Privileged 14th June 2017 by Susanne Irving

At the beginning of June, I helped out at an arts and design festival that was held at West Dean College. West Dean House is normally not open to the public, but as a student on their foundation course in art and design, I can freely enter the premises. I have stayed overnight in different rooms of the house and have explored the gardens and arboretum on many occasions. I have spent enough time there to be familiar with the surroundings and to consider it home from home.

During the festival, the house was open to the public. I was excited that my stewarding duties meant that I would be able to see rooms that are usually off limits even for us students. I also got to see the house through the eyes of first time visitors. They were in awe of sights I now take for granted and noticed things I do not normally pay attention to.

Certain areas of the house were still cordoned off to visitors, and you needed to be a member of staff or student to enter them. Whereas I could walk where I pleased, casual visitors were barred from entering certain areas and were redirected.

On the second day of the festival, I showed my husband around. He had never been to the college before. I proudly explained to him the features of the house and the history of the family who owned it, although I got some of my facts very wrong. (I mixed up George V and Edward VII!)

As long as he was with me, my husband enjoyed some of the privileges of a student because the staff and stewards knew me well and waved us through. However, when he later tried to enter a student area without me he was swiftly turned away and told that he did not have the right credentials.

The experience got me thinking: I became a Christian in November 1992, so have been a member of God’s household for 25 years. Yet what is my attitude to my Father’s House?

What do I consider to be part of God’s household? Simply the place where my own congregation meets or do I adopt a global perspective? After all, ultimately the whole of creation belongs to God and should be taken care of and treated with respect.

Am I still curious enough to explore further or am I happy to walk along the same corridors day after day? Some Christians say that they enter by faith the throne room right at the heart of the universe. I must confess that I have never entered there.

What about the privileges bestowed upon me as an adopted child of God? I am here because of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished. Yet because I have been gifted with many talents, I can sometimes think that I have earned my privileges and forget that they have been bestowed on me.

And am I excited to introduce others to my Father’s House and its treasure trove? How well do I know my Father and his story? I have to watch my tendency to focus on rules and regulations rather than on God’s heart.

What about you?  

About the author: Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation of the book is due to be published this summer.


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