As I am living in the US temporarily, “What will you do next?” is something I get asked frequently. It’s a fair question. “I don’t know,” is what I tell people. It’s a fair answer because it’s the truth.
It’s interesting to notice the response this answer provokes. Some people are great. They encourage me, reassure me that God knows all about it, talk about how much they love me and want me to stay here. Some people are not so great. They can’t understand why I’m not sure what I want to do in the future, and why I don’t have a plan I’m working towards. It can be easy for me to get under pressure when people probe me about these things. I feel like I should have a better answer, should have my life a bit more together. But I’m learning that if people can’t handle my lack of clarity about the way forward, it says more about them, than it does about me.
Honestly, I do wish I knew what I was doing next. I wish I had a map showing me the end destination and every stop along the way. But, as the saying goes, “if you want to hear God laugh, make plans.” Whenever I have tried to make my own plans without hearing God first, it never works out. My wisdom is absolute foolishness compared to his. Brennan Manning writes that
craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love (2000:6).
I’m working on trusting God and realising that it “often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic…to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us” (Manning 2000:3-4). It’s hard, but I really want to do what God is asking of me. At the moment, he is asking me to trust him with my questions and inability to see the way forward. Someone I respect recently pointed out this verse: “with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you… in fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3). The point is that God is our judge, no one else, not even ourselves. So I am going to try to keep trusting God, and not judge myself that I don’t have all the answers. And for those of you who are thrown into a blind panic about my lack of a plan, I have a question for you. “What are YOU doing next year?!”
Last night I listened to Lee, winner of American idol, singing U2′s Beautiful Day.
The heart is abloom //Shoots up through the stoney ground
I love that opening line; the thought of life and hope and love growing up in unexpected or seemingly impossible places. I love the idea of something which seems so fragile being so incredibly tenacious, choosing to survive, thrive, even, in hostile conditions.
I write today to remind myself that the good, the beautiful and the true are all capable of pushing through the rock and the hard place. Every moment is necessary and worthwhile.
It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away…
Do you ever find that the inside of your own head can be a very dark and scary place to be? A lot of times, the more you self-analyse and think about things, the bigger and more frightening life can seem. A friend suggested to me today that I should get out of my own head for a while, which was excellent advice. So I thought I would write down some of the things I am grateful for in an attempt to do that.
I’m grateful that, even though I don’t earn any money, I have a reliable car to drive, live in a beautiful house and always seem to have enough to pay my bills. That, in itself, is a miracle.
I’m grateful for all the amazing people in my life. Someone once overheard me saying “you’re one of my favourites” to a friend. “You say that to everyone!” she said. It’s true. I do say that to everyone. And I mean it every single time I say it. I really value each and every friend I have and so much appreciate all the unique ways in which they enrich my life. If you are my friend, thank you. You have no idea how much you mean to me.
I’m so thankful that I am currently living in the “state of ten thousand lakes.” And not only are there thousands of lakes in this state, but there is one right outside my house. I love water, it is a very calming influence on me and there is a whole lot of it right outside my window.
I’m grateful that my family is a safe place. My siblings are my friends; my nephews and nieces are adorable; my parents love me as I am.
I’m grateful for hope. I’m grateful that my life is held in the kind and tender hands of Jesus. I’m grateful that when I don’t understand, he does. I’m grateful that in him, all things hold together, even the smallest pieces of my life.
I know it’s so cliché, but there really is a lot to be thankful for. I heard recently that “gratitude is the only safe place.” It’s certainly safer than the deep recesses of my mind.
Dear Oswald Chambers,
I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts. My friend, Sarah, enthusiastically signed me up to receive your daily doses of inspiration via email, and to be honest, I wasn’t so sure about it at first. You just felt so far ahead of me in your relationship with God. I knew in my head that what you were saying was right, but I couldn’t relate to it. You seem so holy and unselfish and I was afraid my life would never match up.
But I’ve been reading your insights every morning, and it’s been like wearing braces. Uncomfortable at first, even painful, but slowly, slowly pushing things in the right direction, lining things up, keeping things straight.
Today, you wrote that God uses all the circumstances of our lives to his own purpose. We can either co-operate, letting what we go through make us “sweeter, better, nobler“ people, or we can kick against it, becoming “mean and cynical.” You reminded me that “God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him, because Jesus has prayed that we may be.” Misty Edwards sings it this way: “you won’t relent until you have it all, my heart is yours.”
I needed to hear this today, to remember that the circumstances and seasons I find myself in are achieving God’s purpose, contributing to what he wants to do in me, through me. I needed to realign my spirit with the Spirit of God, and you, as you have so many times before, pointed me toward that end.
So thank you for being my retainer; thank you for helping form and mold my character into what it should be. I really appreciate it.
There’s been uproar about the proposed Marie Stopes International advert to be shown on Channel 4 which, according to the Daily Mail, sells abortion. The Telegraph sees it as a ‘new low’ for British society, while The Guardian’s Laurie Penney is just glad there will be more information about sexual health. She argues that a society which ‘is saturated with graphic commercial images of women’s bodies’ and yet doesn’t talk about female reproductive issues reveals a lot about how we view women. She has a point. But I can’t see how providing further access to abortion, in particular, helps. Erasing a uniquely female experience; implying that women won’t cope on their own; letting men avoid responsibility for their sexual lifestyle; valuing the economic contribution a woman may make to society above all other contributions: this is hardly the language of empowerment. These are deep-rooted, difficult issues, but aborting them hasn’t made them disappear so far.
As a Christian, I want to argue against the abortion advert, but not by clicking ‘dislike’ on some Facebook group, or writing an angry email to The Guardian. Nor do I want to retreat into polarizing discussions about rights to choose. As Oppenheimer states, ‘the Christian Gospel does not set out to abolish rights, but to swallow them up in generosity’ (1992:56). We, the church, are called to be a hospitable people, a people of generosity and grace, a people of faith, hope and love.
So argue against the abortion advert. But do it by offering protection and support to a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy. Do it by investing in a relationship with a teenage girl to show her she is valued and loved regardless of her sexual activity. Do it by teaching young men to respect the women in their lives and take responsibility for their actions. Do it by offering grace and hope to a woman who has already had multiple abortions. Argue against abortion by being the church to those who desperately need you.