Smashing Stereotypes

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

We all do it. Sizing people up, making nanosecond judgements about the people we meet, based on various unwritten criteria floating around our heads. Brainy. Boring. Mumsy. Geek. Chav. Fun-loving. Hippie. Mean. Tarty. Snob.

Last week, someone said that I didn’t look like a mother, I didn’t seem the type. Yikes, is that a good thing (as in, I don’t look all mumsy)? Or is that a negative thing (do I look like a self absorbed person who wouldn’t possibly want children)? Or is it simply that I look too young to have kids (I know I often look far younger than my age)?

But then I just chuckled to myself. I don’t look like a lot of things. I’m sure I don’t look brainy – yet somehow I managed to clinch a first class honours degree. If I want to appear intelligent I opt for glasses rather than contacts but it doesn’t always work! I probably don’t look like a poet or guitarist, yet I’ve penned quite a few poetic lines and have been strumming tunes for quite some time now. I don’t look like a teacher (yes, people used to be surprised when I told them back when I was one) – since I often seem laid back and totally not authoritative. I admit it, I’m no scary teacher, but I can certainly step into ‘Mrs Carter, teacher mode’ if the occasion so requires. (I no longer teach, but am still involved in educational settings.)

I’m pretty certain I don’t look like I could be fluent in German, yet I am (well, used to be), having studied German and European Studies for four years. Now I’ve written a children’s novel (as yet unpublished), I’m wondering whether I look like a writer or author. Maybe on some days, who knows!

And finally, apparently I don’t look like a Christian. That one made me smile. A year 8 pupil once made this announcement after the topic of church came up and I mentioned my interests in this area. “Really, you go to church?” he said. “But miss, you don’t look like a Christian!” Again, I really wasn’t sure at first whether this was a positive or negative thing. But then I quickly determined that it was, in fact, rather a good thing. Who says that a Christian has to look a certain way anyway? I certainly wasn’t wearing anything outrageous to class that day, just my pretty average teacher-y gear, perhaps my cool brown boots, though I really can’t remember.

It just goes to show how wrong we can be about someone, based on first impressions. It’s funny how in the Old Testament, no-one thought that young David looked like warrior or king material. In fact, he was the least likely candidate. Yet he went on to defeat the fearsome menace Goliath and reigned over Israel for 40 years. And who can forget Susan Boyle, star of Britain’s Got Talent show a few years back? No-one expected her to sing with such power and capture the hearts of the audience.

Has anyone ever been surprised to hear what your roles or skills or interests are? Or have you ever been way off the mark in your judgements about someone?

As for me, I’m all for surprising people and smashing stereotypes. 

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart: 1 Samuel 16:7

Caught on camera – Cameron’s great train gaffe/ FaithWalk comment

red box

It could possibly go down in history as one of his most embarrassing moments in office. That, along with the time he and his wife, Samantha, drove off home without realising that their daughter was not with them, but rather left behind at the pub. Poor Cameron, it’s not fun being made a laughing stock. Though I’m quite sure that someone would have warned him that it was part of the prime ministerial job description.

Leaving his distinctive red, ministerial box, full of official documents and potential state secrets, in full view on a train table, with the key still inside the lock, will be remembered for quite some time. Never mind the fact that Cameron was just a few steps away at the buffet car or that his official security people were watching over his stuff. We can all picture Bourne Identity style scenes as rogue spies swoop in to whisk away said briefcase, while bumbling officials sip coffee or check their Twitter pages. Even the guy who snapped the photograph and ran to the tabloids could have been a dodgy opportunist.

Oh the perils of parenting flaws or major gaffes in the public eye! We mere, ordinary mortals do not run the risk of having the times we left our Mastercard in a store card machine or let our toddler run amok in a shopping centre (ahem!) plastered across the Daily Mirror. I, for one, am immeasurably glad to be rather incognito in such circumstances.

So why are we so unwilling to cut him some slack or to downplay such incidents? He’s only human, surely we all make errors? Do these blunders really matter all that much? Or do they demonstrate the height of irresponsibility?

The general consensus appears to be that it matters because of his position. He’s the Prime Minister, the highest role in government. The overriding issue raised is that if Cameron is not so conscientious in areas pertaining to his family or state documents, how seriously does he take the job of running the country? Perhaps that’s an unfair assertion, but at the very least, Cameron should have pocketed the key before wandering off to buy coffee. Those on the Opposition benches will definitely be having a field day in Parliament over this story for the next few days. [Although Downing Street has denied any wrongdoing on the Prime Minister’s part, surely there should be more secure protocols in place regarding the transportation of official documents?]

The incident highlights how we often love to gloat over others’ mistakes or make jibes about their misjudgements. In an age of savvy smartphone snaps, which can be instantly uploaded to Instagram or any interested news outlets, every faux pas can be recorded and shared. It must make those in public office particularly uncomfortable. Their every move or slip up may become viral hits across social media sites or front page news within hours. And yet we forget that our every move is also being viewed and recorded. Not by the latest technological gizmo, but rather by our heavenly Father, who sees all that do and even knows all that we think. The tabloids may not show the slightest interest in our escapades, unless we hold an important position, but God is aware of, and is interested in, all that goes on in our lives – from the greatest to the least. In terms of high or low positions in society, it makes no difference to Him; we’re all on his radar, all the time. Both the good and the bad (and the plain stupid) things that we engage in matter to Him; they don’t go unnoticed. Before we’re swift to mock, I’m reminded that I,too, have made innumerable blunders or indiscretions. And I’m thankful that, despite my imperfections, I’m still valuable in God’s eyes. (See Psalm 139 for more on this.)

Copycat Christianity – It just doesn’t cut it/ FaithWalk

Images from Tianducheng, central China – a developing city…
(For more images, see here.)
Photo credit:
French style apartments

Much like these images of a misplaced, replica Eiffel Tower and European architecture amidst farmland in central China, perhaps we would do well to consider the ridiculous and futile efforts we make to look like other churches, organisations or individuals.

It all starts with the best of intentions. You can just imagine the town planning meeting in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, as officials lay out their visions of a European style setting, complete with fountain, statues and monuments designed in the image of central Paris. “It will be styled on the exact originals!” they gush, as the participants marvel over the accuracy and likeness of the plans. “It will draw thousands of inhabitants and visitors! People will love it!”

Sadly, not so. As you see the photographs of the new Chinese town development, at first glance appearing to resemble the French version, on closer inspection it soon becomes apparent that the comparisons fall woefully short of the original. For what is the Eiffel tower, without the Seine river? What is the European style fountain without the feet and voices of hurried French people milling around? What is the intricacy of the apartment exteriors without all the other sights, sounds and scents of that unique hive of true Parisian culture and history?

Frankly, Tianducheng seems rather odd; it just doesn’t measure up. The Chinese mini-Paris is sadly lacking in so many aspects. Even the indigenous population has failed to be impressed with the design, while the developers have been disappointed that dwellers have not flocked to their copycat city.

And yet, even if it did manage to rid itself of the farmland, the dirt roads and the litter, it still would fall grossly short of the original. For there is also something in the atmosphere when you walk the streets of Paris. From the smell of fresh crepes and fresh baguettes to the music spilling out from cafes or street performers, to the traffic along the Champs Elysees or mopeds whizzing around the Arc de Triomphe, or the sound of gentle French language from the tongues of quintessential, stylish French people. All these things blend in to make Paris, Paris.

You would feel immensely cheated to find yourself holidaying in this mock version of the city rather than the original.

Most of us would likely think it would have been better if the Chinese had simply come up with some new ideas of their own, even if they wanted to base their plans on some of France’s structural or creative ideas. Why not design their own monument, their own water feature, their own stylish buildings? Why not instigate whole new expressions of culture altogether?

In similar fashion, it occurred to me that so often we feel the need to style ourselves on others. It’s easy to see the glowing talents, skills or ministries of leaders or high profile Christians and start to entertain thoughts of emulating their highly regarded traits or successes. But why do we do this? Why compare our gifts or abilities with others or even start wishing to be like someone else who may seem to have all the credentials of a successful Christian, when it’s quite clear that we are unique in our own right? Why try to build replicas of others’ works?

How crucial to remember that we each have our own gifts to develop, our own life vision to pursue and our own influence to shape those around us. We may not be the budding human equivalent of an acclaimed Capital city, but rather a quirky village or trendy town, or bustling street. But at least we can be an original – not some second rate version of somebody else.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, New Living Translation)

The enormity of this Bible verse strikes me. God has envisaged some stuff for me personally to fulfil or create. He has a tailor made, individual plan for my life, which I need to discover through being sensitive to his leading and guidance. Yes, there may be some similarities with those around me, but there will always be specific or unique things that God has in store for me to fulfil. The images of my life should blend together to create a stunning masterpiece, designed by God himself!

If ever you’re tempted to doubt your own abilities or potential, or think it might be a good idea to be a carbon copy of another person, take a look at these pictures of a disastrous mini-Paris, Chinese style!

All Things: The God Equation/ FaithWalk

It’s one of the many wonders or paradoxes about God. Going against the expected, the obvious or the natural order of things.

It’s one of the reasons why I love Him.

Take this promise: God makes all things work together for my good. (Rom 8:28)

All things. Not some things or most things. Yes, especially the bad things.

It doesn’t mean that God caused or intended the bad things. We know that bad stuff happens for numerous reasons, including some that are totally inexplicable. And that, this side of eternity, he generally allows them to happen. Suffering happens in our fallen world.

But get this: No matter what occurs in life, God is able to turn things around, so that good can come out of something evil. It may not happen immediately, or we may not see the connection for quite some time. But the process mirrors his way of redemption and grace.

Nothing is irredeemable. Nothing is beyond the touch of grace. Just as a seed is buried and forgotten in the dirty earth, only to rise up as a beautiful flower or majestic oak, so too God is able to take the dark and awful places of our lives and bring about something that reflects His glory.

The story of Joseph in Genesis is the prime example of this. Joseph starts out with such hopes and ambitions, only to find his dreams shattered as he gets thrown in a pit, sold as a slave and ultimately put in prison. But even in the dank prison, God remains committed to Joseph and to fulfilling the purposes he has for his life. Opportunities arise, Joseph gets promoted and life starts to look good again.

Joseph endures a run of dire circumstances and mistreatment but remains faithful to God and doing the right thing. When he finally gets re-united with his brothers and reveals his identity to them, he says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT)

What an amazing picture of God’s intervention and grace! He didn’t prevent the actions of Joseph’s brothers who tried to harm him. He didn’t stop Joseph ending up in prison. But he turned those situations around and caused good to come out of them. Likewise, if we love God, he promises to make everything turn out for good in the end.

In my own walk of faith, I have seen evidence of this spiritual principle at work in my life. When my dad’s cancer returned and his prognosis became increasingly unfavourable, I felt compelled to invest time in writing a novel for my sons. The project had been on my mind for a while, but for some reason, my dad’s illness inspired me to write.

It was cathartic writing on the train home after visiting him in hospital. The more he deteriorated, the more I wrote. Despite the desperately sad feelings, and literally seeing him fade further away with each visit, I felt that I couldn’t just mope around depressed.  When he died in January 2012 I had nearly finished the manuscript. In the days and weeks after the funeral, having already given up my part time teaching job, I focussed on completing the final chapters. When I went to visit my mother a month and a half later on her birthday, I stayed up late that night, sat at my dad’s table to type the last few pages of the first draft. I finished around midnight.

It felt significant to finish a project that I’d been working on for over a year in that very place at that very time. While I experienced immense loss, I also experienced overriding assurance that I had created something of worth, a labour of love. I know that I probably would not have started writing the story, were it not for the difficult circumstances in which I found myself. The anguish of losing my dad was still brutally painful, but his death didn’t have to mean only an end. For me it signified the beginning of a commitment to write – to start this blog, to pursue freelance opportunities again, to consider publishing my children’s novel. I had birthed something out of the most painful period of my life so far.

I’ve yet to find a publisher for the book. But, somehow that doesn’t seem so important any more.  I mainly wrote it with my sons in mind, and technology means that the older ones have already been able to read it on a Kindle device. A hard copy isn’t necessary these days.

I love to be reminded of God’s ability to make good come out of bad, undermining the negative equations that should result from the natural order of events.  The above song from Jesus Culture, that we sometimes sing at church, encourages me time and again that he makes ALL things work together for my good.

And what about the car crashes, the emergency operations, the major disappointments and all the stuff that just goes wrong? I don’t know. All I know is that through the trials of life I have learned to have compassion and empathy for others going through similar circumstances, where I might once have ignored their plight. And I have learned to trust, as Joseph did, that even in the dark times God is with me.

So I’ll continue to hold on to that promise, and revel in a God whose equations often don’t add up.

The Women of Woolwich – Let’s hear it for the women…

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett remonstrating with one of the killers

Upon reading the incredible stories of women who shielded the soldier’s body and who engaged with the barbaric individuals who enacted yesterday’s atrocity, I can’t help but draw parallels with the brave and valiant women who stayed to watch Jesus at the crucifixion, refusing to let him die without friends and family close by, and those who were also the first to rush to the burial scene on Easter morning.

What incredible displays of courage shown in both instances. Women, undeterred by bloody scenes of absolute horror. Women, refusing to walk away but standing their ground to show defiance against evil and solidarity with the subject of unfathomable violence.

The Cub Scout leader, who calmly remonstrated with the cold blooded murderer on the streets of Woolwich, unflinchingly drawing near to the crazed men brandishing bloodied weapons, is a wonderful reflection of utter selflessness and lack of fear. The woman, a 48 yr old mother from Cornwall, thought only of distracting the perpetrators from inflicting further atrocities and protecting others. She showed no concern for her own safety, thinking primarily of innocent bystanders and children who would be leaving school.

What an amazing, totally inspiring display of calm courage. What absolute evidence of humanity at its finest, unwilling to let evil triumph unquestioned. Without any formal training or suitable qualifications, this one woman succeeded in redeeming hope in a hopeless situation. She epitomises fearlessness and true strength, without having any chance of reaching for a weapon in self defence.

And what about the woman pictured seated in the road beside the fallen soldier, praying over him? She thought nothing of entering this horrific crime scene to honour the dead soldier and pray over his mutilated body. In place of murderous violations of a human being, she brought peace and showed the ultimate display of compassion and care. She could not revive the man; it was already too late. But she did that which she could: namely publically mourn over loss of life, showing her respect and thus mirroring the love of a mother – an unrelenting, exuberant, undeterred love. This one action reflected the unconditional love of our Father God.

In response to this abominable tragedy, let’s hear it for the women! The women such as these in Woolwich, who, while going about their daily lives, chose to defy evil and stand up for the helpless. Countless other women across the globe likewise refuse to stand back and be silent, or run off in dismay. Think of the teachers who comforted and shielded the defenceless, frightened children in their care at the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, as a raging tornado brought down the school around them. They too acted in loco parentis where parents could not be beside their children.

Such are the women who refuse to allow their culture, their community or their nation be destroyed by acts of terror or disaster. Such are the women who fight for change or stand up to bullies. Even sadistic bullies carrying multiple weapons, with hands dripping blood.

This is one instance where medals should surely be awarded, even though they are not sought. On that fateful street in Woolwich those women were not seeking acclaim or fame. They gave no ostentatious speeches and didn’t attempt to seek reward for their actions. No, rather they demonstrated pure, unadulterated courage. What an inspiration in such dire and highly dangerous circumstances.

Let’s hear it for the women: fearless, compassionate, pursuers of peace. Oh, how we should commend their incredible compassion and feats of bravery.

Spiritual Climate /FaithWalk


I’m sitting on the balcony wearing a sleeveless summery top and denim shorts. The hills, palm trees and sailing boats contribute to the delightful scenery  from our holiday apartment. I watch people as they stroll along the promenade beside the beach and it’s amazing to observe who are the tourists and who are the locals.

It’s April in Majorca – a stark change from the wet and cold conditions still dominating the British Isles. It’s warm and sunny, but only the start of spring on this holiday resort.

There’s a woman crossing the road wearing a coat and winter scarf. It’s inching towards 20 degrees and I chuckle to myself. She’s obviously Spanish; she won’t be ditching the coat till it’s a couple of degrees warmer. The Brits are easy to spot; they’re wearing very little. Starved of sunshine and warmth after a brutally cold, long winter, they’re quick to strip off the layers and soak in the sunshine. Having left behind temps barely hitting 5 degrees for so long, 20 degrees feels blissfully hot.

So why the difference in attire? Most will recognise immediately that it’s all a question of acclimatisation. The Spanish are used to the Majorcan sun – it’s nothing special or unusual to them. They don’t feel a desperate need to catch a bit of a tan; they know they’ll be plenty more sun on its way. The thermometer will likely reach 35 or 40 in a few weeks and, for now, 20 is just pleasant, if not still slightly cool to them. Admittedly, even we have felt rather cold indoors in the evenings since we arrived.

This got me thinking about my faith – whether I’ve grown accustomed to the spiritual climate around me, such that I’m happy to walk around burdened by layers of stuff, rather than appreciate the newness of each day’s sunshine. Could I possibly be looking for opportunities to strip off some unnecessary layers such as legalism or spiritual striving, and simply enjoy basking in the presence of the Son? Or will I continue to take His presence for granted some days, knowing that He always promises to walk beside me?

Perhaps I’m so settled in my spiritual climate that I don’t even notice that things have changed? Has my love for God grown cold or predictable? Maybe I need to shed my coat of mediocrity and my scarf of smug satisfaction and revel in the warm glow of Christ’s grace once again, stripped of the cumbersome layers of obligations and concerns. I’m often so busy trying to achieve in my Christian walk that I neglect the simplicity of enjoying Christ and relaxing in his presence.

Just as the Spanish might take the sun for granted, it’s so easy to start taking the Son’s presence for granted. Whilst I hope that’s not true for me, I’m aware that I often don’t really make the most of  revelling and delighting in him daily. I’ll never know when I may next be led to walk through a valley or dark shadow. Life has shown me those dark days will come.

I should brim over with the goodness and spiritual warmth he pours out on me today. What a wonder to experience his light and tangible warmth! God is good.

Boston, Prayer and Tragedies / FaithWalk Response

Creative Commons: 4ThGlryOfGod

I wonder how many of us were praying for Boston before the Marathon or the explosions.

It’s not my intention to be facetious; I’m just considering some issues swirling around my head right now. It seems close to home, yet still far away. The hashtag #prayforBoston sprang up quickly across Twitter, as people of faith responded in the best way they could. When you’re too far away to give blood or offer help at the scene, prayer is the one thing unrestricted by distance.

As events unfolded on Monday, I began thinking about how much of our praying is reactionary, a knee jerk response to crises & collisions in our lives and spaces or the lives of others.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t pray after tragedies & events in the news. We should. We should always seek out opportunities to pray for those going through disaster or pain.

But maybe there’s something we can all learn from that prayer we are so familiar with – the Lord’s prayer, where Jesus instructs us to pray – Deliver us from evil… Your kingdom come.

It should be a daily practice in our spiritual walk to pray in the way Christ demonstrated to us.

Maybe we should return to the roots of our faith and revive corporate prayer… Deliver us! It’s not just an Anglican, liturgical thing; Jesus wants all believers to pray in this way.

Are we willing to get on our knees and pray for our towns and cities to be shielded from devastating violence?

I’m aware of the tendency in my own life to coast along in my prayer activity when everything’s going just nicely. When an urgent situation or major dilemma arises, I immediately think about praying fervently. It’s my natural response.

I need God when I’m in trouble. There is no shame in that. Even the psalmist illustrates how we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I am weak and know I need God in my moments of desperation, in times of dismay.

But what about praying with passion when nothing special is going on, when mainly good stuff is occurring in life and in my vicinity?

The Boston bombings have challenged me once again to pray urgently and wholeheartedly for my family, friends, city and country before they run into disarray. Before tragedy strikes. Before unspeakable horrors occur. I need to be reminded of this regularly.

In our towns, our cities and on our doorsteps live and lurk the desperate, the deluded and the dangerous people of our broken world.

We don’t know what thoughts consume or trouble those whom we walk past or interact with as we go about our daily life. The sad news of the distressed pregnant mother who killed herself and three children in Lowestoft struck a nerve as they lived in a street that I have walked along; it’s just a stone’s throw from a beautiful beach and I have relatives in that locality.

We shouldn’t live in paranoia, mistrust and constant fear. But we can pray – as Jesus taught us.

Your Kingdom come.

God’s kingdom come!  In our homes, on the streets, in our places of work and leisure.

Our praying will not necessarily avert destruction wreaked by those whose hearts are closed to Him. Disaster cannot be eliminated this side of eternity. But we can rest assured that we are fulfilling Christ’s commands by praying according to his will. We should not ever give up praying: “Your Kingdom come”. For where His kingdom is manifest – through love, compassion and grace – lives are transformed and nations are saved.

Let’s make it a constant thing in our Christian walk – to cling daily to the power of prayer. And at this time, as we pray for those affected by Boston’s horrific tragedy, let’s also offer prayers for the people and places near to us.

Also, be cheered by stories such as these to lift your spirits…

Amid shock at Marathon, a rush to help strangers

Museums offer free admission in response to marathon bombings

Bastille: Pompeii/ FaithWalk Comment

The song playing on the radio caught my attention. I’m a sucker for a catchy song, but this time I thought I’d inadvertently tuned to a Christian channel rather than Radio 1 and had to check the dial. My foot started tapping along in the car as I heard:

“We were caught up and lost in all of our vices…”

“Oh where do we begin, the rubble o’ our sins?”

I only heard the latter part of the song and missed the artist details, but when I got home I searched over Radio 1’s playlist and discovered the song named ‘Pompeii’. It made sense when I watched the video – the inevitability of the destruction of the ancient city, how not one individual could escape the impending doom.

The spiritual analogies are rife, and I keep listening to this song which dominates the airways as it resonates with our current culture. The video is a vivid display of the inevitability of the destructive forces of our sin. But the artist leaves us with no solution. We’re simply destined to succumb to the darkness in our eyes and souls.

But there is a solution. And it’s found in the person of Christ who’s made restitution for the darkness that seeps into our hearts and tries to take over. How amazing to know that we are not lost and we don’t have to submit to the overwhelming depravity that comes to us naturally. In Christ anyone can become a new creation and experience a transformed life. We can’t get rid of the darkness on our own, but when we let God step into our lives, He can wash us clean.

This may not be the intended message that the artist wanted to convey, but my spirit almost can’t help shouting out the solution to the burden of a dark heart that Christ wants to fill with his light. I’ve experienced that light and it’s oh so freeing. Next time you hear the song, think what about what it speaks to you.

Write the Future – How you might play a crucial role in another’s life story


In today’s world we are increasingly urged to think positively, aim high and set ambitious goals for ourselves. The self improvement business has seen unprecedented growth in the last thirty years, with demand for books, seminars and speakers setting off a whole niche industry worth $11bn that didn’t even exist much before the 1930s. Countless success stories of people climbing the ladder or turning their life around serve to remind us of the strength of the human spirit and self determination. High profile figures such as Oprah Winfrey or Bear Grylls inspire us to believe that anything is possible.  The old adage ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it’ is a popular motto.

Although there’s much to be said for the value of being the best you can be and trying to achieve one’s goals, it would be easy to adopt a self centred focus – seeking only to serve your own best interests at all costs. In the quest to make it in the world and be the best you can be, it would seem that there’s a tendency to forget that we do not live in a vacuum, where what we do or say only affects us, but rather that our destinies are intertwined with the people all around us – our family, our neighbours, our friends and co-workers.

The sentimental classical movie It’s a Wonderful Life shows us how just one life can make a difference to many others.  If George Bailey hadn’t been born, he would not have been there to save his younger brother’s life or to prevent a young woman’s demise. In a similar vein, the more recent movie The Butterfly Effect starring Ashton Kutcher, explores the issues of abuse and positive and negative interactions between people and how those actions can trigger a chain of events for good or evil. Although the premise of the movie is based on one man’s disturbed childhood and consequent psychological disturbances, the theme that runs through the film is a desperate attempt to consider whether we can effect major change in others’ lives depending on our own choices and actions. The dilemma for the main character exists in his stark inability to do all the right things to help others be successful and avoid destructive forces in their lives. The viewers soon realise the impossibility of one man’s mission to make everything perfect. Ultimately, he reaches the conclusion that is polar opposite to It’s a Wonderful Life – namely that his friends and family would all be better off if he had never been born.

In one sense, The Butterfly Effect is rather negative or nihilistic. There is no hope other than his having not been born. An alternative reality where the negative issues are worked through, resolved and where everything turns out okay is not offered. For the most part we realise that ‘happy ever after’ endings are mere fantasy for most people, let alone groups of people.

The flawed part of this story is in the glossing over of the fact that other people also determine how their life turns out, according to their own choices. We’re led to believe that the lead role has the power to save or destroy others’ futures according to his actions, yet it’s clear that there are a vast number of factors which shape a person’s life and affect their choices or the consequences of what happens depending on whom they live and interact with. It wouldn’t be drama without these stark twists of fate with their extreme chain reactions; we’re meant to feel disturbed and left wondering about the influence of our own decisions and the effects of our relationships with others.

This is a good thing. It’s good to be reminded that our lives are inextricably linked to other people’s – that we may not only be the master of our own destinies but also other people’s. At the same time, the movie depicts the fallen, imperfect world that we inhabit; we cannot be its saviour and make everything just right for those around us. One human is simply not that powerful, to erase all pains and troubles from others’ lives. Nor are we able to go back in time and make different choices. We all make mistakes or poor choices and have to endure some of those consequences.

Faith in Christ will also not automatically wipe away the hurtful and alarming things we’ve encountered this side of eternity. Whether you are a Christian or not, we all have to deal with the cards dealt us in life and face up to the circumstances surrounding our childhoods. But I am convinced by the message of hope and redemption in Christianity that is only lightly hinted at in the movie I watched. A life redeemed by Christ’s power is able to transform the stories of our lives, but we need to be open to the significance that our words and actions bring. Despite the pointlessness in believing we can effect change for anything and everyone (we certainly can’t) – we do have some measure of influence over some circumstances and situations, especially as adults. Although we’re unable to control the actions of others, we may well play a crucial role in steering another’s life in a positive direction.

The movie did then remind me that words and actions can be significant and that, to a certain degree, we can be effectors of change and influence. Ordinary individuals can wield power that is far reaching or that triggers a turn of events – either in a positive or negative way. I know that I, for one, long to use my words, my relationships, my actions to bring about positive influences  – and that it’s only in considering the circumstances of others more that I come to realize that life is not all about ‘me’.  If I know you, my life is linked to yours. The realisation of that truth is mind boggling.

For those who follow Christ, we have the reassurance that we can commit our daily lives to Him and be sure of his guiding hand over our life. We need not stress over the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices; we can only live as best we can with the knowledge that a life entrusted to God is secure no matter what we go through.  None of us knows what the future holds and we cannot control other people’s actions or reactions. But we can know the One who holds the future and who promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

We can also live more aware of the role that we play in the futures of those around us. We are in no way responsible for everything – (What a burden that would be!) – but we can play a part in writing the futures of others. Part of our humanity is irrevocably tied into the common themes and experiences we share with others. One day we’ll look back on the story of our lives to see what we wrote and what roles the different characters in our story played. In many ways, how we behave and interact today will be featured in the future stories of those connected to us. And I find that quite incredible to grasp.