“I understand why the Scholar of Guildford has a pile of books. I think I understand why he’s raising his hat. But why on earth is he standing on one foot?”
“That pose looks strangely familiar. It’s almost as if he’s…doing…the Tightrope!”
Now, replace the pile of books with a tray piled with cake and coffee mugs, and the hat with a pair of fuzzy cardboard bear-ears, and you have some idea of what Peter and I were doing last week. We weren’t literally doing ‘the Tightrope’. Well ok, so we did feel the need, every now and then, to get up and wag a foot about in a manner that was undeniably cool and smooth, almost indistinguishable from Janelle Monae’s original.
(Lee’s expression as he looks at the camera says it all: “What style! What moves!”)
Peter and I signed up to be part of a 24/7 Mission Week in Guildford, which turned out to be a combination of hosting a free cafe and organising various family activities to demonstrate God’s freely given love to the people of Guildford. The cafe seemed to attract those who fell through the cracks of well-educated, affluent, upwardly mobile Guildford society – construction workers, struggling single mums, lonely elderly people. The aim of the week was to have real conversations, to build relationships that would connect people with church community beyond the mission week. On the day of the ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, one of our team had a deep conversation with someone who then explained “it’s because you just look so approachable with that teddy bear face painted on!”
To tell you the truth, I felt like the Guildford Scholar statue most of the week, awkward and anxious. I was in a new place, with new people, doing new things, out of my depth and my comfort zone. The physical exertion of a very intense week left me with no time to work on my upcoming EP. The emotional toll of engaging on a deep level with numbers of new acquaintances every day meant I had no time to think about how I was feeling. The packed schedule of every day meant that when someone asked me to sing something for the “Music, Lyric and Rhyme” night, or to provide background music for the Community Barbeque, I hadn’t much time to hone the songs to studio-quality perfection or spend hours fussing over my hair or clothes in the name of ‘stage presence’.
In fact, it was the very thing I needed. I had prayed, a few weeks ago, “God, I want to step out of myself and never step back in”, and He had answered with characteristic humour. There I was, standing on one foot, the other poised to ‘step out of myself’ – raising my bear-ears, contents of my tray toppling, the words “Ohhhh cra…nberry juice” frozen on my lips – sometimes it’s good to not be in control. It can rid you of vanity and time-wasting inward-looking overanalysis, it can stretch your faith and develop emotional stamina, and if nothing else, it makes for an amusing freeze frame.