The sun was shining about 2 weeks ago, and a friend and I decided to go out on our bikes around a new area of London. I had never been to Canary Warf, so we hopped on the Overground train Shadwell and made our way to one of the two major financial centres of London, before turning south towards Greenwich.
I have written before about the tremendous alertness of the senses we experience on going to a place for the first time (New York post), and what better place to go to be drowned in a visual spectacle than Canary Warf, with its towering skyscrapers, slick roadways, manicured roundabouts and sea of Armani suits.
My first reaction was incredulity that this other world of glass banks and global trade was just a matter of miles from my home in Finsbury Park. There seemed to be no recognisable connection at all between the falafel cafes and fruit & veg markets of my local turf with the shining glass Jamie’s Italian and bomb- searching security of this financial hub, yet it is just another facet of the sprawling, majestic, global city that is London.
As I cycled through on my humble bike I began to feel something even more unexpected. As I passed the towering buildings next to expensive cars and surrounded by attractive people I suddenly found myself wanting to be like them- to be successful, to be important, to be powerful. It was almost a lust for money, sex and power, beckoning, drawing me in, the shining apple hanging there just waiting to be eaten.
Previously I had never understood the appeal of the financial world, but now I could see. And I am sure it is amazing- great food, fast cars, premium property, power…. I single out Canary Warf not because the financial world is the anomaly, the demonised outlier, but that it is such a clear illustration of a far broader reality. We all to an extent crave after these things.
Yet the apostle Paul makes this bonkers assertion that ‘I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ When the Gospel came along, it turned things on their head by celebrating weakness. On the surface that makes no sense at all, but when it comes to it we all know that one day, sooner or later, the fast cars and money will go. In weakness we enter the world, and in weakness we will leave it.
But when we are weak, we see One who is strong. When we can’t carry on in our own strength, there is One who will carry us.
“But Jesus said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”