One month ago today was our final Sunday at St Matthew and St Oswald’s. This evening in just a few hours I will put into my new post St Peter and St John.
I’m trembling in my boots just thinking about it!
So, by way of preparation, over the last few weeks I have been slowly reviewing my journals from the last six months, reminding myself of the road I have taken that’s brought me to this point.
Back in March I was directed to a book called Your Own Worst Enemy by Janet Davis. It was an incredibly helpful study of a series of women in the Bible and explored the way in which the voice of our own inner critic is often louder in our heads than God’s calling on our lives. It’s a book about finding your voice and having the courage to use it. There was so much in it that spoke very loudly to me and I happened to be reading it alongside the final 16 chapters of Isaiah, passages bursting with promises of hope and new life.
At around the time I first came aware the PJ job, I read the character study on Mary. Mary chooses to say yes. That’s ALL she does, she doesn’t have to have it all figured out. ‘You just need to say yes’ I felt God saying to me ‘the rest is my job’.
This idea of surrender and trust grew in me all summer. For a number of reasons that I don’t need to go into here, it was a very difficult time: emotionally, spiritually and relationally with huge changes looming up in every sphere of my life. Now our biggest temptation when things get difficult is to assume that God has left us. ‘It’s all going wrong or ‘we’re doomed’ to use the words of Private Frazer from Dad’s army. Surely if we are following in God’s way, life is not meant to be difficult?
I was really helped at this point by Janet’s reflection on this issue:
‘The obedient life is less about our skill at guessing the right place to put our feet at each moment and more about knowing who we are made to be and offering ourselves to God without reservation, wherever our feet happen to land’
In other words when difficult circumstances come along we can fight them and panic or accept them and remember we are still held by God. Janet goes on
‘There is something most of us want to believe: that as long as we are obedient and faithful God will save us from messy and difficult situations. Such expectations are naive and certainly not biblical and a potential set-up for self sabotage. Struggle is part of our lives and when we maintain the belief that messy things only happen to bad people never to good or responsible people, we are required to define ourselves as bad whenever our lives become a mess’
God only ever defines us as ‘loved’.
Alongside this so many words from Isaiah encouraged me. Chapter 50:1 speaks of relying on God’s voice even when you are all in the dark. Isaiah 54:2 ‘Enlarge the site of your tent’ Isaiah 56 – include the excluded. All the way to 61:11 the image of a garden in early spring with plants springing up everywhere. On several occasions being whilst being prayed for people who did not know the process I was undergoing spoke about clearing away the deadwood and the undergrowth, making way for new growth.
Another book I’ve already mentioned in this blog that helped me hugely was ‘From Fear to Trust’ by David Runcorn, a study on Leadership from 1 and 2 Samuel. I’ll finish with words from him
Then, as now, the primary vocation (and the hardest) was the way of radical, naked trust in Yahweh’. He goes on to say that one of our crippling fears is that we will not live up to expectations or ‘fulfil our potential’, ‘maybe fulfilling our potential is not what matters in the end, may be having the courage to fight our fear of failure matters more; to learn, to explore and take the risks we need in order to grow’.
So here I am Lord, even though I am trembling in my boots, I know that Joshua 1:9 is a verse that’s been written over my life for as long as I can remember
‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed for the Lord, thy God is with thee, withersoever thou goest’ (I learnt it as a child, I can’t say it any other way!)