by Jayne Ozanne, Editor of ViaMedia.News and Author of Just Love
I’ve been reflecting recently about the books that most shaped my youth and which helped give me a glimpse of a God who I was so hungry to know and eager to serve.
I think the three that I remember having the greatest impact were “The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson, “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew and “Chasing the Dragon” by Jackie Pullinger. The latter was recommended to me by a friend at Cambridge who had had the privilege of spending time with Jackie in Hong Kong during his gap year, and who had been “blown away” by her faith and ministry.
Her book had caused a bit of a problem for the Church, however. Here was a woman who clearly had an incredible call on her life, who had decided to follow that call despite the reaction of those around her – senior church leaders who would not allow her to serve in a leadership role in the Church because she was a woman.
I remember Jackie addressing a women’s meeting at Holy Trinity Brompton in the late nineties and explaining that she in fact hated women’s meetings: “Give me the men any day,” she said, “as they are the ones who need to be challenged about their views of women in leadership!” We had all laughed, but we knew that what she said rang true – many of us had calls on our lives that were being thwarted by a Church that did not allow women into leadership roles. So, Jackie encouraged us to just get on and do what God was calling us to do anyway. For her this had meant getting on a boat and ending up in Hong Kong. The rest is history.
Her powerful testimony of God at work in her life, as set out in her memoir “Chasing the Dragon”, challenged many. They could not but see the hand of God blessing her ministry – even if it failed to conform to their understanding of what the scripture had to say about women in leadership.
What she carried was incarnational truth – she was a living witness to the power of God at work in her. No one could deny that, not even those who were most vocal about the “clarity of scripture” on the matter. Here was a woman who God was clearly using, a woman who had brought many to Christ, who had founded and led various international ministries, and who was overseeing the work of many men.
She was an exception to their rule – and in being so, brought clearly into the light the fallacy of that rule. It reminded me beautifully of the teaching that I had had under Stephen Hawking – that the way to disprove any scientific theory is to find a counter example….only one is ever needed. In this case it was a woman – an incarnational woman – who showed through the power of her ministry and her testimony that God was blessing her and those around her.
Incarnational truth is difficult to argue with. It’s fact, it’s real and it’s raw.
It’s what Jesus demonstrated to us too. He came, he lived, he died, he rose again.
His own incarnational truth broke the rules – and as such the Pharisees couldn’t get their heads around it. They were so intent on holding to their strict interpretation of scripture that they failed to understand the core message of God’s love as revealed by scripture. Their focus on law rather than love is why they could not see the incarnational truth in the person of Jesus who stood right before them – their Messiah, for whom they longed.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Austin, Texas. I had wanted to speak to him to thank him for his prophetic role in speaking out for the global LGBTI community, and for his encouragement to us. Seeing my tears, which appeared from nowhere as I spoke, he climbed over the table that separated us and gave me a huge hug. Looking me squarely in the eyes he said: “Encourage them to tell their stories, Jayne, for it is that encounter that has the power to challenge and change people.”
I couldn’t have agreed more – what we are each called to do is to share our incarnational truth about who we are, what we are, how we love and how we know that we are loved by God.
It’s what my dear friend Vicky Beeching has done with her book, Undivided, and what I too have endeavored to do with my own recent book, Just Love. We have dared to tell our stories. To testify to the work of God in our lives, and the power of His love that has saved us from harmful teachings that have nearly killed both of us.
It’s what we were taught as evangelicals to do – to share our testimony and so witness to the faith that is within us.
It has been interesting to watch people’s reactions.
For many it has encouraged them to tell their stories too, to know that they are not alone, to be reassured that God loves them – just as they are – and that they are beautifully and wonderfully made.
For others it has meant that they have had to defend their rules, to close their eyes to the pain and trauma that these rules have caused, and to negate the truth of those standing right before them saying – this is me, and this is what God has done.
I for one know that the God I serve will take my story, as fallible as it is, and break it (as he did with the offering of five loaves and two small fish) in order to feed many. He will use it, I pray, to challenge and encourage people, and whether they choose to hear it or damn it, it will be a witness to the power of God at work.
It’s my attempt at telling my story – I wonder, are you able to share yours?