City boys have more fun, but do we miss out on things that those in little villages and those off-the-beaten-track places you might find in rural Wales or Scotland or Ireland do? I wonder. Also, although many city people are Working class economically or because of the job they do or the accent they have, we are classless in some ways the same as Americans are classless, because we are more or less the same in some ways at least and have the same problems people living in big cities often have to deal with. Living in a city is a great leveller; we all go to the same colleges, travel on the same buses, visit the same supermarkets and we have to put up with all the things that big city people have to deal with; bad councils, rubbish everywhere, run down parks, gangs hanging around street corners, unemployment, drug problems, higher rates of crime and many other issues that anyone living in a big city will be only too aware of.
I am a person from a fairly big city, a city boy, someone who has at various times been used to living cheek-by-jowl with many thousands of other people and seen the best and worst of people all having to live together for one reason or another. Cities create good people and bad people, although I will always say that we all have bad experiences now and again and it’s not the experience that defines us so much as our reaction to it. I was bullied in school, and although for the most part not serious systematic bullying, I still have anger towards it to this day and I generally despise bullies, who are always usually cowards who pick their targets, and so have a bit of an attitude myself; I admit it, I still feel a residue of anger towards one or two who bullied me to this day. However, by the grace of God, I don’t feel the need to dominate or belittle others to make myself feel better, or feel the need for revenge either; what would be the point anyway? And, wouldn’t God have a problem with me if I sought even the merest notion of revenge? ‘Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution. As scripture says: Vengeance is mine -- I will pay them back, the Lord promises.’ (Romans 12:19 NJB) And if I am honest, most of the bullying was verbal with the occasional punch and one or two other slightly worse things; but it was generally sporadic. I also tend to dream regularly about one of my bullies and in the dream I am scared too, which is strange to be honest. Anyway, I generally look like a city boy and sometimes wear hoodies and tracksuit bottoms, but I can also dress ‘urban smart’ too, and can fit in most everywhere to be honest. We are all very different people too even though all living the same largely urban life.
Last night I felt so stressed that I thought I needed a few glasses of wine to chill out. ‘So, eat your bread in joy, drink your wine with a glad heart, since God has already approved your actions.’ (Ecclesiastes 9:7 NJB) I know people can take scripture out of context and perhaps do so all the time, but as I very rarely drink alcohol to excess, and didn’t on this occasion I thought that I would have a drink in moderation. Incidentally, I notice when I get seriously stressed or have a minor passing bout of depression, both usually infrequent, I can get headaches, stomach problems, shoulder aches and back aches and generally I feel out of sorts. I’m totally fed up with suffering; but who isn’t? Is it true that people in big cities are more prone to stress than people living in small villages in the country somewhere or people who live way out far from the madding crowd and right off the beaten track? I do wonder. How much of our stress is down to wanting things we don’t really need and how much is down to not trusting God with our lives? Do any of us really let go and just let God do whatever He wants to do 100%, or is there some little bit of us that wants to be in charge? Anyway, I had a few glasses of wine, a few double Bacardi and Cokes, drank them slowly and watched a few films, and think I enjoyed myself too. And today I seem a little less stressed to be honest. ‘You should give up drinking only water and have a little wine for the sake of your digestion and the frequent bouts of illness that you have.’ (1 Timothy 5:23 NJB)
In the 1500’s or 1600’s when most people’s lives were hard one way or the other, did people enjoy the feel of the sun on their faces, or the sight of a beautiful sunset at the end of the day, or a particularly beautiful cloud formation or a seagull crying on the wind? All these things can in their own way bring joy and happiness, they cost nothing and yet can mean more than many material possessions can. Who in the UK when going on a holiday or day out as a kid to the seaside didn’t feel something akin to joy when they heard a seagull cry, knowing that it meant the beach and simple pleasures were not that far away? And yet…and yet, all those things seem so far away when we reach adulthood, fripperies that we aren’t meant to be bothered with any more as we make our weary way in the world and wonder what the magic of childhood actually meant, if anything. ‘Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12 NJB)
How should a Christian live in the city? Are we judged by different rules to those in more hidden places, or are God’s laws applicable to us as well? Well, I have found that having respect for others in a city is also having respect for self; there are a lot of sometimes very tough hard-bitten people in big cities and being aggressive and angry to others may very well result in someone taking a slight to you, and this could result in unforeseen but perhaps obviously inevitable outcomes, at the very least someone abusing you verbally to getting beat up, or worse even. Respect for others is respect for self. And no one said that Christians anywhere had to be wussy or prissy in any way, I am hardly that myself, we can still be blokes who dress and look ‘street’ and yet as Jesus has a calling on our lives, we must learn to be gentle in a hard world, and what better grounding for that than living in a big tough city?