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I pray and, being English, I try so hard to keep the tears inside!

June 21, 2014

Last week I went into our Church High School. Nothing strange or unusual about that; I go in there several times most weeks. This time I was invited to something very special. I went to a celebration of art, and it was a celebration. The Sancroft Centre was full of displays of work, there was colour and texture and vibrancy. There was great live music from school musicians and radio being broadcast by students live from the event. There was a great atmosphere with primary school and high school students soaking up all the creativity around them. And more than that, they were engaging with it too. They were asking questions of the artists and deciding what they liked most, and why.

The quality of the art was as high as I have seen in many professional exhibitions but it was all produced by the high school students for their art GCSE exams. They may not be well known but the quality of their work and the depth of their imagination was truly breathtaking. Whether they knew it or not, they were joining with the great creative power of the maker of all things.

All of this talent, the visual art, the music, the young people taking interviews for live radio, all of that drew me to part of a single verse from Luke: “‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him…’” Luke.1.66. That verse was spoken about John the Baptist as a baby but I think all parents, and all good teachers wonder the same, “What … is this child going to be”. I saw talent and promise at that exhibition and I started to wonder, “‘What then is this child going to be?’” I talked to some of them. Some of them want to take their art further and others are heading in other directions; so much promise and hope!

But I also saw something disturbing: So much of the really good art was about pain and darkness, blood and sorrow. One piece was brilliant but the staff decided that it was too disturbing to go on public show, at least while there were younger children present. It was a simple picture of a teanage girl, naked and vulnerable, huddled, with her knees up close to her chest, but that wasn’t what was shocking. What almost tore migh heart out was the pain and the self-inflicted cuts and the blood.

These artists are so young and fresh, but they already seem burdened with the sadness of this world. I was moved to tears as I took it all in. I cry silently as I remember that there is an epidemic of self-loathing and self-harming among young people. They have so much but so many feel utterly worthless. I find it so hard to say because it is so deaply evil. The young should feel on top of the world with a bright vision of their life spreading out in front of them. But rather it seems as though they feel the weight of the whole world on top of them. I know that the high school is vigilent for signs of self-harm and does all it can to raise the self-esteem of all there, but still there is a hopelessness at the heart of too many young people.

That is why I try and spend as much time as I can in schools, primary and secondary. There is a deep, viseral need for hope. Hope that life has meaning and purpose – That their life might have meaning and purpose. This need can’t be filled with words or good intentions, it takes time and love and care. But I am not up to it. I can’t give hope; I know that.

I can’t do it, so I pray. I pray to be filled with the Spirit, so that my words might be His words, the right words. I pray that something of the living God may shine out of me and bring hope. I step out as one utterly unworthy to untie the sandles of Jesus, but full to overflowing with a sense of the value of the person God has made me to be. I pray that each of those young people may know the depth of the love that is there for them too.

I read again of John the Baptist that, “the child grew and became strong in spirit” and I pray that for each child and young person that I meet: May they grow and become strong in spirit, may they find meaning and love and purpose for their lives. I pray that for myself, and for all – I look into eyes needing hope and pray, “grow and become strong in spirit.” I pray and, being English, I try so hard to keep the tears inside!

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