Well it has been so long since I posted a post here.
God has been teaching me so many things of late. In a way it is hard to write about it because to be candid it has been quite difficult to deal with it.
Has this ever happened to you, that something happens, and you realise that you have never really been upset before then?! Well that is what happened to me, and I realised that I have never really been truly upset in my life. Thankfully though this feeling was very shortlived.
So anyway, God has been teaching me so many things recently, and it generally coincides with a renewed conscientiousness about reading my Bible.
These are words that no serious Christian should ever say, but of late I have been so busy that my Bible has been one thing that it has been easy to squeeze out of my day. And then I’d stay up late, trying to make amends with Bible reading and prayer generally, and consequently go to bed very late – and invariably I’d fall asleep when trying to pray/read the Bible anyway… and very soon the whole thing started to resemble a big messy vicious cycle.
And that is part of the reason why I have not been blogging, either here on this blog nor on my relationships blog, because my lifestyle has been unusually erratic. To be honest, as an entrepreneur my life is always hectic, or at least it feels that way to me now! However, recently it has been as if every semblance of order flew out of my life all at once. I hope though that everything has now calmed down and is now back to “normal”.
Actually, this is one of the things that God has been telling me. There are always so many things that I want to achieve and feel that I need to achieve in my day. No matter how much my common sense tells me that I will achieve more generally if I stick to a fixed schedule, when it comes to it I will always try to squeeze out an extra half hour’s work – which then turns to 3 hours, and before I know it it is 5am, and I still have not been to sleep. And then this will of course have a knock-on impact on the following day, and then the one following that. I have observed this cycle countless times in my life, and yet I’ve always felt unable to resist the lure of that extra half-hour. But more on this later.
So as I say, God has been teaching me some deep and powerful things that have truly touched me to the depths of my soul.
If I’m to be perfectly honest, I am still struggling hard with bitterness regarding various experiences in various churches and I’m always finding myself falling into those same cycles of angry and vindictive thoughts. As an aside, this is a bit sarcastic, (as if that has ever bothered me before!) but I finally realised that I am not an Evangelical Christian. What I am is someone who genuinely believes the Bible, even to those parts which seem to embarrass many Evangelical Christians, things like Hell, the supernatural power of God, the supremacy of the truth of the Bible over Science. I’d always assumed that Evangelical faith was the same thing as genuinely believing the Bible, and in theory many Evangelical Christians will claim that it is. However, in practice they are completely different – not the same faith at all. Evangelical faith is religion – sorry to say it people. Whereas I am a Bible believing follower of Christ – something that has no parallel in the world and is extremely rare. (Rolls eyes crossly!) This is why I’ve always been so frustrated when I’ve been to these churches. This is why I should not let myself be angry towards these people as I would not let myself be angry towards these people as I would not be angry towards adherents of any other faith. I should just accept that what they believe is different from what I believe, and I should behave accordingly.
But as I said, that was an aside.
Something I believe I’ve realised is that most people have poor character. You’d think that by my age I should have worked this out a long time before now. However I’ve been going around expecting people to behave excellently, and unsurprisingly, I’ve been disappointed time and again. One reason I should definitely not have been surprised by this is because I have known the ugly motivations and inclinations of my own heart, even despite my pursuit of Christ. And yet, this is the thing – God still tells me, and all Christians, to love these people selflessly and sacrificially. God knows how dreadful people can be, He knew this before He gave the commandment. To be honest this is so central to Christian teaching, that it is simply shameful to have to be writing about this now. I have never had a problem loving people who are genuinely lovely, or while people behave excellently towards me. To be honest, I have been crying out to God to deliver me from my bitterness, and I hope that this is finally the answer to my prayers. Yes, this is something that the Bible says, it is something that I have of course been aware of. However, it has struck like revelation in my spirit, where you know something, but it finally truly hits home, and I feel that I finally “get it”. So when I meet someone – anyone, I’m thinking that now I have to appreciate from the outset that this person is broken, weak, inconsistent, unable to make themselves do what they know they should do, and simultaneously unable to stop themselves from doing what they know that they should avoid. And yet God still requires me to pour out the very best of my tenderness, care and compassion for them, whoever they may be. God also instructs me to quickly release all memories of anything bad they may have done, and continue pressing on in care and consideration.
This is amazing. Very very hard, but amazing. I’m also wondering to myself whether I have struggled so hard with bitterness and anger precisely because I am to triumphantly overcome these and carry on to become very strong in love and grace. Even if this has not been explicitly mandated from on High that is what I will choose to do anyway. I realise that I have to embrace a new perspective about everyone, knowing from the start what people are like, and still trusting God to see the very best come out from everyone.
So that was one life-changing revelation.
And then something happened, just yesterday. This was so mundane that everyone reading this will probably laugh when I explain. I will tell you what it was, if nothing else because I find it highly humorous myself. In short, someone in my houseshare turned off the hot water – unnecessarily, and without my knowledge. I’m not suggesting that I micro-manage everything in this house (although my flatmates might disagree!) I’m also not saying that people need to ask my permission to do everything. It is just that the way the house is set up, it currently does not make the slightest financial difference however much gas we use. So whether we exhaust the entire North Sea reserves in the course of one month, or we are all absent on holiday, we would still pay exactly the same amount. (See, I told you it was mundane!) So financially there is never any reason to turn off either the heating or the hot water. So for this reason, both the hot water and the heating are always on. And then someone turned off the hot water. Which is really not a big deal, unless you step into the shower expecting hot water to flow out. Which is what I did. If I had known beforehand, I would obviously just gone to turn it back on, and I would simply have waited, yes? And obviously they had also turned off the heating at the same time, naturally, so I was shivering away in this cold house.
Sincerely, I was tempted to go ballistic. If anyone else has ever had flatmates, they might appreciate that the workings of the boiler are one of those things in which passive/aggressive tendencies or power issues can be easily expressed.
“I want it to be on!” “Well I want it to be off!” Instead of agreeing to reasonable and mature compromises, some people I have flatshared with would just go ahead and adjust the settings, just to prove that they can, or that they are the ones in control. (Rolls eyes angrily!)
However, yesterday while I was shivering away, something occurred to me that was very very important, but again very very obvious. It was this – that it is in the depth of disappointment or anger that character truly matters. This was obviously not the depth of disappointment. It was annoying, yes, but quickly forgotten. It is quite closely linked to the revelation above that most people have poor character. It occurred to me that there may be times when you have been legitimately annoyed, or endlessly frustrated by circumstances or people, to the point where you can think to yourself:
“I have a right to be angry in this situation” (although this is not a right that Christians can truly claim for themselves.) Once again, this was not one of these situations. It was simply something that helped me to see this.
And yet it is in the depths of those situations that God expects me to be gracious, gentle, forgiving, compassionate, towards the people who caused this, if even they did it deliberately. It is so easy to be sweet and pleasant when other people are being sweet and pleasant. However the true test of pleasantness is when you remain this way no matter what.
For everyone who follows this blog, you will know that I have never had the slightest problem with going ballistic, or expressing my anger to the full extent of my wrath. However, I do try to be careful with my housemates as we do after all have to live with one another all the time. This is what made me pause for thought in the first place.
As I thought on this, I suddenly realised that this, then, is what maturity looks like. As a Christian it is about being able to overlook our natural inclinations and still pour forth goodness, grace and love no matter what.
So God has truly been working in my heart. These are lessons which I so desperately needed to learn. I am so grateful to God that He has taught me these lessons in such gentle ways, and that He has been so patient with my anger and bitterness, which simply amount to disobedience before Him. My dear Mum also said something recently which sowed the seed for these: that God was teaching her to demonstrate extreme humility in the face of extreme provocation. I instantly realised of course that I needed to learn this, so I sat thinking on it. Perhaps these revelations are the fruit of that?
(I could also point out about yesterday that I was already frustrated because I had been working on a website coding issue for three and a half hours, and I had not managed to resolve it at all, and I had tried every which way, but to no avail, and I’d eventually had to temporarily give up. So that was already getting to me…)
And yet there is another big lesson that I have learned recently; once again, this was just yesterday. I was thinking on the fact that a few things have been extremely difficult recently. I believe that God was also reminding me to be grateful for everything that is in place, things I take for granted like my health and the freedom with which I live my life. But still to be candid, in a way things have been tough. But then I remembered that I do after all aspire to be a sword for Christ. How are blades strengthened? By being put through the fire. And then I do aspire to be a phenomenally strong blade. This suggests that to become this I might have to go through phenomenally fierce fire. This was not an exciting thought. Rather it was the kind of thought to make a wouldbe “powerful-sword-in-the-hands-of-Christ” feel distinctly sorry for herself.
Anyway, ultimately I realised/acknowledged that I have actually been very weak, spiritually. One of my issues with time and busyness is that I always feel as if I have to be praying endlessly for everything. If I’m honest I am always trying to minimise my prayer life, and cut back here or there, see if I can get away with it. But then if I don’t pray about X then X will invariably erupt as a problem in my life, and I will start feeling sorry for myself again. But then I finally accepted that if I am to be the kind of sword that I dream of being, then the devil will accept my in a commensurate manner – I have known this for a long time. Instead of complaining I have to embrace the kind of prayer life that is so genuinely red-hot with such aggressive intensity that it is almost like a fiery trial in itself. So it will be a matter of fighting fire with fire. I have not been praying like this. It has always seemed like too much hard work so I have chosen to pray for a longer time than to pray with this intensity. Now I realise I do not have the luxury of that choice. I have to get so serious about everything.
I have to expect that everything will be desperately challenging and impossible, all the time. (This has occurred to me before.) And I have to adjust myself to automatically and uncompromisingly demonstrate fantastic Christ-like behaviour at the height of that heat. It is like I’ve been living on the surface of the sun, then complaining that I have been hot. I just have to accept that my life is hot, period. I always let myself fall into thinking that everything should be easy, and that difficult times are the anomaly – but clearly that way of thinking has to end.
I have to be ruthless with pursuing holiness in my heart. Things like not reading my Bible should not even be mentioned. As I thought on this, I realised that certain mindsets I have allowed myself to slip into and even nurture, have to be aggressively and decisively rooted out of my life, never again to even be looked at. And yet I have to be gracious and loving with people. Last night as I thought on this, I believe that God was teaching me that the main reason I have to be ruthless and aggressive with unholy mindsets so that there will be space to cultivate the true mind of Christ, which is sincere love and compassion and care for other people, and instant forgiveness.
So by the grace of God, from this point onwards there will be less talk and more prayer in my life. Ultimately I’d rather be tempered by fiery prayer than by fiery experiences. Going back to the time thing, this is why I absolutely have to be consistent and disciplined in my life, because I simply cannot afford not to seek God the way I need to do.
(But I’m not going to pray just now, I’m going to go and eat, before hopefully writing a post for my Huggie-Wuggie blog!)