Robert's Letter for July & August
Summer is here at last, as I write the sun is still shining and it is beginning to warm up. Looking out of the window, the roses are in full bloom and thoughts are turning to holidays and leisure. I am content as well because in the great game of leather and willow, not only have England gained a remarkable win over New Zealand scoring over 400 runs in the process, but my home county has managed a win in the County Championship. It is more than two years since Leicestershire managed to achieve that so maybe they won't be in the “wooden spooners” this year.
I could of course go on for ever about cricket but I was only setting the scene. We always welcome the summer but in Britain we never know quite what we are going to get. A British summer generally is like the “Curates Egg” - good in parts. We can never quite guarantee the weather. I remember playing cricket in the heat of 1976 on a day when it refused to stop raining and with the sun bright through the clouds. Match abandoned I'm afraid, but that's the way it goes.
I wonder if that is a fair assessment of what Britain is like? There always seems an element of caution around in this country if things seem to be going too well. Some aspects of our sense of humour take it as a given and we always find it ironic when we are proved right. I suppose it is just one thing that reflects on what it is like to be British.
There is a lot of talk about that at the moment, politicians and others are trying to define what it means to be British. The problem is that there are probably as many answers to that as there are people in the country. In the past it seemed easier with the usual answers of, loving fair play and a desire to promote freedom, but that was never real as in the sense of being universally agreed. There are lots of people who might say the contrary within as well as outside our country.
I wonder, these days, whether Britishness is going out of fashion. There seems much more talk about the various nationalities of the United Kingdom. Clearly recent polls have brought a big focus on the Scots, but the Welsh are not far behind. Even in Northern Ireland in the last few years there has been a growing sense of an Irish identity. The English are perhaps beginning to wake up and make a response. The problem is the more you focus on the parts, the less you understand the whole. As someone who values our union, I think it is sad that there has been a pulling apart. In the last election and in the Scottish Referendum too much focus was put in a “tit for tat” way on how the individual parts can gain advantage over the other parts. I believe that the maximum benefit for all is achieved when we work and co-operate together. When we hold together and support each other we are all winners.
The question I might ask myself is “do I see myself as British or English”? It is probably an easier question for me than someone who has connections with more than one of our Nation's parts, or who live in another part of the U.K. than where they were born. The answer probably is that I think of myself as British first and English second, but my Englishness is enriched by being part of a family of nations where all citizens are valued.
These reflections started with wondering about what it was to be British and have drifted into concerns about the future of our Nation. In the end I don't know what Britishness is, but the concern for the Country is real. As indicated above I dislike the sense of defining “us” as against “them” and inclusivity should always be sought for. One thing that is good about the United Kingdom is the multi-facetted nature of who we are, the many streams that have joined together to make us what we are.
All in all though, I don't really believe we find our identity simply from the community, region or nation to which we might belong. The reality is we only find out who we are when we find out who we are in God. In this I mean the God who has revealed Himself throughout history as the Supreme Being who can alone define Himself by Himself. When Moses asked this God his name, he spoke to him out of the burning bush and said “I am who I am”. That's because in the vast universe in which we live we have a God who is bigger and greater than we could ever conceive. While at the same time, He comes to us and affirms us His children, who he loves with an immeasurable love. Only in Him can we be truly secure.
This reflects clearly into our faith. The Christian understands that our relationship with Jesus is the foundation stone of who we are, and we can only be this if we allow our relationship with Jesus to be supreme over all others. This is because it is through Jesus that we know the Father and there is no other way but by Him. You may ask what about all our other relationships and the answer is simple, it just enables me to love them in the right and best way possible and that gives another level of peace to our hearts. So whatever way you like to identify yourself, there is an invitation that comes lovingly for you to move deeper into the security of our God. In this way we can both accept who we are in relationship to others without striving, but also have the eternal peace of knowing we belong to an Almighty God.
May the Lord richly bless you.