‘You’ve got that staring look…like you’re thinking about your hands.’
These words – which my literary memory is inclined to attribute to Mendel, George Smiley’s factotum and trusted side-kick in John Le Carré’s classic spy novels – have been running through my mind over the past couple of days.
Mendel speaks these words when he sees Smiley gearing up for his final pursuit of the Russian Spymaster ‘Karla’. Mendel reflects on how, as a young boxer, when a fight approached he would start thinking about how to prosecute the contest. He sees a similar look in Smiley’s eyes. Indeed, Mendel’s words capture something of the focus that applies to us when we are readying ourselves for a complicated and challenging situation.
Tomorrow – along with c. 60 other people – I shall take part in the 'North-West Regional Conversations' as part of the Church of England’s on-going discussions about the place of LGBT people in the Church.
I shall blog about my experience of this process, in full, in due course. Some powerful reflections have already been offered and – once I’ve recovered from what I suspect will be an exhausting three days – I will attempt to offer my own thoughts and reflections.
However, before I head off I wanted to acknowledge the extent to which I’ve been absorbed by what Mendel calls, ‘that staring look’. I’ve caught myself rehearsing the kinds of things conservative Anglicans might say about LGBT people and my counter ‘jabs’ and ‘punches’. I’ve thought about the way arguments shift and proceed. I’ve geared myself up for a fight. I’ve been thinking about ‘my hands’.
I’m not happy about that. I want to go these conversations with open hands. I want to lower my guard. I may be the sort of person trained for a certain sort of fight - anyone who has been trained philosophically knows how to intellectually spar and fight – but I want to leave that nascent violence at the meeting’s door.
I want to be vulnerable and meet others in their vulnerability. I’m not sure I can, but I’m going to try. I’ve no doubt the facilitators will be skilled at managing and facilitating conversation, respect and trust in the process. My problem is that I struggle with being managed. I can kick and snarl.
Nonetheless I want to go to the conversations as what I am – someone with my own partial glimpse of glory, truth and hope – respecting that others bring their own version of that too. I ask for your prayers for all of us – conservative, liberal, radical etc. – involved in this process. That we will be humble and honest. That we can dare to leave our weapons at the door. That we can meet Christ in the Other.