If you want to steadfastly pursue the good, then you have to relinquish the bad – and you can’t do that on your own.
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
- Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
- Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
- Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
- Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
- Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
- Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
- Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
- Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x
There’s a lyric in the song, ‘Chasing Cars’ by the band ‘Snow Patrol’ that has a lot to teach me:
“I need your grace to remind me to find my own”.
Now, I can’t with all honesty say that I know or understand what all of the lyrics in this song are about. However, this line resonates with me in such a practical way.
I love Jesus Christ, and at the very heart of being a follower of Christ is the Cross. Forgiveness. Mercy. Unmerited grace and favour. God’s Riches (towards me, a sinner) At Christ’s Expense. GRACE. Amazing Grace. I am awed and humbled by this almost unthinkable, almost absurd, if it wasn’t so incredible, so full of love and self sacrifice, that God Incarnate would take the place of His sinful creation, that Jesus Christ the Son of God would take the wrath and punishment for our, my sins against a Holy God, and having paid the price in full, tear down the dividing wall between a Holy God and sinful man / woman, impart to me His Righteousness.
“I stand amazed in the Presence of Jesus The Nazarene, and wonder how He could Love me, a sinner, condemned unclean, how marvellous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be, how marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s Love for me!” I am clothed and covered in His Righteousness. This complete forgiveness, love and acceptance, a new life, is His Gift to me.
And although this often does leave me speechless, I often fail to understand how to walk in this Truth in the mud and mire of everyday life on this planet.
If forgiveness is so important to me, the very crux and foundation of my faith and my identity in Christ, then why do I need to be reminded of it when people wrong or hurt me? Why as human beings is it so hard to ask for or to extend forgiveness? We still battle against sin in this fallen world, and in ourselves.
I realise that regardless of what anyone else is doing, I need to humble myself before God. Whether that is to repent and ask for forgiveness myself, or to ask for His Grace to work in my heart to enable me to love and forgive those who have wronged me, or in most cases it will be both, whichever way, I need Him.
The impossible is made possible at the Cross, through His death and resurrection. And the beautiful thing is that I have His Grace, to remind me, to find my own (in Him).
Soli deo Gloria. x
I’ve always been interested in human psychology. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are too. However, don’t you find that there is a marked and poignant difference between those instances where we have a purely intellectual fascination in an aspect of psychology from when we have a personal reason or investment to figure ourselves and other people out? I certainly do. The first approach perhaps is driven by curiosity, fascination, a love of learning and discovery. The second is perhaps tinged more with pain, hurt, confusion and a desire to seek out answers to make sense of things we are grappling with ‘in real life’ and / or to find some kind of mental and emotional healing. Sometimes both go hand in hand as two sides of the same coin.
One area of exploration that has come to my attention over the past while is the use of silence in human relationships, its power and place, its promise, and its pain. I can think of five different people over the past few years who use silence as a form of communication. However, without actually saying anything, how can a person know that the message they are portraying is the one that they want to be received? I don’t know. It’s never been something I have intentionally done to anyone, and never something I intend to initiate.
The Power of Silence:
Silence can be a blessed and a beautiful thing. Many of us will be familiar with the phrase that ‘silence is golden’. What does that mean? Silence is rare, precious, valuable, of great importance, a gift, to be treasured.
When I think of silence as a gift, I think of those precious moments of solitude where the noise of the world fades out, and we find peace in the stillness. I think of times of rest and relaxation, of being in nature, and although not being void of sound, of finding repose in the natural sounds of a babbling brook, of wind rustling through golden autumnal leaves, of gentle birdsong.
Sometimes I think of the beauty and power of silence as those moments when you embrace and hold someone you love and where conversation and chatter cease.
There is power in silence also, as Scripture tells us, in our souls waiting quietly before God. As we quieten down, perhaps in the sense of a ‘retreat’ we can find hope and connection, we can ‘hear God’s voice’, we can feel more grounded in ourselves, more in touch with the natural world, and find power in silence in a way that gives us clarity, answers, direction, meaning and restfulness that is all too easily dissipated in a world of noise and rush and hurry.
There is Power in Silence. And it can be Beautiful, as we ponder the vastness of existence, the complexity of the universe, the intricacy of our own souls, the value of the life we live and of the people around us.
The Pain of Silence:
Sadly, however, there can also be pain in silence. Perhaps you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and you miss the sound of their voice.
But what of other types of silences in human relations and psychology? Silence that is not so much about absence as it is about presence? It’s something I am trying to understand a little more of just now, for the latter reason in the opening to this post.
Silence as a healer – sometimes we all find that we need to retreat, to pull away from the noise of the world and other people, and take time to be still and to heal, and this can be a beautiful yet painful thing. I personally am the kind of person who needs a lot of quiet time, time in nature, and time away from the crowds. Time to pray, to connect, to be still, to write, to understand. Sometimes we are more aware of our pain in times of silence, but inevitably, if used well, it is a positive aspect of human life to take time out to be still, to be quiet, and can indeed be very healing.
Sometimes I feel the need for taking a few days to myself to find the benefits of silence, and time with God, alone. In such instances, I communicate and let the people closest to me know that this is what I’m doing, so that they know that the quiet time is to do with my own needs for personal growth, and nothing that they might have done wrong.
As we seek to grow in ourselves, we would be wise and mature to reflect upon how our actions and inactions might affect or be interpreted by those around us, especially those with whom we are usually in most contact with so as not to cause unnecessary hurt or misunderstanding. I live on my own, but if I want to have some focused quiet time to myself, I’ll phone my family and let them know, and they respect that and give me some space and when we come together we have a healthy and loving place to pick up from.
Thinking of other people as well as ourselves helps to overcome misunderstanding, hurt and confusion, and it is a kind and responsible approach to life that we all do well to be mindful of.
However, sometimes silence is used in interpersonal relationships to hurt rather than to heal. Why is this?
Perhaps you have a spouse, a family member or close friend with whom you have either used or experienced ‘the silent treatment’ from. How do we interpret this and what could it mean?
I’m not an expert, but as I try to figure some things out, my ponderings have led me to believe that silence when used by one person against another could perhaps convey some of the following:
1. The need for space:
Sometimes people use silence as a way of forming and setting boundaries with other people, of highlighting the distinction of one from another, and of asserting individuality. Men and women communicate differently, and sometimes men are silent, not in a manipulative way, but just because they want space and time to think about things, whereas women’s default communication style seems to be to talk things through. However, regardless of gender, people more generally can be silent because they may be subconsciously or intentionally creating space, distance, and be thinking through some things by themselves.
2. Silence as avoidance:
Whereas with the first point above, silence and space could come from a natural gravitation towards ‘problem solving’, or thinking things through, it can also be used more negatively as a form of avoidance. Sometimes people fall silent as a means of self-protection, of avoiding conversation or confrontation, or because they just don’t want to deal with something and it’s easier just to wish it away, by running away, or creating space.
3. Silence to communicate hurt:
We all hurt each other and get hurt from time to time, it’s inevitable in any human relationships, and for the most part in healthy interactions it is totally unintentional. Still, sometimes we just need time to be silent to either deal with and process or to communicate hurt that someone has caused us. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t caused me hurt or offence in some way at some time, and being human I must reflect that it must be the case that I have unintentionally done to others similar things as they have unintentionally done to me. To err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we feel it is all we can do to slink away, to nurse our wounds, and to come back when we are ready. For the most part I don’t tell people of all the things they do that hurt me because I know their character that they are kind people and don’t intentionally mean to do the things they do, just as I don’t if I cause people to feel that way – I don’t do this because overall I know that I can maturely bring my ‘issues’ before God and seek His strength, wisdom and grace and move on in healthy communication. The point is the intention to continue to build upon healthy relationships.
4. Silence as a weapon:
Unfortunately some people use silence, whether intentionally or only partially so, as a means of control, of negative communication, of power, and even punishment or manipulation. Certain personality types such as narcissists may have these tendencies, and may use silence to hurt other people, to cause concern, confusion, self-doubt in the other person as to what they have done wrong to ‘deserve’ being ignored, or to illicit a response.
I’d like to think that people like that are few and far between. I have come across, and worked with people like that in the past, but I’d like to think I can safely say that all of the people I consider friends do not set out to hurt or manipulate people by using silence.
And yet, I find that friends can and do use silence as a means to communicate, quite loudly, the problem being that maybe they aren’t aware of the message that is being conveyed.
On the receiving end:
Being on the receiving end, unexpected silences from friends can convey the following, whether true and intended, or not:
You have offended me, and I will not tell you why.
You are not important to me.
I can’t deal with you.
You have served your ‘use value’ to me, I don’t need you or your friendship any more.
I discard you.
I don’t want you to be involved in this aspect of my life / my life.
I’ve moved on, and don’t consider the friendship important enough to communicate this to you.
My feelings are more important than yours, you should know why I am silent, and if you don’t you should figure it out.
I don’t want to deal with confrontation, so I’ll do things on my own terms, managing my own feelings, and will try not to worry about if I have hurt you, because I can’t really handle that.
You’re too much for me, these things….xxxxx……about you bother me, but I don’t know how to tell you that.
I have a new life, new friends now, you’re in the past but I don’t want to offend you by telling you this, so I’ll just move on and hope you figure it out – no hard feelings.
I’m moving into a new season of life, I have new people, I wish you all the best, but the past is the past, hopefully you can understand that from the silence.
I don’t like you.
I’m too good for you.
I’m too busy for you.
You’re a nuisance and inconvenience in my life, I’m better off without you, please leave me alone.
So in case you feel you have good reasons to use silence in a relationship or friendship, be aware that it could be misinterpreted, cause a great deal of hurt and confusion, and can leave the other person feeling used, washed up and discarded.
However, if you find yourself on the receiving end and thinking any of the above, try not to internalise these things, however hard that might be. Most likely those things aren’t true or valid, or aren’t entirely so, and we all have things going on in ourselves and the person treating you in what feels like the above ways probably (or hopefully) doesn’t intend you to feel any of those bad things. Be kind to yourself, communication takes courage, so be gentle with yourself and with those people in your life who don’t really know how to do that well, and so prefer to risk causing greater hurt through silence. We all need a bit of work, and we all need a lot of grace, so focus on being loving, kind, gentle, and understanding, try to gain insight, and try to be the type of person that you aspire to be – one that is kind, patient, loving, understanding, gentle, keeps no record of wrongs, forgiving, helpful, strong, courageous, communicative, an encourager and a blessing to others rather than a source of hurt.
The Promise of Silence:
As you can see from the above, silence leaves room for a whole lot of things! It can leave room for healing, for growth and for hope, but conversely it unfortunately, when communication is withheld can leave room for miscommunication, false beliefs, hurt, pain, negativity, and confusion. Be careful how you use silence in your life, and the lives of others. Don’t abuse it, because you never know how much you could unintentionally lose when you’re not brave enough to bring things to the light. Don’t let things fester, be honest in your communication – “Speak the Truth in Love”. So you might offend someone by what you say, by wanting to clear things up or communicate how they made you feel. Maybe you will find that you have caused them hurt too and give them an opportunity to help you grow as well. But by bringing things to light and communicating, you create the opportunity for growth, for sharing, for understanding and for a healthy and mature way to move forwards taking into consideration what both parties have to say. Don’t be afraid of that. But speak Truth in Love and with noble and kind intentions. You may just find that people are far more understanding than you give them credit for.
What is of more concern, I think is not the hurt and offence caused by trying to communicate, but the hurt, pain, and confusion by leaving space for things to be imagined, by not saying anything at all. Maybe what you think is ok from your point of view, comes across very differently to your intended recipient. And if you do intend to hurt people by using silence, perhaps it is time to turn away from that in humility and seek Forgiveness.
So, what of the promise of silence?
In the Bible, there are passages where people are calling out to God, lamenting His ‘silence’ and that He seems and feels far from them. I have experienced such seasons in my life. However, I realise that I have a relationship with God and as I grow in that faith replaces fear, trust and knowledge replace anxiety and worry. Why? Because I know my God’s proven character. Where He is silent on something, He is drawing me closer to Him to trust Him. It doesn’t mean that what is important to me, that He is silent on, isn’t important to Him too. He loves me. He loves you. He is a communicating God, and if He is seemingly silent on something it is for a very good reason, and I can trust His Word and His Character – He Is Good, and He Is Love. There is great promise in silence, in knowing Jesus Christ.
However, there is no one else who is so faithful and true. No one. No family member, friend, relationship, spouse or soul mate. There is no one as Faithful, Loving and True as The Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no one else who always has your absolute best intentions in His Heart, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. There is no one else who has or ever will pour out their love in sacrifice to take your punishment and forgive your sins, and draw you into His eternal care, as the Living God.
There is promise in the silences we commit to God. There is hope in knowing that with all the manifold things in our lives that we don’t understand, He does. And He Is loving and gentle and kind and knows how to lead and teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about other people and to learn to live these things out in a way that honours Him as He enables us. God Is always drawing us to Himself, to think upon Him, for His ways Are Perfect. His arms stretched wide on the cross remind us that He Is selfless and calls us to be like Him, to think of others and not just of ourselves.
It can be hard to know how to do this in practice, because we are a bunch of muddled up sinful people. But we are not alone. All we need to do is ask in faith, believing that Jesus Christ Is The Way, and that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
How intensely practical this is when it comes to human relationships, when we don’t know what to do. When we put God first, we allow Him to work in the silence, to bring promise where without Him there would only be pain.
And if you find that you can’t relate to these things, if you don’t believe, then what promise can you find in silence? From where you are just now, you can still find promise, you can find hope and a desire to understand people better, to be self-reflective and think about the impact your behaviour, your communication or lack of it has upon other people, even as you think about what effect they have on you.
None of us were made to live in isolation, we are social beings, but we also have a sometimes intense need for space and silence.
My reflection point for myself, and perhaps it could be for you, is how can I seek to use silence in my life in a way that is borne out of love, and is selfless, taking into account the needs of others and the impact it might have upon them. For me, the only truly wise and loving way to do this, is to look to Jesus. And for those in my life who use silence negatively, and not in the Love of God, I choose to forgive, and commit these silences to Him, to find in Him, their promise. x
It’s Sunday morning, 9.24am, and ‘Life as it happens to be’ today sees me seeking God for help with anxiety. There’s something about being in the Presence of the Living God, and worshipping Him with His people gathered together on a Sunday, listening to the Truth of the Word spoken, and nourishing our spirits that brings a satisfaction and deep connection with our Creator. In times of worship, amidst the crescendo of praise to our Great God, I can close my eyes and feel like I am connecting one to One with the Lord Jesus. Being part of the family and ‘Body of Christ’ as believers is a beautiful thing, despite the challenges that families do face, it is a connection that is spiritual, and borne out of the pure agape Love of Christ Who unites us.
That being said, the process of managing anxiety, of managing all the practical things it takes to get ready in the morning, prepare mentally and simply get out the door, step into the world and get there on time which can be a big struggle for people with anxiety that isn’t the case for people who don’t have this ‘bug in the system’ with regards to fight / flight, our nervous systems going haywire, and our thoughts looking for ways to ‘get out’ of things, which could be, and as it is in my case, the result of previous difficult and highly stressful experiences in childhood.
We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing’ in Philippians, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving so that we can experience the Peace of God in Christ that transcends all human understanding. This is our standard, our comfort and our encouragement. But I do acknowledge and give a ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters who also struggle with anxiety, crowds and social situations, walking down the street and maintaining composure internally and mentally, that we are humans, we do stumble about, trip over our own feet and get stressed when we can’t find our keys or don’t know what to wear and all the time wanting to honour God but knowing we are kind of hopeless at this thing called life. Is it just me, or is anyone with me? Maybe you see me, or I see you in church and we look like we ‘have it together’. We don’t. Trust me. No one does. That’s why we need Jesus.
And as I try to encourage myself through this post, I’d like to also encourage and remind you that our God Is wonderful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and steadfast and unwavering in His Perfect Love for us. Jesus Christ IS The Good Shepherd, His sheep know His Voice, and we follow Him. He leads us, gently, tenderly, and He also trains us rigorously sometimes to live lives of Righteousness, only possible because of Who He Is and what He has accomplished at the cross – Victory!
Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder that no matter where we go, or run to or try to hide or what we might be doing, God Is there, right there with us. Always. So even if anxiety gets the better of you and you stay at home, your Loving Saviour is right there with you, drawing you whether or not that be in a church service, on a mountain, in the quiet of your own space, TO HIMSELF.
Yet, in the gospels He also bids us to Come…to Come to Him….and also to get up, to rise and follow Him…one step at a time, knowing that He goes before us and Is our rear-guard of Protection. What a wonderful Saviour.
What about you? Do you have any experiences that you can encourage the rest of the body of Christ / His family with?
Lastly, I sometimes need a bit of a musical encouragement to get me going, so I have been listening to this this morning. xx
Following on from the 5-senses exercise I suggested around an hour ago, I did put on some relaxing instrumental worship music, which helped me focus my thoughts to the very Giver of Life, and I cosied myself up in a soft throw blanket and sat on a soft rug on the floor.
I had intended to do the five senses exercise, which I often do when I’m out and about to manage anxiety symptoms when they arise.
This particular date, June 11th, is a very significant day for me spiritually so it was important for me to spend time with God. I sat, cosy in the stillness for a while, gently aware of His Presence, and allowed my breathing to slow as I listened to the peaceful instrumental worship music. I gently and naturally observed things around me, the cherry blossom wall decal, the light coming through the window, and noticing the softness of the blanket and the hardness of the floor. I wasn’t paying particular attention to notice things but just letting myself be, and I ended up closing my eyes, and listening, and worshipping in my heart, and then curling up and laying down on the fluffy rug with my blanket around me, as I drew near to The LORD and thanked Him for this significant date in my life and what He has done for me.
You may see me through the journey of my blog as someone who is productive, and positive about life. But the Truth is, I am Held. The Truth is, as you may know if you have read previous posts, I was severely traumatised as a child bullied in school, and this didn’t leave me in adulthood no matter how hard I tried to get past it and I have gone through severe depression, anxiety, self-hate, low self-esteem, fear…a lot of fear, and panic attacks. When lying there, I realised a little of how far God has brought me. I also felt within me the helplessness of just being me, being a person, and the ‘yukiness’ of sin in my heart. I was aware of God’s constant, pure, beautiful, love, mindful of His Sacrifice for me, so that He can free me from my sin, from myself, my hurt and the absolute dead end and mess my life would be, internally and externally, without Him. And in that quiet, in my helplessness, I knew I am now safe, always Held, Secure in Christ’s unfailing, sacrificial, clean and perfect love. Some of us wonder how our Creator could have such love for helpless, weak and foolish sinners like ourselves – and yet in those precious moments, even in our need…we realise although we don’t understand just why He Loves us, He does….and the connection between Creator and His creation, His children somehow makes sense. And that is The One thing I need, Jesus Christ, out of which everything else flows to transform my otherwise broken, helpless, confused and distressed life.
Maybe you don’t believe in Him, maybe you think that you don’t need Him, maybe you defy all thoughts of your own helplessness or sinfulness. You can plan, prepare, strategize, try and try again, and keep on pushing through your life, and succeed outwardly on many levels.
But in those quiet moments, when you are all alone, is all your trying enough? Or are you actually stuffing a lot of things down deep within your heart – anger, hurt, fear, bitterness, trauma, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, apathy, darkness and pain? Are you seeking inspiration from other equally broken human beings, and we all are broken in some way, even in this world that desperately tries to present itself in a perfectly filtered light.
I know I am helpless without God, and I know I am safe to be helpless with Him, because He Is Strong enough so that I don’t have to be….His Strength transforms my weakness, and gives me new life, purpose and hope. When Jesus Christ draws near, and you draw near to Him, His Love, His Forgiveness changes you. A light is shone upon the things in you that you cannot face by yourself, but the Light is of Love and grace and forgiveness, and deep renewal. I found myself praying for the people who hurt me, which believe me has taken years, but it came easily and peacefully because of Who God Is, I thanked Him for the pain, because it led me to Him, to an appreciation of His Sacrifice for me, the incomparable pain He went through to save my lost and sinful soul, and declare me His, to declare me righteous in Christ, through faith and not through anything of myself, because in myself there is nothing good. But in Christ I am a new creation, blameless because of Who He Is and what He has done.
But just as with writing, it is a process to be renewed inwardly. It is a process far deeper, and far more freeing than any amount of ‘self help’ and believe me before I knew The Lord, I tried it. Self help is a bandage, but it is not the cure. Someday that bandage will fall off, and either we will find another temporary fix for the things in ourselves that none of us can repair, heal from or overcome, and we will look to someone or something else for aid.
How thankful I am that despite how helpless I am, and no matter the struggles I have been through, I am safe in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and Loved and securely Held by the Great Physician, The Only One Who can Truly help and heal us Deep within, not just patch us up, but set us free, and bring purpose out of pain. Yes, it may take time, it may take difficult things coming to the surface, it may seem to get worse before it gets better, but everything He does, He does well….He can free us from the mess we make of ourselves, our relationships and the world.
There is nothing like knowing that the reality that no matter what the narratives are of our lives, if we honestly and humbly ask Jesus Christ for help, He will never turn us away. He IS Love. He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life. I didn’t have that before but in the moments of retreat and stillness, I am reminded of the wonder that He Holds me, He holds my life, and transforms a broken life into something victorious, because He Is Perfect Love.
To come back to writing, and writing honestly and authentically, I am reminded of the healing and renewal process within me. I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and just as I develop the characters in my novel, who each have some reflection of myself as their journeys help me to understand mine better, so too must I take time to allow my lessons to work deep within me, so that what I write is more than words on a page.
Our creative journeys may be different, but taking time teaches us so much more about our craft or practice, it teaches us about our self.
When I was a little girl, I had a vast and vivid imagination. If it was a rainy day and I didn’t have anyone to play with, I would create stories in my mind and go on imaginary adventures. When I was in primary school I had a dream that when I grew up I would be an artist, a painter or a cartoonist…this gradually progressed to me wanting to be a writer (as well as all of the above 🙂 ), and I busied myself with creating short stories. When I was in primary school at around 8 or 9 years of age, my class was asked to write a short story. I was an avid reader as a child and drew inspiration from a book I was reading and a television programme that I watched. Inspired by these wonderful imaginary worlds, I created a story all of my own and enjoyed doing so. It turned out that my teacher enjoyed my story too, so much so that she complimented me on writing to the level of a first or second year high school student – which when you are 8 years old is a massive compliment because high school students are so far removed from our little childhood world that they seem almost like adults! For those who have different terms in your education system, the equivalent would be a student aged between 11 to 13 years old. My teacher gathered the class to sit in a semi circle on the floor around her as she sat on a chair. You can imagine the scene, a group of kids sitting cross legged looking up at their teacher, so glad that their maths time is over and they can enjoy being read to! This was the normal way we’d sit when the teacher would read to us as a class from some fiction book. Only this day, she chose to read my story to the class instead! I was a humble, quiet child, but I was so happy on the inside, and it is a pleasant childhood memory that I am glad to have.
As I moved schools at age 9 and went to a new primary school I found things difficult for a while and leaving all that was familiar to me behind I became a lot quieter having lost my close friendships and finding myself as the new person and having to start all over again. Being a visible minority also made it harder for me but eventually I found my fit and was respected amongst my peer group. I continued to enjoy reading and writing and although I was always in the top groups for other subjects such as maths, it was a lot harder work for me and I struggled and remember tears being shed over fractions and long division. I could get very good marks, but not without the struggle and tears and a bit of stress. English however, that was a dream to me. I enjoyed writing poetry, prose, short fiction as a child and all but the poetry has continued into adulthood.
With my move to secondary school aged 11 years old came another big step out of my comfort zone as I had to go to a school outside of the catchment area of my primary school because a family member was already there, and this meant leaving behind classmates once again. As you’ll know by now if you’re a regular (and much appreciated 🙂 ) visitor to my blog, this was a traumatic time for me, and I was bullied physically, verbally, mentally, socially and emotionally by my peers as well as being unfairly treated by a couple of teachers. This totally scrambled my mind and my emotions and has left me with a lot to work on well into adulthood, but by the grace of God, He Is bringing out things from it for His Glory, and my restoration and for the good of other people.
Writing became important to me on a much deeper level. I was alone, scarred, scared, terrified, shy and friendless and felt I had no one to turn to, other than my family, but even then I couldn’t articulate the enormity of what I was going through so I became quite withdrawn. I was inspired by reading Ann Frank’s diary ‘whom’ she named ‘Kitty’ and as a child in school I poured out my heart to my ‘only friend’ at the time, a notebook of my own ‘whom’ I also named as a friend to comfort myself that I had ‘someone’ to turn to. My short stories turned from imaginary worlds to exploring ideas of people like me who were bullied for their appearance or something ‘different’ or seemingly undesirable about them, how it felt and also touching upon mental health, depression and suicide, although I wouldn’t really know what to call it all at the time.
I devoured books. I shone in my English classes, although a quiet student, partly because of my nature and also because I was traumatised and ‘stuck’ and not as comfortable with myself, and often hating myself for being so ‘repulsive’ which actually wasn’t true but it was a result of the emotional and psychological scars from the cruel treatment I experienced. Yet my passion for literature, and to be a writer only grew. I read classics and I found myself imagining being like one of the female writers of times past, pouring out her soul onto paper as it were, because without doing so she couldn’t function, and literally for a while I felt I had to write to live. I excelled in writing and gained academic recognition in high school and went on to study English Literature in University for my undergraduate degree, along with Politics. I then went on to study a Masters course in Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development and won the prize for the best written dissertation on my chosen subject of human trafficking. This came after a time when my dream to get into the postgraduate creative writing course in my university burst and my application was rejected due to the high quality of the many candidates who applied. Basically, they were telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’. And that did discourage me for a while.
Yet, glancing back to my late teenage years, just before I embarked upon University I was at an age, 17 to be exact, when I like my peers was looking to the future and wondering what we’d become. I had worked hard in school to gain good grades and do well, and tried so hard to ‘get away’ from the emotional and psychological trauma and distress buried deep within….yet I was still so broken despite things looking positive outwardly to some extent. People told me later that in my final year of school they admired me, wanted to be me or were jealous of me – quelle surprise! If only they knew the troubled soul beneath the surface, surely they would change their mind. I was admired physically as well which was confusing to me after being taunted mercilessly for being repulsive in my earlier high school years, and having equated my self worth with their comments and feeling worthless. I had fought hard internally to get to where I was and yet the emotional pain was severe and I hid it well. It didn’t just go away but actually became more apparent later in adulthood, when it all came to the surface and ‘exploded’ in I guess a cathartic way in breaking down, the pain couldn’t stay stuffed within anymore, but I had to face it to begin to heal.
Aged 17 I was still passionate about literature and passionate about becoming a writer. It was also a form of escapism for me. When you’ve been made to feel like you are ‘nothing’ sometimes you turn to the imaginary world to dream of some kind of success or the person you’ll eventually become…only on the hard rugged road of real life it is seldom that easy unless you are particularly fortunate to tread a gentle and happy path. I was broken and I wanted to write…but not only did I want to write novels, I wanted to write ‘self help’ or ‘self care’ and spiritual books…because I wanted to help other people. I was *so* broken that even though I wanted to be able to help others, I could not reach out because I barely had the strength to get through my own emotional pain and that was so demoralising and frustrating for me….was it all for nothing? I wanted to help….even ‘just’ one person, because I was one person, and I needed help.
Someone did stop to help me, to tell me about the Lord Jesus, and I just couldn’t fathom why someone was being genuinely kind to me, and I didn’t feel worthy of kindness because I was so hurt. I was like a wounded little bird tied up in chains unable to escape the inner pain and mental fear – fear was something that everyone who came across me would notice – I was sweet, and kind and gentle and creative, pretty and loving, but I was consumed with fear and unable to break free, barely able to make eye contact or hold my head up.
More than someone stopping to tell me about Jesus, I came over time to know that Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd of the sheep, as the parable says left the 99 sheep that were safe to come to look for the one that was lost – and that one was me. Perhaps today, you identify and see that it is you. He didn’t merely come to rescue me but to lay down His Life to Save, Forgive, Cleanse, Heal and Restore me, and give me hope in this life and an eternal life of pure love in His Kingdom to come. Glory. Self help and human advice can only go so far, the love and restoration that Jesus has for us is so very real, and it may take time as you cry out to God asking why did you allow me to feel such pain, but He suffered the most to set us free.
When I was saved, God led me to lay down my writing and my dreams of being a writer as an idol. This was not an easy process, and I didn’t accept it easily until finally I did. I surrendered, and I wasn’t able to write for a long while. And all the while He was changing me from the inside out. I had started writing a fantasy adventure novel maybe the year or a few months before I was saved. And so I had to give this up. But God in His great love and wisdom had better plans. I used to imagine becoming a well known and respected writer, and opening up a box of my very own published works and being able to dedicate them to family and friends and share them with people. Was this the illusion, the escape, the reclusive ‘fame’ even that I sought? Yet over time, God changed me to want to do everything for His Glory alone because of the greatness of His Sacrifice of Pure Love for me. We all are sinners in need of a Saviour, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, and I thought in my foolishness that I was good, until God showed me my heart and convicted me so that my very ‘bones cried out’ for mercy. Only the righteous blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us and forgive us for all sin, He had to endure the cross, and suffer the wrath of the Father so that we, the guilty, could go free….and be considered blameless and righteous ….and only because of Him. And after some time I gradually began to write again. There were people and friends in my life who were doing well with their writing and getting published, and I was struggling with life and a whole host of things going on that I was just trying to survive and so much felt utterly broken so I was pretty dejected and I guess in my heart my dreams were broken, and I didn’t feel like I mattered so much…it often feels like that when we are going through particularly intense hard times while those around us seem to be blossoming with the happiness of life and good circumstances and blessings. Yet God does not have favourites and that was a painful lesson for me to walk through as I felt that I wasn’t among them.
So, fast forward a few years, and now we have this term ‘Millenials’. According to my age group, I come within this category of being a ‘Millenial’ although I’m not sure how fond I am of terms that lump people together in such a way, as I am able to connect with people from across the generations, younger to older. As a millennial, in terms of the time frame I grew up in, I am towards the middle and older end of the spectrum as I can actually remember a time before mobile phones did anything more than call and text, and before the internet was much of a thing. The internet was around when I was in school but it was only just gaining in popularity and people were still getting to know what it was all about. I realise some of the younger readers won’t be able to imagine such a ‘land before time’ ….a time before the internet, would they even know what a ‘dial up modem’ is (anyone remember those?).
As such, when I dreamt of being a writer, my dreams were written with pen and ink on paper, were treasured in notebooks and drawers (yes, I did not have a laptop as a child or teenager…can you imagine? 🙂 ) and my inspiration was drawn from the Brontes, Jane Austen, ‘Jo’ from ‘Little Women’ who had to write in solitude and courage in the hope that one day their dream to share their heart and writings with another human being might actually come to fruition once they had found favour in the publishing world – which of course was not an easy journey.
Which brings me once more to the title of this blog post: “Do you notice your dreams coming true?”. As human beings, because we are on a journey through life, we are often so caught up in what happened before and thinking about what is to come that we seldom truly appreciate where we are right now, and the dreams we once had that are coming to fruition ….no matter how seemingly ‘small’ or ‘inconsequential’ they might seem to others. Someone might have the dream to walk again if that has been a challenge in their life…so while those around them might be dancing, running and leaping and may not even know how big a ‘step’ they have taken if they finally do accomplish their dream, it doesn’t make the fruition of their dream any less special, beautiful or significant.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being able to write to help somebody….even one person…because one person matters. I could barely find a way through my own pain so I didn’t know how this would come to pass. I dreamed of someone, somewhere being able to read my words and be touched by them…and even though I’m a ‘Millennial’ I dreamed these dreams before the days of the internet and blogging were common place and as part of our daily lives as they are now.
In the past few days a friend of mine who has gone through a lot of difficult things in their life, who has accomplished much, and is yet working through the effects of their earlier life experiences, gave me the gift of sharing that they had read my blog and had been impacted by it, had appreciated my writing and had found help in their own life and would continue to read it. Now this is no small thing, for it really is the fulfilment of a dream I had many years ago…to write, and to help, even one person.
I have been working on a novel for a number of years, and write for the glory of God and not my own ambition anymore. For when you are known and loved and noticed by your Creator, you don’t strive after recognition or validation by people in the same way anymore. You are freer to live out your dreams for the right reasons. So I will keep writing, and keep praying that I do all that I do because He Is Great and merciful, and the Love of my life, and so Worthy of honour, and glory and praise. I will keep writing and leave the rest with Him, whether or not people see what I create, that is in His Hands….Hands that were pierced for me, that hold me through all of life and eternity, Hands that I can fully put my trust in.
What are your dreams? While you continue to plan for your future goals, is there anything you need to take the time to stop and think about and appreciate today? Max Ehrmann in his beautiful prose-poem, Desiderata, wisely advises to ‘enjoy your achievements as well as your plans’. Sometimes we come to things after a lot of struggle and difficulty ….it is worthwhile taking the time not to compare, but to appreciate and be thankful for the unfolding of our own life story, and what we have managed by grace to achieve. I’d love to hear what dreams you have noticed are coming to pass in your own life. xx
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18a… Question:
Are you struggling to move forwards in your life? Perhaps you have a certain challenge or difficulty that you are facing, or maybe things are well with you but you find that you are just drifting along from moment to moment, day to day, with an underlying feeling that you are not really living your best life, and that you are not meeting your potential.
When this is how we find ourselves moving through life, we need a fresh and healthy dose of Truth, perspective and vision. What is a life lived without vision? How can we go anywhere meaningful if we don’t know where we are going? Maybe we have or have had vision in certain areas of our lives but we are getting bogged down with the challenges and realities of the struggles we face on the journey and need a refreshing.
If you find yourself nodding along or quietly acquiescing to these statements, then you are in good company. Many reading this, and the one writing this are in the same metaphorical boat. So, as I seek to encourage you, I also seek to encourage myself, and as I seek to remind myself of the importance of vision in my life I also seek to hopefully provide some words of refreshing, direction and hope for you, my dear readers, as you join me on this journey.
1. Vision: What is vision?
This can be viewed from the vast, broad perspective of our whole life, as well as narrowed down to focus on the more specific. I believe we desperately need both. For me, what truly changed my life is ordering my steps in the Word of God. I have found that over time chaos has given way to calm, hopelessness to hope, helplessness to courage and strength, and aimlessness to vision. Ultimately for myself, the Vision for my entire life temporally here on earth, and for all eternity, is that of a Living Person ~ Jesus Christ ~ my Saviour, Lord, Healer, Best Friend, and Inspiration. My anchor and comfort in every storm. I didn’t always know Him and instead of vision there was a profound sense of despair and lostness. Jesus Christ, the One True and Living God, He Is my Vision. And He gives sight to the blind, when spiritually we have no means to see clearly by ourselves. He Is Light in our darkness, and the entrance of God’s Word gives us Light and understanding.
And yet, I also have smaller, specific ‘visions’ or goals for my life. Without these, and without ordering these according to the Truth of God’s Word, I find that I so easily get overwhelmed by life and unable to properly handle things or look forwards with hope. I end up ruminating on the past or trying to ‘solve’ my own mental problems with little success. The Truth cuts through all of this, and I continue to learn to wield this mighty ‘sword’.
Currently, I find myself considering and having to remind myself to have vision in certain areas of my life:
- My identity, a vision of who I truly am, my value and worth as a person, and my perspective of challenging negative things that people either said or did to me (childhood bullying), and to grow in the freedom to live out my true identity as a valuable created being, imbued with value and worth from my Creator.
- A vision of recovery in my journey to overcome complex post traumatic stress, and to find healing emotionally, mentally, physically and relationally.
- A vision of my goals in keeping connected with family and friends, of helping other people, of taking care of myself, and in accomplishing certain things in writing a book, blogging and making the most of my hobbies, gifts and talents, including for the good of others which include some future plans and learning new skills, health and wellbeing, and work .
These are just a few among many, but without writing them down for myself, planning specific steps to take and being intentional about them, they will just stay buzzing around in my head without really purposefully going anywhere. What about you? What are you seeking to find, do, be or accomplish in your life just now?
Now, this is the hard part, and it is why we often need regular reminders of our bigger goal or vision and why this is so important to us and integral to what we value in life. Patience is particularly hard when it involves things beyond our control, or when there is no straightforward A + B formula or a set timescale by which we can arrive at where we want to be or how we want to feel. This might involve areas of our life such as relationships as other people are complex, unique and often unpredictable beings just as we are. It might involve a situation in which we rely on someone or something else to work out, we might be waiting for a part in a process of ‘red tape’ or bureaucracy that is slowing us down from moving forwards, it might involve the decision on the part of someone else, or it might be the case that we have been trying for something that just doesn’t seem to be ‘working out’ just now.
For me, at the moment, I find that I need to revive my vision and hope, and have patience in the process of healing and recovery from complex post traumatic stress, and the need to be ‘set free’ spiritually from the heaviness and hurt. It takes patience with myself, as I can see that there might be people that I’d like to connect with, or get to know, but my ‘injuries’ are holding me back or making it difficult to smoothly move forwards in life, and this is frustrating, provokes anxiety and self doubt, and just doesn’t feel all that great to be honest. So while I am writing this for you, I’m also writing it as a reminder for me to look above and beyond the struggles and challenges of the journey to reminding myself of the greater vision and that there may be glitches and bumps along the way that are not so comfortable, there may be things that are completely out of our hands, the positive of which is that this can if we let it drive us to deeper faith, hope, love and dependence on our Creator. And yet, there are certain tools and helps in our own hands that we need to be disciplined enough to use. The A + B = desired result may not be what is happening here, and for some the growth and lessons are deeper and more painful as they may involve a hope being fulfilled in time, or they may involve a painful process of change, growth and a purification of our characters. They may involve loss and grief, sadly. I think of my friends who are struggling with infertility, and it is a reminder to that as we pursue our goals in life, we also need to patiently and sincerely pursue extending compassion and kindness for others and ourselves in the process, or perhaps as being even more important than what we initially set out to obtain.
For me, although there is no straightforward A+B formula or a smooth path for living free, as with all of us there are certain things that I can do and that are my responsibility to do in the process. Whether this be focusing on my relationship with God, nurturing my true identity, refusing to ruminate or let painful past memories and effects overtake me, finding coping mechanisms, grounding techniques and things to do to keep me focussed on the present, making time to nurture friendships, invest time and love into the gifts and talents I’ve been given, continue to work on eating, sleeping, maintaining a routine and exercising for the sake of improving my well being – these are all things that I can remind myself of when the difficulties begin to obscure the hope of the vision. Maybe you can ask yourself today both what is your vision, and what is in your power to do just now, and also are you living by faith, or are you giving in to feelings and false beliefs of hopelessness?
3. Promise: Hold on friends, hold on with hope, faith, love, trust and perseverance. I don’t know what the promise is for your life, but I know that none of us are here by accident, or mistake or happenstance. Your life is beautifully valuable, precious, intentioned and unique. Remember that today, and hold fast to the promise, the Truth that is so freely available to us (please comment below if you want to ask any questions on this and finding guidance in the life-changing promises of the Bible), as you do so much more in your life and in your day than merely drifting along, coping or surviving.
You were made for so much more, my friend. And it is a promise that you should live it…not in your strength, but by amazing grace if you reach out to take a hold of the One Who offers eternal hope and promise to you – Jesus Christ.
Be blessed, dear ones. Even if you don’t believe or have widely different views on things, then I’d still love to hear from you, and welcome your comments and connection. xx (c).
Photography is a particular hobby of mine that allows me to intentionally slow down and focus on the world around me. To caress moments in time, and capture something of the essence of them, in a world that seems to be incessantly rushing by. There are some rare moments when you capture something that even touches your own heart, and although I am not a professional photographer, I do try to improve and the photographs above, especially the one on the right are a couple of those rare gems that I am particularly fond of.
They speak to me of the beauty of nature in its changing seasons, and the delicate, even fragile passing of time, the life giving way to death and the sowing of seeds carried almost serendipitously by the wind for new life to be planted wherever it will.
I wonder if you, like me, crave solitude or at least times of refreshing in a world that is full of schedules and ‘to do’ lists? Time to fully live the season that you are in, and to appreciate it, in this particular moment. There is beauty and grace in the summer and the winter seasons of our lives. And yet, we fear the passing of time, but do we use our time, our lives wisely?
I don’t know about you, but as serendipitous as a seed falling to the ground may seem, I believe that there is a greater, higher, fascinating order to life. I see so much design and purpose and beautiful intention in nature, that I can’t but allow myself to be breath taken by the seemingly simplest of things. When I really take time to be still, to wonder and ponder at life, I know in my heart that there is a meaning and an order behind it all. We live chaotic lives, but to a great degree we choose to. We choose to close our eyes and our ears to the Love and Peace gently, persuasively calling out our names, compelling us to know that we do have a place in this grand design, and that we don’t have to live our lives as rootless, purposeless flowers caught and tossed by every wind of change in life.
There was a time in life when I felt helplessly alone, rootless, tossed by tempest and storms beyond my control, striving to find Peace, but that Peace always alluding me. And yet, now I have an unshakeable Root, a place of belonging, a Love unfailing, and confidence that despite the passing of time, the fragility of my being and of my life, I am held securely both now and for eternity by a God Who Knows, Who Cares, Who sent Jesus Christ in Whose Life I am hidden in God, to die for me, to forgive me, to save my lost soul, and give a purpose and meaning to every fleeting moment of my fragile life. And as I think of using my time, each season, I am compelled to tell you about His Love, His Certainty, His Security, His Peace and Hope, that perhaps someway, some how, by His Grace, these seeds of love will be carried by the gentle, persistently loving winds of the Holy Spirit to take root in your heart and change your life forever, or if you know and love Him already, to deepen your roots in Christ so that you may life a life, each moment, fruitful, flourishing and at Peace in Him, when it is your time to pass from this fleeting life into to the next unshakeable one. xx
God, the Living God, desires a relationship with us. Individually. He communicates with us in so many ways, through His creation, the intricate weavings of nature around us, through people, our circumstances, and that ‘still small voice’ within.
And yet the clearest communication we have with our Great God, our Loving Heavenly Father is through His Word and times spent in prayer.
How much God desires us! To be with us! His heart could not bear heaven without us, so Jesus Christ came to be among us, die for us, and bring us to new life in Him at such immense cost to Himself.
His arms open wide to us in His suffering for us on the cross dispels our doubts over whether or not God could love us, whether He wants to hear from us, to be with us, to take care of us.
And yet, we do struggle. For those among us who desire a deeper relationship with the God Who loves us so much, whether or not we are yet convinced of His love for us, for those of us who are seeking to find a way back to closeness with God, and for those who want to know whether there is a God out there Who hears us, what small steps can we take in our journey forwards to Him, Who Is waiting, arms outstretched, to Love us, sacrificially love us (agape love) for our own good, as no one else ever could love us?
Might I suggest a simple step if you are struggling to pray? Pray the Scriptures, the True Word of the Living God, found in the Bible, back to Him. Perhaps begin with a psalm or a proverb, or some of the beautiful, passionate, heartfelt and triumphant expressions of the apostle Paul in his letters to the churches, expressing the Greatness of the God he once was opposed to, and yet in Whose purpose and love he has forever been taken up in, to the point of counting everything else as less than rubbish in comparison with the greatness of knowing Christ.
Start small if you need to, knowing that God loves you, hears you, and also loves to hear from you! Ponder each truth as you slowly pray it back to God, talk over it with Him, and listen.
Sometimes the seemingly simplest things yield the deepest pleasures. Be blessed. Christ loves you and died for you and Is the gateway of your life with the Father, by the Holy Spirit. Much love. xx