I found myself the other day sat underneath the Hungerford Bridge in London during an intense downpour, whilst beside me a couple of girls from my university Gospel society sang Tim Hughes’ songs with this homeless man called Jamie.
I think we often look for reasons to move away from God, whether or not we would spell it out like that. Whether it’s busyness at work or school, social commitments and/or insecurities, or a general disenchantment with organised religion. Whilst life can be complicated, heavy-going and nigh-unbearable, I think I find it simpler without God. My faith has always been one of occasional peaks amidst deep valleys of doubt and frustration. My reasoning: I have difficulty seeing God in the world sometimes.
At my university, I’m involved in this society called the Hot Choc Soc. Misleading name, I know. We basically go around Central London with flasks of hot drink and snacks and have conversations with homeless people there. It’s not just some saviour complex. It works just as well as respite from the insular student lifestyle. It makes people from opposite ends of the spectrum of privilege sit on the same concrete and talk about the same things.
So we met this guy, Jamie, taking shelter under the bridge as it started to rain heavily (which as always made me sentimental for the North). As it turned out, Jamie was from up North also, and he talked about a sadly-typical story one would hear from the streets: of addiction; of financial difficulties; of families torn apart. He sipped cheap cider whilst he spoke to us, and showed us marks of self-harm on his arm. The scars, he said, were the reason he had go a tattoo over them.
John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.’
Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible. He leant over at that point and said ‘I still believe in him, I do.’ He explained how suffering was part of faith. He explained how recently he had read his Bible, which was protected within a faded Tesco bag to his side, and been motivated with the notion of redemption. Drinking less. Seeing his kids more. Praying when he could. Being thankful for what he did have.
It was that last point which was most impressive. So while the two women beside me began to share their favourite songs and sing them together with Jamie (I resisted, for my singing voice wasn’t exactly on par), I had time to think, in a particularly profound atmosphere.
Even Jamie, for whom life had not been in any way easy, and from whom almost everything had been taken, not only believed in God, but saw fit to worship. I may have my doubts, but at least I can contemplate them in a warm bed.