Thursday, 19 June 2014

Simply Be

        We live in a non-stop culture. We work longer hours than ever yet cram countless activities into our schedule – essays keep us working right through the night, coffee dates are squeezed around board meetings, kids need to be ferried back and forth between their own activities (because we teach them early on that hectic is just the way life is), the to-do list is never completed before new tasks are added. But Jesus calls us to stop doing.  He calls us to simply be.

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

        Right at the beginning of his Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II points out that in Genesis the value of creation is associated with its mere existence. After the final stage of Creation – Man – God looks at everything he has made, and without demanding or requiring anything in return he is pleased with it. He saw it, and it was good. He didn’t see it getting a pay rise, signing up for yet another activity, or coming top of the class. He simply saw his creation being the way He had created it.

 ‘“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:41-42

        Someone recently asked me whether I thought I was a Mary or a Martha. My honest answer was that in the past I’ve tended to be more of a Martha – I know I’m impatient, I hate not being in control of my life and I have an incessant need to help people constantly to the extent that I burn out (ironically helping no-one!).

        But I’m trying to be a Mary. I’m learning that God knows best. I’m slowly allowing myself more and more to be moulded by God’s grace. To some extent we all need to slow down the pace of our lives for two reasons: 1) God doesn’t care how much we achieve by the world’s standards, and 2) rushing through life merely deprives us of time spent basking in His presence.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

        Be still. One solitary request. Know that He is God. Let Him do the rest. It’s so easy to feel helpless or useless when we find ourselves with nothing to do and desperately try to keep ourselves busy, but the truth is that we don’t have to constantly be doing something in order for our lives to be a ‘success’. We’re called to simply trust in His sovereignty and take the time to listen to His voice.

        God doesn’t ask us to trek the earth to gain His attention. He doesn’t ask where we placed in our graduation class, how many deals we’ve signed for the company or how many Facebook friends we’ve acquired. He doesn’t ask, because the things we do are not important in comparison to the people we are. He loves you, because He made you, and He is pleased with His work. You don’t have to achieve that love, you already have it endlessly.

He loves you, because He loves you, because He loves you. It’s as simple as that.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Don't be afraid of the pain

    Women are emotional. We feel everything strongly – good and bad. That’s not because we’re hysterical, it’s because we were designed that way! We were made to be sensitive to the needs of others, to empathise with their situation, and to follow our innate and burning desire to do everything we can to help them. Our sensitivity is an incredible gift! But it also leaves us vulnerable.

    When it comes to our own troubles we tell ourselves, and each other, that emotional pain is to be avoided. We go for the very British ‘stiff upper lip’, and convince ourselves that if we ignore the anguish for long enough it’ll simply disappear. But by blocking out the pain we deprive ourselves of half of life. 

    Living, I mean really living, is standing firm in the bad times as well as the good: not being knocked down by the blows life gives, but not running in the other direction either. Becoming the people God intends us to be means learning from our mistakes and being formed by the way we deal with hard times.

    For the past few weeks I’ve been working through Katrina J Zeno’s book ‘Discovering the Feminine Genius’ with two of my closest friends and accountability partners. In this week’s chapter we came across this quote, which completely took me back.

“So please, even though it hurts, don’t be afraid of the pain. It’s the Divine Artist’s tool to carve in you more room for himself, to prepare the bridal chamber.”

    As a teenager I loathed the feeling of vulnerability. Not being in control utterly terrified me. I closed myself off from everyone around me and convinced myself that I knew best, that I could cope on my own, that I wasn’t bothered by whatever happened to me. I grew numb to pain, and numb to happiness as a consequence – because I learned that you can’t block one without the other. But I’ll tell you a secret…

I’ve grown to love the feeling of desperation!

    Why? Because it’s in the moments that I feel completely empty that I’m the most open to be filled up by the Spirit. The times I've stood with my arms thrown wide in worship, exhausted, weak and utterly desperate, are the times I’ve felt most alive. When I have nothing left to give, there's no limit to what I can receive. The heaviest burdens provide the best opportunities to let Jesus carry them.  

‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ Psalm 34:18

    So I urge you not to be afraid of the pain. Don’t run from the hard times, or try to deny your emotions. Stand still, and stand strong. Allow yourself to feel, because it’s not a sign of weakness! You were created for union, communion and love, and with that comes rejection, confusion and suffering. In order to experience the first three in all their fullness you must also be open to the others. After all, if it weren’t for suffering, how would we know what joy or freedom were?