Reflections Blog

This is some blog description about this site

A thought from Revd Paul Lanham


Since writing the last column I have changed our car.  The decision was forced on me by its predecessor which developed a quirk of deciding when it would start and when it would refuse to start.  Everything was checked and there seemed nothing wrong with it but the problem persisted.

Then it excelled itself.  We were on our way to a gathering of retired clergy with the Bishop of St. Albans and had reached the city centre.  Half way up Holywell Hill in heavy traffic it stalled and no amount of effort could get it going again.  Eventually I got out to apologise to the van behind - only to find it was a breakdown vehicle. The gentleman had a fiddle, got it going and refused payment;  we slunk out of the city praying it would not happen again and cringing with embarrassment.  This was the last time we drove it.  The garage still could not find what was wrong with it and as they had a model that was ideal for our purposes we broke the piggy bank and exchanged it for one that actually worked.

Ever since then I have wondered why when I finally apologised for holding up the traffic a car mechanic should have been directly behind us.  It was about as likely as Judy's Premium Bonds ever coming up - she has had a few for over 55 years and has won two tiny prizes, the last about 30 years ago.  Some might say that it was a bit coincidental that it was just outside the Abbey and I am a priest.  I don't buy into this, not least because at the time I was torn between frantic prayer and despair, a sense of utter helpless fury (shades of Basil Fawlty lashing his recalcitrant car with a branch in Fawlty Towers) I was not so much praying as massaging the Almighty's ear with a shovel.  In any case, life doesn't work like that.  God does not look after His own in ways like this, as though Christianity is a kind of insurance policy against the trials of life.  Being a Christian may help us to cope with trouble;  it does not protect us from it.

It was all so improbable.  But we expect God to have our standards of tidiness.  In a world of logic and reason everything has to add up, to fit certain patterns.  We expect God to conform to them when in fact we are human and He is divine.  Coincidences help some people, they harm others;  this is how life is.  We have to come to terms with the concept of an untidy and mysterious God.  One of my favourite parts of the Bible is the closing chapters of the book of Job.  Job wants to know why he has suffered so badly.  Then dramatically God answers Job out of a whirlwind.  His answer is that Job is human and has no right to know the mind and workings of the divine.  The book ends with Job accepting that there are no answers to the questions he is asking and finding peace there.  I would commend this amazing part of the Bible to you (if you read it in the Authorized Version you will also be swept away by some of the most majestic writing in all literature).  We have to allow God to be mysterious, to see Him as He is, and to love Him without understanding His ways.

So I am left wondering why I got out of the car at that moment and found help so improbably.  I do not believe that God sent that gentleman to help me - but my blood runs cold at the thought of how I could have got out of that mess without him.  In the last resort I was just incredibly and irrationally lucky.  The mystery will always remain.

       Very best wishes, Paul  



PAX September 2021
PAX IS BACK - from October!!