Over the last few weeks I've had a chance to see Scotland in a way I never have before. Last year it was very much a chance to see a different culture while exploring myself. But now the second time around I've been able to see the culture more for what it is rather than continually comparing or contrasting with that of our own. During my time at the mission, my conversations with the both the clients and the staff, our time in various churches and our friends Stuart, Lynsey, Steven and Graeme I've had a chance to really put together my impressions of where the culture is at and what God is doing here.
The primary thing that stands out is that Scottish people tend to look backward rather than forward. Having never been to other European countries there's no way for me to ascertain whether this unique or indicative of nations with greater roots than a country as young as ours. The Scots find their self identity in the past: they constantly look to the events of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce as great moments for them, or else remember when the English did this or that to them. This also transpires now as a fair number of people look for Scottish independence. Whether this is good or bad i can't say, but the prevailing ideology by the Scottish people is that they have always been under the English in some form or another and need, for better or for worse, a chance on their own.
The sad problem with this is that there is such a focus on the past that it inhibits them from seeing their lives now or focusing on the future. Additionally, even within Christianity here there is such a strong push for national identity as opposed to remembering that when we become Christians we put aside these things. "We are neither Jew, nor Greek; slave nor free; male nor female." This is obviously not an exclusive problem. We have a very similar view of things in America in our own unique way. Nor would I say that this is indicative of all Scottish people. There are plenty of people who are very much the opposite of this. But if I had to sum of the general feeling in the air that I sense here, that would be it.
Scotland is poor. Not impoverished, as many countries. There is enough, but that is it. There's no surplus. Everyone struggles to make ends meet. There is very little money for recreation and fun. There are constantly companies going out of business. There is also just a very clear sense of depression and expecting the worse because that's just the way it's always been. There's a defeatism here, and in a sense, fighting for independence is all they have left. But that's not what will ultimately help them, because what they need more than anything is God.
Now while this all sounds very dire and miserable, I have a very strong belief that God is on the verge in moving in a very strong way in Scotland. I wouldn't have said this last year, but it feels very much closer to it now this year. While I do see a sad defeated people, i see the pride of that situation and the anger of it disappearing. I see it turning into a hunger that will ultimately be the perfect place for God to begin something miraculous that could spread like wildfire. Our time with Stuart and friends has shown me that there is a desperate heart by people for an authentic experience with other Christians that is no longer what has always been presented: stale and forced, but rather alive and active. I don't know what kind of time frame this will take, how many years or how many steps still to go through in the order for this to happen. But in the spiritual world it feels imminent. This is very exciting and I know beyond a doubt that God is doing something in Scotland and will continue to do more amazing things than any of us can probably even imagine. Continue to pray for these people.
Yours in Christ,