How the tour feels, I

I will split my coverage of the tour into two parts; one informational and hopefully a little funny, the other actually informative about me. This post is one of the latter, because the official tour report can always wait til later, while this is, to me, more important. Please bear with my many words, but today (Tuesday) I feel like writing and am unconcerned about organising, filtering, and making this in any way useful.

On Monday, we went to Delft to sing in the Oude Kirk. It was a nice hot day, and Deflt is a lovely town with plenty of attractive buildings to see. The church itself is gorgeous, with a cavernous hall in glowing, inviting plain white, and a splendid pulpit. They have huge roofs over these here, which are very impressive, and there was a Lord’s table at the front with a pewter plate and cups on it. Needless to say, I loved it. In the vestry, there was an old bible on display, in family sized format representing one of the earliest printings of the bible in Dutch vernacular. Interestingly, it not only had extensive marginalia, but also a page of introduction to each book. Perhaps the ESV study has a longer heritage in its particular format than I had thought.

Lots could be said about what we did, said, sang, and ate, but it is fairly irrelevant. The point was that, as the first real day with the choir, it was a shock to the system. I have been aware for a long time that I do not stand up well under testing publicly, and that the choir always sees the fleshiest exhibition, but it was shockingly hard at the end of the day trying to come to terms with how ineffective and poor I am with the choir. Hardly anyone in the choir has any real friends on the tour (on the level of trust I aim for), and it is very tough when reviewing the day to know how to respond my inability to open myself up or get through to anybody. I have so little guile that I cannot engineer a conversation about anything whatsoever, nor communicate more than tiny snatches when the chance does come up. Moreover, it is so hard to be confident when within hours of leaving England my mind and discipline have deteriorated to shreds and I find myself ‘doing the things I do not want to do’ to a disastrous extent.

So, what did I do in the evening? I know my heart and my failures, and I cannot help being selfish and guard myself above integrating with the rest of the choir. However strange it may seem not to ‘dive into the same flood of dissipation’, I can predict that I will just have to have some very long quiet times in the morning and evening to cope. Getting on with it in the hostel is not hard, but Peter Edwards last year did save me a lot of time compared to working everything through myself. On the positive side, sovereignty is never unclear to me, and it was a supreme comfort at the end of the day to be secure and know that the Monday past was God’s day, and the next day would be too. Still reading Proverbs and Psalms, the truths take time to apply and rejoice in, but are the right comfort. I also find it very reassuring to keep spending plenty of time on behalf of family, Eden, the CICCU, friends, and so on. Selfish, but trying to be part of God’s whole work is the right way to go about it.

Tim Chester’s Bonhoeffer quotations today are extraordinarily precise as ever (mentioned on my GReader stream before), and describe exactly the place where I find myself. Self-pity is tempting, but it is possible at the end of each day to have praise for my little immature baby steps away from the warm fuzzy church and be confident that here in world I am safe (Hope folk, see Jerram’s talk) and that here my feeble life is worthwhile.

To conclude Monday then (yesterday as of writing): it was hard to act, speak, know how to respond to those around me, but tiny snatches of contact with a few people is progress, and my mind is safe from wallowing kept so far by focus on the truth. For such a bad disciple, that is a good day.

On Tuesday, we stayed in Rotterdam and sang in an Anglican church. As yesterday, really, with a few more moments of contact. The hard thing though which I wanted to mention for today on a fresh theme, was in the afternoon.

How would you feel if your best friend confessed suddenly to being a bank robber? You would find it hard afterwards. Should you let the information about your friend inform your relationship in the future? Would you feel a little uneasy after that leaving your wallet around when they came, just in case? How hard it would be to keep treating the same, even if were appropriate! I will be as open as ever with my own life, which most people friends never find out about for want of asking about, and my own extreme shyness in most contexts, but I ought to avoid giving details about this conversation. The point though is that it is very upsetting to find out these things (worse in fact) about friends and know how to respond. Characteristically, I was belligerent and awful in handling it, but I will be in need of so much more help in the future to stay friends and being just as kind in the future, even though it is essentially impossible to trust an unrepentant thief with your stuff. As so often in choir, I feel like my arms and legs are cut off. The essentials of life and friendships without which none of my relationships with brothers and sisters would function are essentially systematically cut off with all but one or two people in chapel, so that it is unsurprising that in three years I have made no progress with anyone there, managed to build no friendships or grow any trust, respect, or sharing. It is hard to lose the biggest limb with another person, and makes me feel just even more powerless, back at square zero without even any stumps left to drag myself along the ground with, when I had thought I had build up enough trust to move on to stage 0.1 with someone.

Still, there is this in God’s providence: Monday prepared me for this. Where I would have had dark thoughts before and vowed for the zillionth time to leave choir and focus on the friendships where I know where I am and which I can understand, Monday was helpful. I am probably more aware than ever with the choir of sovereignty and the rightness of living out whatever life in the world we are given. And, for every friendship-breaking setback there are good moments with others. My baby steps alone are woeful steps, and I may be finding this much harder than someone who has to force less to be talkative or even the many people I know who have some measure of maturity, but the baby steps are towards the goal and I am confident in my knowledge of who I am. So, I feel a little guilty finding a window to hammer this out in the evening, but after reading and pleading, it is not much extra time, so my main guilt is in whether this is the healthy way to think about myself (almost certainly I will repent of it when I am thinking stably back at home), and whether posting it is the right way to communicate. On the other hand, I do know the gospel, and would share the unedited version of my confusion with anyone if they were here. I have ample introspection to criticise my own brain-dump, and present it only as the snapshot of the moment as it comes.