Category Archives: Theology

True Love’s Kiss

I started writing this post a while back (I’d say about two years ago) and couldn’t work out where it was going. Then last week we started a new series at church on the fruits of the spirit and I remembered it.

It was a bit of a strange evening, as nothing for the team had gone to plan. The vicar had laryngitis and couldn’t preach, the curate had been away on retreat and hadn’t had time to prepare anything. The worship team couldn’t get in the building because the key safe was broken, and the vicar was picking up the curate from the station. So by the time myself and the other members of the congregation arrived, everyone was a little bit unsure how the evening would pan out.

The curate made the inspired decision to get us all to do an exercise called ‘lectio divina’. We were looking at the first of the fruits of the spirit, love, so she selected a passage from 1 John 4. It was read out three times, and she asked us to reflect on one word or phrase that stuck in our minds.

Unfortunately, I am not very good at listening, so the phrase I chose to focus on isn’t exactly in that passage – I heard the start of verse 13 “this is how we know” and my brain filled in the next line from an old worship song: “this is how we know what love is”.* The following line in the song says: “just one look at the cross”. So this phrase was circling round in my head, and brought to mind the post I started writing two years ago. So I decided to finish it tonight.


I’m a big fan of fairytales. I love the mix of frivolity and seriousness, fantasy and wisdom. I love that the ordinary person can become the hero and that with courage, determination and something to fight for they can overcome any foe, and Good can triumph over Evil.

One of my favourite shows is Once Upon and Time (but I’m only on season 2 so no spoilers, please** – and actually I should warn you there is a season one spoiler up ahead). In this show, all of our favourite fairytale characters are trapped by the evil Queen’s curse, in a small village called Storybrooke in the middle of nowhere in modern America, with no idea who they really are, unable to be who they are meant to be. The only one who can free them from the curse is Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, but she was brought up in a foster home and doesn’t believe in fairytales. A theme running through the show is that the only thing more powerful than magic, more powerful than any curse, is true love, often demonstrated by true love’s kiss. It is only when Emma realises the depth of her love for her son Henry that the curse is broken and all the people of Storybrooke rediscover their true selves. It turns out that a fail-safe was built into the curse so that Emma, the product of Snow White and Prince Charming’s true love, could break the curse by an act of true love.

This show brings a new take on many old stories and weaves them together beautifully. But there is a deeper parallel to this story that was hinting at me from under the surface…

We are all like the inhabitants of Storybrooke. We are all under a curse that we cannot break on our own. We have all forgotten the people we were created to be. GK Chesterton puts it like this:

‘Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our lives we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstacy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.’ (Orthodoxy p211)

A while back, I was reading Lisa Bevere’s Girl’s With Swords, which also picks up on this theme of the curse we are under. She talks about how at the beginning of time there was a garden, and an act of disobedience, and that brought consequences. The curse consisted of three layers of separation – man was to live in disharmony with God, with the earth, and with each other. But there was always a plan to free us from the curse, a plan that required an act of true love:

‘You see, the Cross was always part of the plan. It was not a backup plan that was set into motion when Adam and Eve failed. It was the fail-safe. Each day Jesus lived to express the Father’s heart, will and nature to the lost inhabitants of the earth’ (p69, emphasis added)

The thing about the cross is, the parallel I mentioned earlier, is that we use the symbol of the cross as kiss when we write a letter to a loved one. I don’t think that this is a coincidence when the ultimate symbol of love was Jesus’ death on a cross to save all of us from the curse we are under. One of my favourite hymns puts it beautifully:

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

(William Rees)

The cross is True Love’s Kiss – the only thing powerful enough to break any curse and release us to be our true selves.

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* I just checked and it actually appears in chapter 3, so I’m not a complete heretic…

** I have actually been so busy that I have not got much further than the start of season three still… really must get on with that…



“‪Storytelling is a trinitarian act that unites writer, text and reader in a collage of understanding. Though distinguishable and unequal, the three participants are inseparable and interdependent”

Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror

A Glimpse of the Future?

I recently read the novel Flashforward, which was made into a TV show a few years ago that was cancelled after one season and ended on a massive cliff hanger… I read the book because I had enjoyed the show, but other than the basic concept and a couple of character names, the book bore little resemblance to the show and, sadly, did not live up to expectation. It is very rare for me to say this, but the show was better than the book it was based on…

Anyway, this blog isn’t really about the show or the book – it’s about the idea. The concept of the novel is that for two minutes, unexpectedly, the entire population of Earth blacks out and their consciousness is transported twenty-one years and six months into the future, where they experience two minutes as their future selves.

When they return to the present, they have a lot of questions – what caused the phenomenon? Should they try to repeat it? And, most importantly, is the future they saw fixed, or can it be changed?

Although the book was a disappointment, it did get me thinking – if I had the opportunity to see my future, would I take it? Do I want to know what will happen to me a few years down the line – and would I try to change it if I knew?

I generally have an overactive imagination, and spend a lot of idle moments thinking about where I’d like to live, how and where I might meet the man of my dreams, what schools would I send my hypothetical children to, what job I want when I finish my course… But while I enjoy the speculation, I like the openness of my future right now. I like that I have options, and that I don’t know what is coming. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it would be nice to know for certain that I will get married, and what his name might be so that I can pay attention when he comes along… but at the same time I know I’m better off not knowing.

In Matthew 6v25-34, Jesus tells the crowds not to worry about the future, because there will be enough to worry about when it comes along. He’s talking specifically about provision – comforting us that God knows what we need and will provide it, so we don’t need to fret. But I think it applies more generally. The present is all we really have, because we don’t know what is around the corner. So we’re wasting our time if we stress ourselves out over the details of our futures. I don’t think this means that we shouldn’t make plans at all, rather that we shouldn’t be so obsessed with the future that we miss out on enjoying the here and now.

Not knowing the future also gives us hope. One of the characters in the book is convinced that the future is set, and there is nothing he can do to change it, and it starts to have a negative impact on the choices he makes in the present. As Christians it is often a comfort to us to know that God has plans for our future, and I believe that He does, but they are not strict and immovable. God has also given us free will, which allows us to involve ourselves in His plans, rather than have them dictated to us. Yes He guides us, and He has an ultimate plan for creation, but He will not force us into doing things. At the same time, He is always working behind the scenes to bring about His will.

Does that sound like a contradiction? It kind of is… God’s omniscience regarding the future is something I’ve really been struggling to get my head around in the past year… And I don’t think I’m any closer, but I’m happy to live in the contradiction of a God who knows the future yet gives me free will to determine how mine will pan out.

When life gets messy, we can have hope that the future will be better, different. We can also trust that God is looking after us, directing our steps (Proverbs 16v9), and working for our good (Romans 8v28).

a slightly rambly blog post…

Sometimes, when I sit down to write this blog, I really just don’t know what to say. Sometimes this is because there are no ideas, or sometimes, like today, it is because there are so many ideas flying around in my head that I can’t bring a sensible order to them.

So this is going to be short today, but I felt I needed to touch base with the few of you who like to read what I write (thank you so much!) as it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

Life just happens sometimes, doesn’t it?! I have had a crazy busy couple of weeks, but mostly in a really good way. I knew juggling working, studying and being a sociable human being was not going to be an easy task, and some weeks are more balanced than others. The last few weeks have been quite hectic (although a lot of fun) and finding time to stop and think has been hard.

A lot of my course requires reflection, and in a few weeks time I would love to spend some time on this blog explaining some of what I’ve been learning, as theology should be the study of every Christian, not just the academics (I still don’t consider myself an academic, by the way, just a geek). We’re now entering into essay season, where I will be summarising and applying what I have learnt over the last five(ish) months, and through that process I hope to develop my thoughts in a way that is sharable and understandable to myself and others. (This is also me apologising in advance if I don’t post again until my essays are handed in!)

But outside of my studies, I’m finding it hard to find time to rest in God’s, reflect, breathe.

Recently I’ve really been challenged (again) about not turning God into a subject to be studied. I’m sure I’ve written about this before. During the Lent season at my church we have been talking about some of our core values as a community. These stem from encountering God, and include belonging to the community and growing in our faith, then extend into serving our neighbourhood and the world.

Last week we looked at growing, and the preacher said something that was so simple yet so profound that it made me stop in my tracks: ‘To grow as a disciple we need to know Christ and His love.’ He talked about the difference between intellectual knowledge and relational knowledge, and I was so challenged.

As a theology student (or even before I was) I have always found it so easy to fall into knowing about God, that sometimes I forget that the important thing is simply knowing God and His love for me. If my intellectual pursuits are not pushing me to a deeper relational knowledge of and love for God, then they are a waste of my time.

So this week I made a change. Instead of getting in from work, watching a bit of tv to relax, and then hitting the books, I added an extra stage in. Before sitting down to study, I spent 5-10 minutes in prayer, reflecting and asking God to help me. I am not good at prayer, so I have been using a guidebook to help me, called 31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and the Doer by Jenn Sprinkle and Kelly Rucker (available from The {well} Studio). The first day when I started reading, it hit me so hard how much I needed this book that I nearly burst into tears in the public library. A few days in, I am definitely feeling encouraged and refreshed to go on with my busy life.

As I head into essay mode, I need to remember why I am studying theology – to know God better, not just to know more about Him.

Finding God and where to look for Him

In studying theology, I am learning things I didn’t expect to, primarily about God, but also about the world and about myself.

Over the first few months of the course we’ve been asking ourselves: how do we know what we know about God? Where does our information come from? We have been challenged to consider what presuppositions we might hold, and think about how they affect what we believe.

I discovered one of my own this week, one of my deepest and most strongly held presuppositions, in that process, I was shaken.

My presupposition was this:

When I look for God, I will find him. When I seek Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, or even when I catch sight of Him out of the corner of my eye, I will encounter Him and be brought deeper into relationship with Him.

Why did learning this about myself shake me?

Because, for some reason, I expected that having presuppositions was a bad thing, and the academic process has a tendency towards suspicion – something I’m starting to notice in the responses of my coursemates in forum discussions. I felt like someone was trying to tell me this week that I had to be cautious when it came to my experiences of God, in case the worship music had heightened my emotion; that I had to mistrust my reaction to artwork that wasn’t biblically accurate; that I need to separate myself from culture in case it leads me away from God; that I am out of my depth on this course because I want to see the merit in everything.

Of course, I didn’t realise this straight away, my primary reaction was emotional because I feel very deeply. But I think deeply too, and my mind wouldn’t rest until I figured out why I was so hurt by comments that were in no way intended to be hurtful.

Last week I wrote about my words for 2015, and in a lovely twist of God-incidence, this week at homegroup we were talking about what it means to have core values. I realised that this is what picking a word for the year is for me – it helps me to make decision to define my year, but each word gets absorbed into my life. I am still dedicated (2012) to serving God; I am still seeking to change (2013) and grow; I still want to be healthy (2014) in all areas of my life. This week I realised that trust (2015) is already an integral part of my character, that suspicion is quite alien to my nature.

I’ve realised that I cannot be cautious is seeking to encounter God, but instead that I trust Him to be true, even if my motives or emotions or thought processes are faulty.

And I still trust that I will find Him when I seek Him, even if I am searching in places that others wouldn’t think to look.

I love allegory. I love it when God turns up in a place I hadn’t expected to find Him. I love being led to worship Him at a rock concert or listening to a pop song. I love discovering truth about God when watching a film about good and evil, or someone sacrificing something for someone they love, or someone going on an adventure. I love watching tv shows that challenge me and remind me of the terrible state of the human condition and how much we need a saviour. I love seeing people use their talents to create something amazing, because the creative process gives glory to the Creator God, who made us in His creative image (even when the ones doing the creating don’t realise they are doing this).

Yes, I have presuppositions, and yes, some of them will need to be challenged.

But this is one I am holding onto:

“You will seek me

and find me

when you seek me

with all your heart”

(Jeremiah 29v13)

Be on the look out for God and you will find Him, even in places you’re not expecting to see Him.