I don’t like the windscreen wipers on the constant regular setting. Swipe. Wipe. Swipe. Wipe. I much prefer to have the wipers on intermittently. Of course, if the rain is heavy, I have no option but to have them on constantly but it’s just ‘not right’. I’ve sometimes wondered why I am weird about windscreen wipers and I think it is because it reminds me of the ‘great Aussie salute’ –the brushing away of flies! But I don’t know! Nevertheless that is the answer that comes to mind when I want to explain why I have windscreen wipers on intermittent. Weird. (I know!)
We all make associations and meanings from all sorts of things. We learn the world’s ways and people’s cues over time. That look in the eyes, that tone of voice, that sigh, that closing of the door all equal an expectation of that emotion or behaviour. Sometimes we are right –maybe often over the years; but sometimes we are wrong. We have taken the inputs but come up with the wrong conclusion. Science works with this trial and error to make sure that what is truth is truth. It is a good way to work with repeatable, measurable things. But people are more idiosyncratic –though, as psychotherapy reveals, we are a very much involved with seeing, finding, expecting, and repeating patterns. So who is right if I say that you are [this emotion] and you tell me you’re not?
Of course it doesn’t take much for associations –how-ever formed –to become prejudices. I was driving home late the other night in the village and saw a per-son walking on the road in a place I didn’t expect to see anyone and dressed in a way that made me suspicious. And I kicked myself that my first thought was so negative towards him. I read the story recently of a homeless person on the street sitting there who had died and people were still walking past for many hours before the situation was discovered. The same is true for groups –we see but don’t see –and we say such things as ‘boat people’, ‘economic migrants’, ‘refugees’ –how we name people begins the process.
I have said over the years that how we identify ourselves either as individuals or in whatever groups we are in is very important. We can use words to describe our name (the surname is particularly interesting), our nationality / citizenship (it is interesting to have two as I have dis-covered), our occupation, our educational achievements, our position in society (whether by class or assets or something else) or whom we know. These are all important because they tell part of our story; we associate with them.
But what I think is first (above all others) or foundational (the ground on which we stand) for Christians simply has to be that we are Christians, children of God, baptised, saved, recipi-ents of God’s grace –there are many terms we might use to describe the relationship –our identity –that Jesus is our Lord, that the Triune God genuinely cares for us and serves us. Ok, that’s a lot of words but they are meant to convey that whomever else we are (not unim-portant!) we are disciples of Jesus and that association / relationship shapes everything. It’s the relationship in which we are always growing because it is beyond our senses so often –we have it through faith –but it is the relationship that helps us live and behave towards others because it reminds us that everyone else is also loved by our God too! GS