Faith Matters

Rev Steve Stockman: We need to be aware of our own 'fault lines'

Tom Petty, who died this week, reminded us of the need to spot the 'fault lines' in our own lives. But we should also remember the cracks beneath our society, says Steve Stockman

American musician Tom Petty, who died aged 66 on Monday, sang about the 'fault lines' which lie beneath our lives
Steve Stockman

I was gutted to hear of the passing of rock star Tom Petty on Monday evening.

As the news reached me on social media I uttered a loud, "No, no, no, no." It told me all I needed to know of my love for Petty.

Those who know me know that rock music has been a constant companion in my life since my cousin introduced me to Donny Osmond when I was 10.

Thankfully I moved on from Donny but songs have been helping me look at the world, at God and at my place in God's world, ever since.

Petty was a spiritual contributor to my journey of faith. Of all his songs the one that has lingered in my soul the longest is Fault Lines from his Hypnotic Eye record in 2014.

See those fault lines

Lay down like land mines

It's hard to relax

A promise broken

The ground breaks open

Love falls through the cracks

And I've got a few of my own

I've got a few of my own fault lines

Running under my life

Petty had lived in California for some 40 years and that idea of the San Andreas Fault lying beneath you all the time could be a frightening thought if you allowed it to linger.

Petty's song, though, is not about tectonic geographical shifts; he is using the image to dig deep in his own life.

Fault lines are not necessarily sins. They are those things that have somehow rattled us to our core; they are events or circumstances that have happened to us or around us that have somehow bruised, broken or beaten out of shape our soul.

They might not be bad things, just circumstances but until we come to terms with them we live on top of the potential danger.

I remember a teacher telling us that all great people knew their weaknesses.

I often look inside and ask where there might be weaknesses or fault lines running under my life; a result of where I was born; the family that I was raised in; my social class; the creed that I was spiritual formed in; the political ideology I was steeped in; the era I was born into.

When Jesus encountered people he was intuitive about their fault lines.

A Samaritan woman, a Roman centurion, a Pharisee called Nicodemus, Zacchaeus the tax collector - Jesus sussed out all their unique fault lines before bringing his redemptive words and actions.

American musician Tom Petty, who died aged 66 on Monday, sang about the 'fault lines' which lie beneath our lives

Of course, we need to remember the fault lines that run under our wider society here in the north.

The events of the past, going back centuries have shaken our foundations with consequences.

The grief and hurt has ripped open fault lines, sectarianism created by apartheid living has caused a few cracks underneath us.

Understanding that the fabric of 'our' side has been damaged as well as seeking to understand the cracks within the 'other' community can only help us as we try to create a firmer foundation of a more peaceful future for us all.

I am sure Tom Petty songs will be all over the radio in the next few days. Maybe someone should play Fault Lines up at Stormont.

:: The Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast and, with Fr Martin Magill, is a founder of the 4 Corners Festival, which aims to promote unity and reconciliation in the midst of Belfast's - and Ireland's - troubled past.

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