Discovering the Pastoral Heart of Christ (Ros' Blog)
When I was two years old, my parents left the south coast because of my father’s job and we moved as a family to Worcester Park. We remained there until I was six years old, and were members of Worcester Park Baptist Church. Our family had several more moves until I got married almost 40 years ago and moved to Hampshire, where I’ve lived ever since. I hadn’t been back to Worcester Park in the intervening years, although I retained some fond memories of it, and stayed in touch with one of the church members from there until her death about nine years ago.
But now the Through the Roof office has moved to Morden, and I drive through Worcester Park to get here every time I’m in the office. Although I was so young when we moved away, I still retain some vivid childhood memories of the place – the road where we lived, the Baptist Church, my first school, the raised footpath under the railway bridge, and the little shop where I used to walk with my mother to buy bread specially sliced for us to order, pats of butter, and ham which we watched being carved from the bone, wrapped in greaseproof paper and handed to us in a paper bag – no plastic waste in those days!
But my most vivid childhood memory from that time is not of the external features of the place, but of something more internal to myself. There was a green at the end of the road, which is still there, a large grassy area bordered by trees. And at night I used to lie in bed thinking about the stories of Jesus which I heard from my mother and in Sunday School. I would picture Jesus sitting on the green at the end of the road, with all the children coming to Him, and I would picture Him picking me up and sitting me on His lap. I would indulge in this reverie for a while, and then the guilt would start to kick in. I mustn’t be so selfish, thinking that Jesus would pay any attention to me. He was much more interested in the good children, the ones who did as they were told. It was very selfish to think that He would pay special attention to me, and I must not allow myself to dream this dream any longer.
So I have very clear memories of lying in bed, wrestling with myself, wanting to picture Jesus there on the green picking me up and sitting me on His lap, but feeling it was very wrong to have this thought, and desperately trying not to. Looking back now as an adult, I can see that the Spirit of God was drawing me to Jesus, and that other things were trying to keep me from getting close to Him – whether the voices of the adults around me (I remember the exasperated school teacher who exclaimed, “Why can’t you be good, like your brother?”) or whether there were spiritual forces at work, it makes little difference. It took until I was twenty-five for the revelation to hit me that Jesus wants to draw me to Him and to have a close and deep relationship with me.
All of this comes back to me whenever I drive past the little green at the end of the road where I lived for those four formative years. I was thinking about it very particularly as I drove home last week, because I had just had a conversation with Jenny Edwards. She has asked me to come with her to the DCF retreat at Brunel Manor next April, and I asked her what the theme of the retreat is going to be. She told me she wants to theme it around “the pastoral heart of Christ”. As I drove home, I thought about how that pastoral heart was longing to draw me to Him even as young as I was, and how a spiritual battle was already going on at that tender age to keep me away from Him.
We’re all familiar with the passage in which Jesus rebuked His disciples for trying to turn the children away, and showed them the importance He placed on children. Sometimes, to get past the familiarity, it’s good to read a well-known passage of Scripture in an unfamiliar translation, so here is Luke 18. 15-17 from The Passion Translation: The people brought their babies and small children to Jesus so that he might lay his hands on them to bless them. When the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents and told them to stop troubling the Master. But Jesus called for the parents, the children, and his disciples to come and listen to him. Then he told them, “Never hinder a child from coming to me. Let them all come, for God’s kingdom realm belongs to them as much as it does to anyone else. They demonstrate to you what faith is all about. Learn this well: unless you receive the revelation of the kingdom realm the same way a little child receives it, you will never be able to enter in.”
One of my great joys over the years has been to share my testimony of God’s goodness to me, and in particular how he used the birth of my daughter with multiple complex disabilities to reveal Himself to me and draw me into a very real and sustaining relationship with Him. So the idea of exploring the pastoral heart of Christ with Jenny next April is an exciting one to me, and I’m really looking forward to the event. If this appeals to you too, there are still plenty of places available, so why not consider booking and coming to join us? Follow this link to find all the details.