Behind the Lens

Dear Inner Circle, 

There is a myth that time is linear when it tends to hold a far more cyclical, seasonal quality to it. As a new wave of infections is projected to peak over the next few weeks we have made some changes to our operating rhythms that will set us up for the challenging weeks ahead and reduce risks to our vulnerable community. A friend, who a couple of years ago was living on the streets, contacted me about the temporary changes which include reduced opening hours and takeaway only from our community cafes. “When I was sleeping rough I needed you to be open for my survival. I now of course prefer it when you’re more open for my own mental health but for a few weeks it won’t be a matter of life and death, like it was. So see you again soon.” That was all the thanks necessary to help us steel ourselves for a few weeks, where we will still remain open from 12-7pm. This rain has been incessant but the last few days of emerging sunshine in Sydney has been a small sign of life and hope, and a reminder that we will likely soon resume a transition back to “normal” – whatever that is, in these strangest of times. 

Over our recent family holiday I realised that I made a mistake, I fed a beast that shouldn’t have been. I posted a picture on social media on the last day of our break with our now 18-year-old, wishing them a happy birthday from a nice location. While the comments and likes were lovely, I realised that it gave the impression that we were the happiest and healthiest of families. My family has given me permission to share a little of what was going on behind that picture. When it was taken it was the briefest of moments when I wasn’t cajoling the kids to get out of bed and gently coaxing them (aka constantly being on their case) to get off their devices and to enjoy the outdoors. The first week of holidays I didn’t act like a partner to Lisa or a parent, rather I boldly assumed the role of “parent consultant” offering my wife advice and insights so invaluable I was tempted to submit an invoice. She is a holy woman and told me when and where I could submit it in no uncertain terms! There is no more a miserable or lonely state of existence than that of being the smartest person in the room and her anger was a gift that woke me up to my misery. 

Also, at the very moment the picture was captured, our other daughter was facing some serious mental health challenges. Behind the smiles were two parents who were deeply worried about her future and that of our little family. This isn’t being shared with you to elicit sympathy, but rather to share the reality that every time we see a picture of a family it is tempting to think that they have it all together. When in reality behind every family, and behind the lens, there is a silent struggle going on. One of the great temptations social media invites us to is the projection of false images (this last sentence is probably one of the most religious sounding ones I have written in this note to you). We are doing OK as a family, the road to recovery is all about having a great team around you and we are so fortunate to have a beautiful tribe who hold us. 

The love that flows from home is often the most challenging. When you judge people all you see is the bad in them, that which we think holds them back, which is so often that which we perceive and despise within ourselves. When we love people we see the good in them. Is it any wonder that it is easier to judge than it is to love? One of our values at Wayside Chapel is “No Judges”. All real living is meeting, and where there is judgement no meeting is possible, only management and manipulation. Our people work hard to make our centres a place of safety, which does not mean the absence of threats, but rather the presence of relationships marked by love. Lisa sometimes wishes I would practice at home what I preach in public far more often. She is the wisest of people, and like most of us, I am still a work in progress.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel 

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