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… my thoughts on recent events here. Fellow goes away for a few days to help those hit by local landslides (as though those hit by the floods last year haven’t sufficient to cope with) and finds his favourite blog looking like a war zone. As a fellow who’s been known to say a few judgmental things about himself and others, and who therefore sits in a glass house, I’m keeping stones away. My thought on Jessica’s posts is that she is coming from a Christian position few of us have reached yet. I’ve a sense that her illnesses and the long isolation have not been without their effect on her development. So much is this the case that I’m not sure many of us can get to where she is at the moment; Rob seemed to me to catch it best when he wrote:

However I support the approach Jess took which far more closely follows Christ example in dealing with those designated publicans and sinners by certain religious types. The charge against her as a trouble maker was hurtful and unnecessary.
Jess I am wondering whether your resilience and ability to cope with such a ruff handling has suffered somewhat since your health challenges

I found myself saying ‘hear, hear!’ to both bits, as well as echoing his doubts about wanting to stay if the lass is gone. We can all fail in understanding and love, and I should know, as one of the experts in it. I agree with Neo, too, that the devil got in here and had wreaked mischief.

I don’t think anyone else has yet said what I’m going to say here from the bottom of my heart – which is to Jessica herself, and here goes with all the hamfistedness of a Yorkshireman for whom ‘feelings’ may run deep but seldom surface.

Jessica, this place is your creation, what is good about it comes from your inspiration, and when you were gone you were much missed. In your absence it can be a blog where Protestants such as myself, Noe, Rob and Jock can put our point of view, or where Catholics of various hues, can do the same, from Chalcedon’s sagacious caution, through Dave Smith’s formidable apologetics, out to the wide shores of the Sargasso Sea where our own version of Flanders and Swann lives. But we’re none of us, not one of us, capable of what you bring here, which is some hard-won insight into the mystery of the nature of God’s love. Yes, it can make some of us worry, but we should have more courage and know and trust you better than we do. You ask searching questions about what it means to walk with Christ, you disturb some of the comfortable positions some of us reached some time ago. We react to your preaching of love, perhaps, like this Church authorities Chalcedon talked about in his most interesting commentary yesterday – we worry about the law and the pastoral effects, when we ought to know with Paul that the Law saves no one, we cannot save ourselves with it, and we can keep it only with the Grace of God – we need to remember to lean on Christ more and our own pride less; perhaps a woman who has been through what you have has learnt that in a way a bunch of disputatious blokes haven’t.

I’ve learnt a deal reading you – we all have. We don’t always agree, but you don’t demand that. But though you don’t demand it, you deserve our respect. Some of the fellows who said hard things have done the big thing and said they are sorry. These are men I respect, and I respect them the more for living up to what I’d hope they’d do if they got it wrong. Their failures, like mine, and like your own, are all signs of why we’re here, to explore our faith in Christ, Jesus and to reach a better understanding.

We have erred and strayed, we have let the devil in, but we are Christians, and we can repent – and do. I was looking forward to reading further thoughts from you during the end of Lent – when you usually have good things for us. I hope you catch these words – and the prayers for you than come with them. If anyone wanted to read the sound of a clanging gong when love is absent, we’ve done a good job of showing them – now, and I hope with your continued participation, we can try the other thing – how is it when they say ‘see how those Christians love each other!’ Let’s try love.

Looking at the more recent comments it seems to me that the good genius of this place is reasserting itself, and I see a set of good men wandering among the ruins trying to find ways of rebuilding – and I see that rebuilding going on as we all stop and take a breath and try to put our egos to one side for a moment. That, dear Jessica, is your work here, it is the apostolate you founded, and which I sincerely believe will founder without you. We are all sinners, we have all gone astray. I know you well enough to know that you will have repented of some of the things you wrote in the heat of a moment when you were replying to three sets of arguments at a time, and already feeling you were not being read properly. If anyone wants a one-dimensional confessional blog where they can hear only what the sound of their own voice has already said, there are many such – but there’s only one place like this.

We would, and I think I speak (for once) for us all, like you back for Easter, and rest assured, no recriminations and an opportunity for us all – you included, to show the power of the love of God which we, none of us, deserve, but all of us have received. Freely as we have received, so freely do we give.

Hope you are well,