Week 4 of our Iranian baptism preparation class, and the second week of listening to the candidates’ stories of how they met Jesus. Each person’s story is unique; but at the same time, there are certain recurring themes, or common threads. These include:
having a big problem, or problems, in their life, over an extended period of time—a problem they could not resolve in their own power—which may or may not result in anxiety or depression;
being evangelised, one-to-one—often (though not always) by a close friend or family member, someone they had known for a long time, and in whom they had witnessed a transformation in their personality;
having met Jesus, experiencing a noticeable transformation in their own lives, such as being notably less anxious or angry;
[This is not to say that Christians don’t experience anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression are natural ‘healthy’ bodily dis-eases resulting from how off-kilter society has become, where we treat human beings as machines intended to make or spend money. Nonetheless, it is to say that meeting Jesus is somehow transformative.]
the central, and centering, experience of peace;
an ongoing experience of miracles—by which, in this context, I do not mean dramatic apparent violations of the laws of nature, but rather a world-view that recognises grace to endure the challenges of life that, again, is beyond our own power to produce. (Miracles are in the eye of the beholder.)
I find this interesting because so many people in my own culture live with anxiety and depression, and face overwhelming grief for a thousand different things, caught up, as we are, in ‘the collateral damage of life’ (Pavlovitz).
I find it challenging in regard to the extent to which Christians in this nation do not evangelise; and in regard to the extent to which those who have journeyed within the pilgrim people of the Church have not experienced noticeable transformation, in either the lives of their fellow-pilgrims or their own—and so, in many cases, have walked away.
I am convinced that God has sent these Iranian sisters and brothers to England because we need to learn from them.
I believe that one day it will be safe for them to return home. But not, I believe, until God has done through them the purposes for which he has brought them here in the first place.