It’s really hard to stop being mardy. Mardy is a wonderful Derbyshire word which gained slightly wider fame with the Artic Monkeys’ song Mardy Bum. But, if you’re not familiar with it, it can roughly be translated as a state of passive tantrum or petulance (Derbyshire folk probably just misheard the word ‘martyr’ in like 413 AD and it stuck). Or as my Grandma might mock (singsong voices please), “bottom lip you can siiiit on!” Coming out of a mard means humbling yourself, stopping taking yourself and your gripe so seriously, and admitting that maybe, just maybe, you were over-reacting or that it’s time to move on. It’s tough: when I was little, I just used to pretend to fall asleep and ‘wake up’ when the whole thing had blown over. Or spontaneously lose my voice. Genius.
I think overcoming mards maps reasonably well onto my problem of suffering. By that I don’t mean that I keep facing reasons to suffer. Rather, I struggle to identify myself as someone other than ‘the victim’. I want past suffering to define me. I don’t mean here to belittle present suffering- I’m referring specifically to my pre-Christian, pre-eternal hope experiences. Let me give an example. T’other day, I was reading a post by one of my all-time-favourite-sisters-I’ve-never-met who often discusses eating disorders. In it, she was discussing how anorexics sometimes shoplift food or eat out of the bin because that way ‘it doesn’t count’. Bin-rehabilitation? Bells rang. My first thought: hey, I didn’t know other people did that (in fact, I hadn’t even thought of me doing it as a ‘thing’). My second thought: how dare other people do that, that is my thing (despite the fact I hadn’t done it in well over a year- don’t worry, mum).
If you’re expecting a rationalisation, I am afraid there isn’t one. I was, it seems, asserting a subconscious desire to have the monopoly on bin-scrounging, not out of compassion for fellow-sufferers, but because I wanted to be ‘the one that’ had this, did that, violated this social norm. For all my mocking of hipsters, I was willing to go to extremes to be distinctive.
But not only does that leave me sounding, let’s face it, utterly ridiculous, it also implies that I want my past suffering to have some sort of long-lasting value, to have a hold over my identity. It implies that to know me you have to know something that happened to me predominantly between the ages of 16 and 18. (that’s not to say I don’t sometimes still struggle, but it does mean I now know that I have a choice; in those two years, that wasn’t the case).
In fact, the only suffering that I should remember daily, the suffering that changed my life, the suffering that enabled me to have a relationship with God, is that of Jesus.
1 Peter 2:9: ‘But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’
I have been “called out of darkness”; it’s gone, not to be regretted or remembered possessively, not to have a claim on me. I am possessed by God, not anorexia.
Galatians 2:20: ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
If I know who Jesus is, then He will tell me who I really am (hence all the disciples’ name-switching…) There’s no half-measures here, the whole point is a gloriously enigmatic. The old me is dead, and a new me has eternal life, born of suffering and love. Christ is the creator, the maintainer of that life, and that very life itself. What’s so awesome is how while this truth applies to every Christian, Paul feels it so personally- it’s all ‘I’s and ‘me’s and at the same time, utterly self-forgetful. New name, new joy, new freedom, new family, new Father, new hope.
Or I could file for intellectual property rights over fishing left-overs out the bin….
p.s anyone who got the Blink 182 reference in the title wins a packet of smarties. I mean, they’re still in the charts right?