When God's finished, I'm still the same me.
“Hello, Adrian. It’s Ross Moughtin!” Huge laugh. “Come right up.” It’s September and once again I am organising the annual reunion of my class at Waterloo Grammar School 1960-1967. It began when I met up with Doug in 2009. We realized that it would soon be 50 years since we began our seven formative years together at WGS. So I thought it a good idea to organise a reunion at the Royal. However, such was the power of the internet the invitation went viral and no less than 24 classmates turned, most of whom I had not seen for those intervening 50 years. We now do it every year. Easy to organise. Colin comes over each time from Vancouver Island. However, one person we all had lost contact with was Adrian – which was a pity because he was the one who sat next to me in room B for a whole four years. Also we had both gone to the same primary school, St Nicholas’. Adrian left WGS after ‘O-levels’ when his parents moved house. Then last year he surfaced, living in Crosby of all places. I emailed him – but no other contact. Until yesterday. While visiting my convalescing brother-in-law in Crosby I decided to simply do a cold call on Adrian: I knew where he lived. And I rang the doorbell. It is strange meeting someone you know well but haven’t seen for 52 years. Knowing it was Adrian I could see the familiar face – although I’m not sure I would have recognised him as a random stranger on a train. His laugh and conversational style are exactly the same. As are his habits. His room, though filled with books, periodicals, newspapers and all kinds of stuff was as perfectly ordered as was his desk. He can still put his finger on anything he is looking for. The same enthusiasms too. I recall being impressed when in 1963 he brought into school the freshly-published Buchanan report on Traffic in Towns. Unsurprisingly he became a town planner. And even in retirement he is active in the consultation for the future of Crosby village. The same Adrian over the years. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Way back in 1972 Jacqui embarked on a lifelong project to improve me. Some 45 years later she realises that she has made negligible progress. Similarly God has a challenge on his hands. To become a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, is one thing. That’s just the beginning. To become more like Jesus, our sanctification, altogether something else. However, God is undaunted. The old Saints Together course began with an exercise of imagining a derelict cottage bought by an enthusiast. They then begin a total renovation, starting, not with the wallpaper or soft furnishing but with the basics – the roof, walls and floor. There is plan and there is purpose, not always obvious. And that’s how God goes about transforming us as we surrender our lives to him. He knows what he is doing and he is unrelenting. Some of the work takes a long time with little discernible progress. But he keeps at it, such is his love for us. So when my friend Ken became a Christian all those years ago, he already was a heavy smoker. As a new Christian the pressure from his fellow saints was to quit smoking. But he didn't. He could see that there were much bigger, far more significant problems in his life which the Holy Spirit needed to sort out. Had he stopped smoking the ensuing battle would have taken all his energy. No point laying down new carpets if the floor boards are rotten. Ken was right And only later did he stop smoking, successfully. God begins with our basics and works from there. And of course it takes a lifetime, such is the task facing the Holy Spirit We have our responsibilities, of course. I blogged earlier this summer about the spiritual disciplines, what we need to do to give the Holy Spirit space to work. Here I paste from 4 August: “Bible reading, Communion, fasting, fellowship, meditation, prayer, retreats, Sabbath, service, solitude, study, worship.” However, the point is that God’s purpose is to make me more like Jesus, not to be Jesus. I am still me, the same personality and enthusiasms. (Whether supporting EFC is a part of who I am as a person or a personality disorder to be healed, I leave to God’s judgement. Probably the latter). In other words, no need to fear the Holy Spirit, he honours me as a unique individual. As Jesus taught, a good father no way will give his child a snake if they ask for a fish, a scorpion for an egg. “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). In glory, when God finishes it’s still the same me, but now very different.