Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

One of the things you do when returning home from a long period abroad, is you visit people. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, verbose plantlife, but no matter how busy your schedule, there is a shortlist of people who you simply can’t miss out.

a) Your immediate family.
b) Your best mate.
c) Anyone who visited you while you were abroad.

You have to visit these people no matter what. They might now be a brain in a jar living on the moon these days, but you still have to go visit them. They could even be dead.

Today was my dad’s birthday, so we all bought some flowers and went down the crematorium.

Revisiting a place that doesn’t change is a good way of recognising any changes in yourself.

I think the last time I had been there had been in April a bit over a year ago, on the 2nd anniversary of his death.

That time, I had walked around all the grounds and prayed for the recipient of every single bouquet, plaque and dissipating pile of grey dust that I had found. I’d prayed for 2 things – for their forgiveness, and for the comfort of those left behind.

I’d had a similar compulsive tendency a week later when working in Crete. We'd driven past so many monuments to those claimed by traffic accidents, that almost every blind mountainous bend seemed to have one. Too many, in fact. Maybe they were actually look-out plaques. Saying in Greek something like "LOOK-OUT!" (1 out of 10, all right, I'll shutup)

Anyway, today at the crematorium, I was past praying for everyone individually, so I went next door to the graveyard, and found a spare patch of untouched ground, where I lay down in the sunshine.

Morbidly, it was my way of praying without words. I was telling God that I felt dead, and that I really wasn’t interested in a life that, after 34 years, was still crammed with frustrated unfulfilment.

Without a vision, the people die.

So, had any of my futures come to pass yet?

I was still at home, still unemployed, still with the same friends, almost all of whom were now married with kids and careers and no time to see me. In fact, was anything about my life even different at 34 to when I had been 18? Oh yeah – now my dad was dead.


For years now I’ve carried a quiet sense of redundance, that God has a great life for every single person in the world, except me.

I am really getting tired of hearing people protest “Oh but I wish could do what you can. You have no ties. You can just get up and go to New Zealand for a year – I really wish I could do that. Of course I would never leave my wife/kids/career which mean everything to me…”

That’s right – you wouldn’t.

Alone by the bush where we’d sprinkled his ashes 3 years ago, I carried-out the same pointless exercise that so many bereaved people do – I caught up with the deceased.

I mean you have to – you have to let out all the news that, out of habit, you’ve hung-onto to tell them about.

So I imagined that he was somehow there with me, invisibly dressed in his overheating suit, and able to hear my muttering. Expressing not a single emotion as usual, but still grimly believing that I was somehow going to have a normal life like everybody else.

I told him the highlights and lowlights of New Zealand, how things had unfolded, my beliefs about the future and my reasons for those beliefs.

In short, I talked to him in exactly the same way that, had he been alive, I would never have.

I could never really talk to my dad.

As usual I left, believing 100% that he had not heard a single word, and considering that to be a good thing.

Father wasn’t a Christian in the normal sense of the word. As far as I know he never prayed, read the Bible, went to church or anything like that, in fact he once told me to take the Bible with a pinch of salt.

Yet on the 2000 census he wrote his religion down as “Church Of England.”

The hardest thing about his death was reconciling his apparent unbelief with salvation. The two didn’t go together, and yet to reconcile them, I had to change either my faith or my memory of my dad. And honesty wouldn’t let me budge on either of those.

And what the heck is a “Christian” anyway?

“If you confess with your lips that Christ is Lord, and believe it in your heart, you will be saved.”

I think salvation is a truth that cannot be expressed in words. In today’s automated world of rigid company policy, dogged beaurocracy and “intelligent” computer-programs (that actually follow whatever instructions they have been given), I think we’ve forgotten that God’s natural world is not like that.

God doesn’t need a rule to follow in order to save time when deciding who’s in and who’s out. I think God considers each of us on an individual case-by-case basis.

I think he looks at our heart.

I cannot say “My dad is saved because he was a Christian,” because I still don't know what a "Christian" is.

I cannot say “My dad is saved because he was a good man,” because none of us is.

I cannot say “My dad is saved because I want him to be,” because that is just delusional wishful thinking.

I can say “My dad is saved because it is right.”

And I have no words that can express that equation.


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