It’s 9.30 on Friday 24th June and I still don’t know the result of the referendum. I don’t know whether we’re staying in, or committed to coming out. Or whether...
I woke up early – very early – and decided to enjoy my last few minutes of innocence by going for a run in the cool of the morning.
It wasn’t just to do good to my body. It was also to prepare my mind. When I’d heard the result of two previous big political decisions – the overwhelming rejection of electoral reform in 2011 and the redefinition of marriage in 2013 – I’d been thrown into a bit of a tailspin of despair. In 2011 I’d seen my hopes of an end to the two-party domination of British politics crash into the buffers thanks to Nick Clegg’s worthy, but desperate, ambition. In 2013 I felt my own marriage had been devalued by being defined as equal to something that God condemns. I didn’t want the same to happen this time.
The first thing I realised, as I soaked in the early morning sunshine and got my leg muscles working, was that I could react positively, or negatively to either outcome. If I’m minded to look at it positively, I could be reassured that we’ve decided to continue the peaceful co-operation with our neighbours in Europe, that the small steps towards making Europe a more civilised place will continue, with us involved as both contributor and beneficiary. Or, if it’s gone the other way, excited that we’ve take a courageous stand against the globalisation that has concentrated power in fewer and fewer hands, led to an accelerating (and possibly unstoppable) devastation of the planet, and created a growing underclass dependent either on benefits or on unreliable, underpaid work.
Or I could easily see either result as a disappointment. If we’ve stayed in, that we’ve once again opted for the status quo; that Cameron and Osborne’s smugness will know no bounds; that the problems caused by uncontrolled immigration will continue to be borne by those least able to bear them. Or if we’ve decided to leave, that we’ve given in to racism and xenophobia, that we’ve implicitly signed up to an extreme right-wing agenda, and that while we figure out where on earth we are going, vast swathes of our economy that depend on close links with Europe will give up the struggle and move abroad.
So how I react really depends on me. We work hard to prepare our hearts before hearing God’s message to us each Sunday – we spend time in worship, we pray for our hearts to be softened and ready to receive what God has for us. Maybe we should also prepare our hearts for hearing the news – by reminding ourselves that God is sovereign, and that God is good, by admitting that our own reactions may well be flawed.
And if we do need to prepare our hearts before hearing the news, maybe our addiction to instant news is dangerous. We end up in danger of being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”.
Do we really need a pop-up notification of disasters the moment they happen, or a phone screen that tells us the latest news every time we want to send a text? What can we do with the information? Panic? Gain a bit of kudos in the office by being the one who tells people rather than the one who hears? Better to have a heart at peace with God than a mind confused by the latest news.
On my run, God gave me that peace by bringing Psalm 23 to life for me. I was 6 miles from home, and only a few hundred yards from my first target, when I passed a beautiful grassed area, glistening with dew in the morning light, and I remembered v2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” So I did. The moisture of the grass soaked into my tee-shirt. I appreciated the beauty of where I was, not just as somewhere I needed to get past. I looked up at the clouds, and saw by their movement that he had provided a gentle wind to help me on my way.
At one level it spoilt the run – I never recovered my determination to break my record distance; I stopped more often. I walked some of the way (including most of the last 4 miles home). But my eyes were opened. When I got to the still waters of the canal, the Psalm echoed again. I paused to enjoy them. And I knew then that God had refreshed my soul. I knew that he would guide me along right paths for his name’s sake. I realised that even if I walk the darkest path, I need fear no evil, for he is with me, and his rod and staff will comfort me.
So now I’m ready to go and find out the result. With a heart prepared by God.
 “You win some, you lose some, and then there’s that little known third way”, Al Gore looking back on the result of the 2000 US election, when he won a majority of the popular vote, and would have also had a majority of the electoral college votes had it not been for some contentious decisions to rule as invalid a number of voting papers in Florida because the machines had not punched holes in them properly.
 Ephesians 4:14