”
“We’ve been praying for you for months” she said.
For a split second, in a rare moment of objective clarity, I saw, not my mother but a Christian woman humbly at home in God’s house. It was as though I saw her as she really was for the first time in my life. I wanted to tell her I was glad for her and sorry I’d been such a damned nuisance all my life. But we aren’t like that in our family. We don’t even touch. So instead I said: “Come on, hurry up, it’s almost the final whistle”.
I keep praying for my dad. And I keep praying for my family. Keep on praying for your loved ones too. God hears – and we never know how those prayers will be answered.