CAN YOU BELIEVE IT when God does something, however big or small, in the ordinary events of life and out of pure love for you or others?
I mean, really believe it?
I was faced with just this question yesterday in my latest theatrical adventure, presenting Mark’s Gospel word for word on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in Watford High Street.
A little way into the performance my attention was drawn to a young couple right in front of me in Cafe Nero, alongside an older man a few tables away.
They were just ordinary people – not churchgoers or anything, just everyday folk enjoying a quiet cup of coffee. But they were so attentive. I mean, really drinking the words in, their faces betraying strong emotions of empathy and peace. They were even laughing (well, smiling wryly!) at my silly accents and occasional jokes (yes there are a few in I AM MARK). 😂🤣
I couldn’t believe the effect the words were having. ‘This is what I’m doing this for,’ I told myself, as I went through my theatrical paces in the blazing sunshine. ‘This is why I’m here.’
At the end of the performance (so I’m told) they were given a copy of the ‘script’ and some other stuff about the church which sponsored me, and off they went. I’ll probably never see them again, I thought.
Once I had taken my applause and packed a few things away, I returned to my ‘green room’ (actually the church vestry). A lady called Jane was there and, amazingly, she’d been praying – praying for me and the performance, while I was out in the baking sun.
She asked me how it went and I was just about to regale her with the story about the couple and the old man when she interrupted me. “Three people were really touched by what happened, weren’t they?”
How did she know? Spooky or what?
Now comes the believing part. Does one marvel at such an eventuality and see the kindness of God in it, an answer to prayer and an awesome demonstration of his winsome power? Or does one (somewhere in the depths of one’s being) secretly put it down to coincidence, and ‘It couldn’t possibly happen to me’?
That little poser reminds me of my protagonists, the original disciples, just after their mind-blowing feeding of 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Check it out in Mark Chapter 6.
There they are in a boat and the wind comes up and they’re really struggling to stay afloat. But this time there’s no Jesus in the boat with them to calm the storm. They’d left him by himself on land so he can pray…
Here Mark takes up the story:
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,  for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:47-52 NIV. My emphasis)
Do you see what Mark did there? They didn’t believe Jesus. I mean, really believe in him. Not even after his walking on the water. Nor even after his calming of another storm. Nor even after the miraculous provision of loaves and fishes. Something in their hearts was hardened, it just wouldn’t give way.
Oh children of the earth! How long will you be hard of heart? (Teresa of Avila, Collected Works, vol. I, 445)
What was your reaction to my story? Disbelief? Half-belief? The full Monty?
I know what mine was, as is so often the case when God does something miraculous and kind.
We’ve all found ourselves there, my fellow hardened-of-hearters. Let’s pray for softened ones now.
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)
Stefan Smart will be appearing in I AM MARK @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019. Book tickets here: geni.us/iammark. View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc
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