Do you remember new year’s day 2012? It was a Sunday. Yes – I had to check that, as Lily (my automatic calendar) has gone to sleep. Although I was exhausted that morning I went to church, praying that God would give me something to focus on for the year ahead other than myself.
Three words came to my mind during the sermon, loud and clear. They were not actually part of the service as far as I remember, but I felt strongly that they applied, so I stuck them on the front of my diary to remind me every night. And every night, there they are, waiting to challenge me.
I do not have all the answers, but I know the one who does. I had a year of waiting, of learning to let go and be patient, of trusting God to hold me, to hold my husband, my family, my friends. Those who were ill. Those who needed new jobs. Those who were new in their faith. Those situations we had no control over. My own health, career and projects. The many needs of my family. Of letting go and letting God. I have no idea how much I gave God of what I’ve been carrying, but every time I have, he has been faithful and now is taking me to new levels of trust in him. This is as exciting as it is daunting. I doubt that this challenge is over at all. Like wanderlust, the bug is there to travel further in the adventure of deep trust with God.
There have been some surreal situations this year, not least Lily’s Giraffe Bread adventures. Some (very limited) reactions were most upsetting at the time, and the only healthy response has been complete forgiveness. We will need to prepare Lily for the reality of trolling, but for now we can just keep giggling about all the good and the positive nature of the story. Even today the BBC are listing it as one of the memes of the year. (Ah yes. I forgive them for putting up the wrong surname. Again.) And I am working at forgiving over and over and over in my life, as the closer I engage with it, the more pain I uncover. Past. Present. Ongoing. I believe God gave me this challenge specifically for 2012, but am actually feeling stronger in myself for toughening up in the process. Forgiveness that engages and still works is painful, but powerfully releasing. Perhaps God wanted to prepare me for something bigger in the future.
What a strange challenge. At first I wasn’t sure I heard right. The other challenges found their natural places early in the year, but this one puzzled me for months. What does it mean to Be?
To be active?
To be passive, waiting for a command?
To be myself? Getting on with life, listening to God and walking with Him?
It seems that the third one is the answer that has made the most sense: activity or passivity need have no particular value, but God has given me a challenge about my worth, which is nothing whatsoever to do with what I do. All humans inately have worth. Incredible, indescribable worth. And when we connect with God, we get switched on to what that feels like. It is so easy to focus on oneself, on our own dreams, value sets and conditions. It is easy to forget who we really are in it all.
What has it meant to learn to be myself?
As a married person, this was always going to be complicated by the fact that all I do is in dialogue with another, and you cannot run ahead in a three-legged race. We are waiting to see how my husband’s work situation will develop in 2013 and whether we need to move, travel, change career directions or proceed cautiously with the status quo. Unlike him, I am a divergent thinker, almost always ready to explore and branch out. I am coming to some good conclusions about how I can raise the children, serve the community and start working again, doing things I should be able to do well. My plan for doing a certain amount of tutoring should work whatever my husband needs to do for his career. And I am taking myself seriously. It may also be appropriate to get back into some serious study, but while Joseph is still a pre-schooler perhaps that has to wait too. I am happy to wait now. There are seasons in life, and I realise that more because of 2012. I have strengths and I have weaknesses, and I am not afraid of either any more.
I am not defined by being a mother either, as satisfying as that can be. Or in any role I take. Just that I am confident in my place in God’s family and in sharing everything with Him.
So this is quite a spiritual post, and I know that doesn’t suit everybody. Thank you if you have read this far and are not sure what I’m talking about or whether you agree with much I’ve written. You may or may not be the kind of person who needs to hear three short challenges from God for 2013. I will ask God if he wants me to have any different challenges and take it from there. It is up to you if you want to do the same.
To be going on with, here is a lovely picture I was sent today, which may or may not give you something you want to try.
I really do wish you a positive, fulfilling and encouraging year in 2013, and if you take on any challenge, big or small, I hope you continue it through the year for the massive blessing it will be to you.