It’s just that I’m broken

I am an expert at blowing things out of proportion. Under the guise of being a ‘cautious’ person, I home in on the dangers, the pitfalls, the ‘What if?’s in all kinds of situations. (You might consider stopping reading this and praying for Martyn; this guy truly knows how it feels to spend an entire evening listening to me bang on about the fact that we haven’t bought the right kind of mattress for our child’s bed.)

Don’t get me wrong, lots of what we see in the world IS dangerous and horrific, isn’t it? (Not mattresses.) And often it’s right to feel furious – it breaks God’s heart so it should break ours too. And it’s often from that position of helplessness and horror that we’re spurred to action. That’s a whole other blog post! But actually, in my life, I can’t think of anything warranting that kind of reaction. When I hear myself whining that evil has gained a foothold in my life, I need to stop and ask myself – is that really the case? Or is it just that I’m broken?

When God made us he made us complete but we chose to lose that completeness.  So it’s no surprise that we experience brokenness. We are not tough – we are frail.

One of the most powerful things I have learned since I began to follow Jesus is that I’m not perfect. And with that has come great relief. I can’t be like the people who claim to know ‘what’s right’ in all these broken situations; I can only ask Jesus to help me live in a fallen world. I can’t be like the people who belittle the actions and choices of others; I can only be mindful that other human beings are broken, like me (and that there is no condemnation in Jesus anyway). I can’t be like the people who trumpet their academic qualifications and other triumphs on social media; I can only boast in Jesus. All I can do in any situation, including the topic I’m blogging about right now, is admit that I’m still learning – and seek Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come for the healthy. He came for the sick. I don’t wish to celebrate my failings, but when I pick them up and look at them, admit they are there, God can do a lot more in me than on the days when I’ve got it all sewn up. And he is so gracious – when I start exploring, that’s when he can really work in my life. He wants to release this power, the power that is made perfect in weakness. I can only wonder at the strength of this power as I let him take up the burden for me.

Learning from Jesus in this way has also blessed me more than I can say in my relationships with others. It’s when we can be open with our friends that we can get beyond that surface level in our friendships. It’s when we can  say sorry to our spouse that we can be the person God made us to be in our marriage. It’s when we can admit our weaknesses to our children that we free them from the straitjacket of perfection, too. (And by that I absolutely don’t mean ‘Oh gosh, Mummy’s so stupid’ –  why not try ‘Mummy’s made a mistake’, or even ‘Mummy’s going on a parenting course to learn how to be a better mummy’*).

I hope I never use ‘It’s just that I’m broken’ as an excuse to neglect my responsibilities or behave unlovingly to others. But, next time I’m about to blow something out of proportion, I hope I will remember these musings. I pray that I won’t fixate on what’s bad about my circumstances, but on how God might work through them. One day, I’ll be in the place where God is completely present and I will stand faultless before him. I see glimpses of that place everywhere. But for now, it’s just that I’m broken. And that’s OK.

* Here’s a chance I’ve been waiting for to give a shout-out to an excellent parenting course run by a York-based charity. It was very timely for me when I attended it last year.

Advertisements

Birthing the Blog 4: Rest

This is the final part of a mini-series on the Bible verses which I imagine will underpin this blog, at least for now. The other posts are here, here and here. If you’re encouraged by it, please share it with someone you think would be encouraged too. Thank you!

As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, some of my friends and I recently attended a truly brilliant women’s conference at our church. The church has a prophetic ministry team who were asked in advance to share God’s heart with every delegate on the conference. It was done anonymously – I believe a system of ‘numbering’ the delegates was used, and the words were then typed up into cards which were presented to us as we arrived. For me, a member of the team gave me the verses, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:1-3). S/he also had a picture for me, of a speed sign on a road, indicating the maximum speed to go. S/he sensed that the Lord was telling me to slow down, to rest more, and have more time for myself.

I wonder if you have ever felt like you were living life above the speed-limit? I definitely have! It started when I was a teenager, working too hard for GCSEs, and has taken various forms since then. A desire to work and be useful is a good thing, but like all desires, it can go either way. Today I’ve been reading Romans 6 and listening to this excellent talk on that passage by a friend who leads a church in York. In Romans 6, Paul describes what happens when we allow God to be in control of our desires, and what happens when sin gets hold of them. In his talk my friend looks at the distorting effect of sin upon various desires, including the desire for work and purpose. He suggests that when sin gets hold of that desire, the consequence is that we become ‘workaholics’, believing that we’re indispensable. I think this is actually a pretty big problem when I start to think like this. It can only go one way – I lurch from believing I’m indispensable to believing I can’t stop  – then I’m exhausted and need a rest. However, I’m actually feeling guilty about resting (because I’ve believed the lie that I’m indispensable), so I don’t rest.

There is another way.

I have the pleasure of being part of a church-affiliated small group, all of whose members have (or regularly care for) young children and serve in a host of other brilliant roles besides. These girls are putting faith into action, they’re extending the kingdom in York, and it’s inspiring! Unsurprisingly, we often talk in the group about ‘being kind to ourselves’. I find it easy to advise everyone else about this, suggesting clever strategies each of my friends could employ to ‘ease your burden’ and ‘be refreshed’. Of course, looking out for each other like this is a crucial part of being in of the group, but I had my eyes opened one day when a member of the group prayed that we would each include ourselves in this kindness. Radical, eh?! But it’s there, in Romans 6 – we are now no longer under the law, but under grace (verse 14). Sin has lost its power over us. We can choose to let sin reign again, or we can choose to let God reign in his mighty power. And the consequence of letting him reign is the gift of eternal life (verse 23).

Was I obedient to God’s call to slow down? For a while, yes. Blogging really helped me to apply it during the week following the conference. (I have to be at home to blog, for one thing!) After a few weeks I was slipping back into workaholic habits again though, cosying up with my old friend, the Law. And I made the excuse to myself that it was because it was the end of term and ‘just a busy time’. Seriously!

The lie: That I need to be working all the time. Any kind of rest is bad. The world will most likely stop turning if I stop working!

The truth (which I’m still learning!): Jesus wants to lead us beside quiet waters and refresh our souls (Psalm 23:2-3). When we do serve, it should be from this place of rest.

On that note, I’m going away on holiday next week (if the world does stop turning, you’ll know why! 😉 ) Goodbye and God bless! X

 

– Have you ever been told to slow down?

– Did you do it?!

– Have you got any nice plans for the summer?

Birthing the Blog 3: Freedom

Hello! How are you? Around here it’s a merry-go-round of Teddy Bears’ Picnics, teacher presents, Sports Days, fairs and assemblies – Freddie’s first year at school is drawing to a close. I’m grateful to the staff members and other families who have made this year totally amazing, but sad too that our association with the school’s wonderful Early Years unit is coming to an end. One of the toughest things about not having had a second child is that when a golden chapter ends for Freddie, it ends for me and Martyn too. In the past I’ve been upbeat about this, but less so as Freddie gets older and the reality dawns that this is it.

I’ve been taking a lot of comfort from blogging. If you’re new to this series, I’ve been looking at some of the Bible verses I’ve been pondering as the blog came into being. I’ve posted under the titles of Abundance/Fullness of Life, and Safety.

On to Freedom.

I have the privilege of living in a free society. Heartbreaking news stories of injustice and oppression show us daily that freedom isn’t free – people die for it. If we haven’t witnessed others die for freedom, it’s easy to take it for granted. Freedom is different from independence – it is in fact a precious commodity to be treasured and, if necessary, defended.  The ultimate champion of freedom is Jesus Christ, who according to Luke 4:18-19 started his public ministry by telling Jews in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It’s his sort of manifesto – and I hope it’s mine, too.

The apostle Paul tells the early church in Corinth, ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Corinthians 3:17). So, although freedom may look different for different people, the promise is that there is always freedom in the presence of God. What does freedom look like for me? Well, I’m naturally a very legalistic person, so for me it’s freedom from rules and regulations. I think of how easily snared I am by them – “I’m trying to lose weight so I should bike from A to B in the pouring rain rather than get the bus”. It doesn’t feel like freedom! I think of when I first became a Christian, feeling guilty when I discovered I didn’t particularly enjoy keeping a spiritual journal and having to find time to write in it every day. It didn’t feel like freedom! And why not?

Because that’s not who God is.

Sometimes people make God sound like that, but that’s not the God we meet in the Bible. In fact, the Bible repeatedly celebrates the freedom that Christ has won for us: ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36), ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Galatians 5:1). In fact, slavery gets a few bashings – ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”‘ (Romans 8:15). Paradoxically, my heavenly Dad, my Abba, often gently twists and turns that rules-based side of my character to show me more about freedom. When I fail to follow my own self-imposed regimes, it’s a reminder that I can’t, but God can. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and the king of kings and lord of lords is more than able to do what my frail human self can’t.

I think all this freedom can be overwhelming – people actually feel guilty about being free. We feel we don’t deserve it. But guess what? That’s the point. This freedom is an undeserved gift, bought for us on the cross when we had turned away. This is amazing love.

The lie: that I don’t deserve to be free.
The truth: ‘The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7). Let’s shed the guilt and be thankful for this gift!

– What does freedom mean to you?
– Do you get annoyed too when people confuse freedom with independence? (Or any other words in the English lexicon, for that matter – fellow language nitpickers, you’re safe with me!)

Birthing the Blog 2: Safety

The first post in this mini-series looked at fullness of life, and particularly at the way God has been changing my approach to ‘being busy’ since Freddie started school. Writing the post has caused me to reflect that it’s been sad not to have Freddie with me each day any more, and every part of me has wanted to fill the time till 3pm! But it’s also been a time of refining and listening to God as I have considered new aspirations and opportunities that have come my way. It’s challenged me that often I don’t let God get a word in edgeways…. but the amazing thing is that the gentle whisper is always audible the second I bother to tune in!

Today we’re looking at another value of the new-look blog: safety. I believe that for quite a while up to the point when I started to blog again, probably since Freddie started school in fact, God had been frequently reassuring me that I am completely safe in him. Protective scriptures of security and refuge were darting through my mind like arrows: “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”‘ (Psalm 91:2); “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves” (Zephaniah 3:17); “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The brilliant passage from Ephesians 6 about spiritual armour had come up too. Suffice to say that by the week when I started to consider returning to blogging, I was thinking quite a lot about being safe. That week I happened to attend a day conference organised by and for women within my church. Ahead of the conference, the planning team had asked our church’s prophetic ministry team to pray and listen for Bible verses which God wanted to give to the ladies attending the conference. Specific verses for individuals were given to us in beautiful hand-made cards as we went in (more on mine in a future blog post!) but there was also a point during the day when a number of verses were read out which were felt to be relevant to more than one person. There was a verse shared at this point which I believe was for me, and it came from Isaiah 43:2: ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’. It was also shared that the person who had heard this verse had a sense that something painful happened a while ago and had been holding the person concerned in bondage.  

Now, it’s true that something painful did happen in my life a while ago, but isn’t that the case for many of us – it’s entirely possible that this word resonated with numerous people at the conference. After all, as I said in last week’s post and as John 10:10 shows, there is an enemy out there, and as Paul reminds the Ephesians we need to continually be asking God to clothe us with his spiritual armour. God uses Paul to remind the Ephesians that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ This may be something helpful to consider if you feel you have got into a battle with a person, although I should stress that if you’re in physical danger from another person, professional help needs to be sought. I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of this. For me, I’m grateful to say it wasn’t a case of being in physical danger, and as I went up for prayer at this conference I did something I hadn’t fully done before – I decided that although I couldn’t change the fact that something tough happened, I wasn’t going to let it hold me in bondage any longer – I was going to claim the truth. The truth that when I pass through the waters, God will be with me. The truth that when I pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over me. The truth that when I walk through the fire, I will not be burned; the flames will not set me ablaze. The truth that I am totally safe and have nothing to fear.

And I don’t think for a moment that we need to be anxious about or ‘fixated on’ the forces of evil described in Ephesians 6 – why bother when Jesus paid the ultimate price to break the bondage of sin and darkness? Since I became a Christian a few years ago, I have been entirely secure in my identity in Jesus. I still need to be alert, I need to be armed, but Jesus has now been welcomed into my life and into my home and nothing can change that. The foundation of sand has been replaced with a firm one of rock. Interestingly, during this recent period of listening which I mentioned in the first paragraph, a course which was run at my church was very helpful and well-timed. The wise friend leading this course pointed out to me that in Revelation 2:17 Jesus promises to give his children ‘a new name… known only to the one who receives it.’ When I prayed about this, the name God gave me was ‘Safe’.

The lie: That I am not safe and should be afraid.

The truth: I am completely safe in Christ. He is with me, this ‘river’ will not sweep over me and I won’t be burned!

– Has anyone else met God in a new way following a time of darkness?
– What is your ‘new name’?!