Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sisterhood and Accountability

    How often do we hear men complain that they ‘just don’t get women’? That’s because by our nature we’re complex and confusing. But no-one understands a woman like another woman. We need other women in our lives to walk along side us, to guide us, and to pull us up on things we could do better even when it hurts. We need sisters who will speak the truth in love, lift us up out of despair and rejoice with us in times of joy.

    Not only am I blessed with a real sister who I can share my faith with, but also with countless other sisters in Christ who have come into my life over the years and left their uniquely shaped marks. I feel so blessed by these women – those I’ve known all my life who continue to shape the person I’m becoming, those who I meet for the first time right when God knows that I need them and go on to become close friends, and those who enter my life only for a season but leave me thoroughly changed. 

    But though sisterhood is largely about loving each other and building each other up in Christ, there is so much more to it. It’s about moving past the level of friendship where we focus on all that is good to avoid rejection, and entering the stage of the relationship where we are completely open and honest with each other regardless of the risks to our pride. Sisterhood is as much about constructive criticism as it is about compliments: it requires us to have the courage to call each other out when we drift off the path – not to expose our flaws, but to cover them with what is right. Literally:

Sister – the bond we have as members of God’s family.
Hood – covering with love, and with the Holy Spirit.

    I have three incredible accountability partners (yes, three – one person alone couldn’t handle me!) who each firmly but lovingly hold me accountable to God in different areas of my life. They constantly amaze me with their capacity for love, and their willingness to go out of their way to support and encourage me when I doubt myself or even doubt God’s love for me. But I also respect them for their fearlessness in equally lovingly challenging me when I get carried away with my own desires rather than focusing on God’s. 

    The other day I came across this passage in ‘Life of the Beloved’ by Henri Nouwen, and I think it describes perfectly our need for sisters in Christ to hold us accountable!

‘My own experience with anguish has been that facing it and living it through is the way to healing. But I cannot do that on my own. I need someone to keep me standing in it, to assure me that there is peace beyond darkness, life beyond death and love beyond fear.’

    Romans 12:10 calls us to ‘Love each other more like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honour than you would want for yourself.’ Sometimes that requires sacrificing what we want in the present (ie. not being afraid to speak the truth because it risks disrupting the peace) in order to move towards what’s best for everyone in the long run. As sisters we need to…

- Encourage each other, and build each other up.
- Speak the truth in LOVE, not self-righteousness.
- Accept our differences and work for the common good.
- Pray for and with each other continually.
- Serve each other faithfully.

Thank God for the sisters He has placed in your life, and seek His guidance in how best you can serve them in return.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Jesus, My First Love

    Remember when you were a teenager and you had a crush on a guy at school? Remember feeling your chest start to get tight and heavy, like the pressure of containing your heart was about to make it burst… just from making eye contact with him across the canteen for all of 3 seconds? Remember the butterflies in your stomach at the thought that he had noticed you?

‘I found him whom my soul loves.’ Song of Songs 3:4

    The other day I was reading a book called ‘Spoken For’, and as I meditated on its message that I am redeemed, wanted, deeply loved, fought for, delighted in, pursued, secure, protected, held, His, his bride, his chosen one, and above all spoken for, I was suddenly aware of all of those symptoms once again. 

    And that’s when I knew. I knew that Jesus is enough to satisfy me. He sees me. He loves me just as I am. He will never leave me. He alone can provided everything I need. His faithfulness is unceasing, unfailing and unchanging. He has set me apart for Himself, and He lavishes me with gifts daily. He is, and always will be, my first love.

‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”’ Lamentations 3:22-24

    It’s really a very simple strategy for living this life we have been given: He loves me, and I love Him. There is nothing else I can possibly need, no harm can come to me, and I can never be separated from Him, because ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). We love each other because He first loved us. He loved us because His father loved Him – His father who is love itself. We were created in love, by love, to love. So love cannot be separated from Christ, and it will always lead us back to Him. The one who loves us unconditionally

    Just recently a friend talked to me about her struggle with singleness, and I found myself telling her something which I had experienced myself but never put into words before. 

“You have to learn to be content with just you and Jesus before you start a relationship.”

    As women, each one of us has a desire to be cherished. Too often we seek the fulfilment of that desire from the men around us – but by doing so not only do we turn our backs on the only one who can truly provide for us, but we also place far too great a pressure on those men. The truth is that as much as we need men to guide us towards Heaven, no man alone has the power to give us everything we need. In order to form healthy relationships, we must first learn to draw total satisfaction from Jesus. Sweet, dependable, ever-loving Jesus.

    As I sat in Adoration at a Nightfever event a few nights ago, the words I’d heard Veronica say in Easter dramas whilst growing up echoed in my heart: “What have they done to you, my Lord?”

He is my Lord. He is mine. He is yours. First, foremost and forever.