Christian Viewpoint: Actions will flow from love when we can see clearly
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John Dempster considers we can face or darkness without being consumed by it.
“You’re a beautiful soul, Nancy.” I was fascinated by the series of conversations between Nancy, one of the friends who share a terrible secret in the recent BBC drama The Pact, and her priest, Father Martin.
Nancy is a Christian in a long-dead marriage who has recognised that she’s “just been marking time. Not really living.”
Sitting with Martin in church she confesses to “hiding who I really am, the blackness of it”.
She feels that her attempt at being “a good person” is a “façade, and behind it is darkness, biding its time”. If others saw us as we really are, she believes, they would recoil from us, and our relationships would collapse.
Father Martin is anything but helpful as Nancy voices these troubling thoughts. He tries to close down with platitudes her sharing of the inner pain.
“God has a plan for all of us”. We need to “see the bigger picture”. “You’re way too hard on yourself.” His words about Nancy being a “beautiful soul” are, we suspect, driven as much by physical desire as by pastoral compassion.
The priest is not forthcoming about his own darkness. Nancy tempts him as they stand facing one another. ‘Don’t you want to break the rules sometimes?’ He puts his palm on her neck, his lips draw close to hers. And then she breaks away, saying contemptuously: “Our actions reveal who we truly are.”
Nancy seems to believe that if our actions show who we truly are, then perhaps through actions we can compel the tide of darkness to recede. Hence, in The Pact she makes a great self-sacrifice.
Now it’s true we can find healing in the rhythm of better, positive choices. But there is so much more!
How badly Martin failed Nancy.
He regarded God as no more than an awarder of ‘points’ for good behaviour. But whole Christian tradition insists that though there is darkness and shadow in us – and that we need to face it, not bury it – God does not shrink from us, God loves us as we are, with an unshakable love.
We can come, in a glad humility, acknowledging the dark stuff, saying ‘yes’ to the love which cherishes and forgives, and learn falteringly to find our identity not in our own goodness but in the fact of God’s love for us as demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
And so on clearer-seeing days, our actions will flow from love, not from fear.
It is when we are most conscious of both our own failings and of God’s love that our lives shine most brightly. For then we realise that God looks at us and says: “You’re a beautiful soul!”