As I sip my coffee I glance through the coffee house towards the doorway as I wait for a couple who want to meet with me. Few conversations have taken place over the phone with her; he is aware of this but has never spoken to me. I have never seen them before nor do I know anything about their lives, I can tell they are young and in some sort of trouble. When 999 is not the number to call in an emergency it’s me who you call. They are not an exception to this. I’m expecting an older couple rather than two 19 years old, as she has told me that they have been together for four years. It is for this reason that I don’t recognise the timid young couple who cross the main door, I guess looking for an older minister not the trendy young man sipping coffee so comfortably while he reads a news paper and does something on his IPhone. So here we are, both parties finding younger versions of what each other was expecting.
Lisa wants, as many women do, for the love of her life to be a perfect man. Meanwhile it’s the un-perfect man that is the love of her life. Over the years I have experienced how I or those who come to me in a desperate attempt to change others will go to the extreme in doing so. Lisa and Jason have struggled over the years with their relationship. My personal appreciation is that they started a much too serious relationship too young.
As life unfolds and each wants different things, Jason has changed she tells me, “the problem are his friends, he used to be a good boy. Now he is...well, different. He could disappear for days at a time, and neither me nor his mum would know his where abouts”. Lisa, in the midst of her desperation has gone looking for spiritual help. Oh! It’s not what you are thinking; she has not come to me. My part in the story comes later. Allow me to continue.
She went to see a baba and that would for a sum of money return a well behaved, loving, matured, Jason. What started as a solution soon turned into a problem, when more finances were demanded to finish the job. Refusal was not an option as it would only lead to the spirits being angry, reversing the good intended into terrible misfortunes for the couple.
As they both sit in front of me; their young faces and youthful spirit seem to have been taken away from them as desperation and confusion have walked into their life earlier than any parent would like for their kids. This baba has promised to improve her surroundings, by changing her circumstances and the people in her life, if she pays him some money. However, her present state is far from those promises, if anything it’s quite the opposite. She has run out money and he is not having it, she either pays out or suffers the consequences.
As they retell the story of how it all started and how she came to do what she did. I sit there sipping my coffee not thinking on what I am going to say, but rather thinking on my own life... “How many times I have prayed wanting for my surroundings to change but God seems to be silent”. I sip for the last time a coffee cup that has nothing more to offer me, but the smell of the coffee that once was there. I raise my eyes to hers and in a calm, direct and loving way I begin to say the few words that once angered me when I first heard them, but after these words overcame my anger; they changed me forever. “You are the problem” I say. Lisa went pale, and looks confused. I can tell she is expecting anything but for me to say she is the problem. Maybe a word to Jason on how and why he could/should change she was expecting, instead of her being under the microscope.
“Lisa, The God I serve loves you so much that He wants to transform you to the image of his Son Jesus, the price is free. You see, Lisa, change comes from within rather than from outward-in. It’s not about changing the surroundings and difficulties will always crop up. But, if we changed we could face each situation”.
As for you who are reading these lines let me share with you the lines written by Thomas Merton: “by meditation I penetrate the inmost ground of my life, seek the full understanding of God’s will for me, of God’s mercy to me, of my absolute dependence upon him. But this penetration must be authentic...but my life and aims tend to be artificial, inauthentic, as long as I am simply trying to adjust my actions to certain exterior norms of conduct that will enable me to play an approved part in the society in which I live. After all, this amounts to little more than learning a role”.
Paul is writing to the Thessalonians who are under persecution because they have accepted the Gospel, and although an “everything will be alright”, or, “things will change for good” line is expected in a letter for a situation like this. Paul says... “And this word continues to work in you who believes” IN YOU, because it’s you and I who needs to change not the surroundings.