The feeling that things were slowly becoming different. The wheels of change were starting to turn, and it's been uncomfortable. Ironically, February is not usually the most exciting month in the year for me. The excitement of the New Year fades by February 1 and I just get on with life, preempting my birthday in March. It’s the kind of month you’ve got to just humour like an annoying friend or sibling.
But this time, things have been different.
It’s been full of high and low energy moments; moments where I’ve felt ‘full steam ahead’ and other times where I've been frustrated; and can't seem to get my feet off the ground. Nothing has gone horribly wrong, in fact, it’s been good and I’m beyond grateful for that. But it's been uncomfortable, stretching as well as physically and psychologically draining. So much so that at the beginning of the month I crashed and decided to spend a day getting my mind right. I sat, thought, read my Bible and watched Super Soul Sunday (try it, you’re welcome). I read through both unfamiliar and familiar passages, and got hooked on this:
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 NIV
This passage is relatively well-known, and every time I’ve heard it before the emphasis is always on the ‘new thing’. It’s probably because we all love something new and shiny; it allows us to forget the boring, dull past and throw our hope into the new with arms stretched open.
New represents better,
New represents a chance of actually getting it right this time,
New is an opportunity to Begin Again,
New is magic.
However, when I read this passage at the beginning of the month I saw it completely differently. (This is one of the many brilliant things about the Bible, it's so nuanced, like a living, breathing organism). Instead of getting giddy with the excitement of trading in my current life for version 2.0; all I could think of was this:
“I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
You might just be getting more of what you need, not what you want
To get to that Shiny New Thing, a way must be made where things were tangled up. Running water must fill a place that was nothing but a dry, desolate desert. Before now, I'd always imagined the new thing as something that appeared suddenly, rather than a process of exploration.
Imagine a lumberjack, making a way through a thick forest, branch by branch. Chopping diligently and with unwavering commitment, uprooting everything that obscured and concealed the Good Path. Imagine what started as a mere drop of water, relentlessly eroding its way through the earth, layer after layer to become a river, powering its way through a dry land and bringing life where there was none before. This is what God is about. It's in the places where you're confused, frustrated or stagnant, where change starts to take place. Despite life being “good” I’ve felt what can only be described as mental or spiritual growing pains. For some reason hearing about a new thing makes us imagine that one day we’ll wake up and suddenly everything will fall into place, ready and waiting for us like a neatly wrapped gift on Christmas morning.
But that’s a movie, and this is real life.
Impatience can be a difficult beast to tame, especially when it looks like everyone else gets things by ‘luck’ or ‘overnight’ except us. But seeing the process in this passage has helped me to accept that maybe, just maybe my life is a process too. Change happens in increments; a string of small successes peppered by mistakes along the way. This revelation gives me a clear sense of purpose and focus, no longer disrupted by the erratic (and irrational) expectations on the pace of my life. This was a reminder for me to "be alert, be present" (verse 18).
“It’s easy and tempting to think that [Isaiah 43:19] means we get more of what we want; but in this case I’m getting more of what I need - a heart transformation. My old-self [anxious, competitive, overly critical] is slowly unravelling” - my journal entry, 02/02/16
...and this could be The Ride of Your Life
God is here to reveal who you’re supposed to be under the layers of disappointment, frustration, strife and you're not so savoury history. Embracing this means that we operate under a new power, walking in a new pair of shoes, with a new perspective. While it’s an unforgettable ride, it does take some getting used to. The beauty of it is that God is the One who does most of the work, He says “I will make a way in the wilderness”, not you.
He’s the lumberjack, He’s the small drop of water that turns into the rushing river. He’s the One that is committed to walking with you on this journey. All you have to do is be willing and ready to be along for the ride, wanting to be stretched. He says it in black and white in Isaiah 53.
“Make your tents [life] large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep. You’re going to need lots of elbow room [...] Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed. Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short. You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth” - Isaiah 54:1-6 MSG
"Your willingness to stretch and be stretched is directly proportional to the level of change, impact of what you believe that you want to see in your life" - Christine Caine
Creating mental and physical space to enlarge
By the time I walked into church on Vision Sunday I had spent two weeks thinking about Isaiah 43:19. Vision Sunday, is annual event where all Hillsong campuses worldwide would plug into the Sydney campus to hear message that guides the strategic direction of the church for the year ahead.
For 2016, that message is Isaiah 43:19.
If there ever was a time for confirmation, this was mine. These recent weeks also coincided with Lent. For the first few weeks of Lent I have oscillated between giving up various foods and failing because I wasn’t really committed… I was dieting and calling it Lent (we’re all friends here, time to be honest). Following a couple of recent ‘stretch-moments’ in my personal life, a book that I had bought over a year ago but never read came to mind. It’s a 40-day guide to revealing and living in your true identity through fasting. At the time, it was roughly 40 days until the end of Lent so I thought, why not get started?
In addition to fasting on specific days, my personal Soul Fast also includes taking the time to Declutter my life as I previously told you about, so I guess you could say this is the sequel. I’m creating physical space by getting rid of a lot of my possessions and having a mental spring cleaning to reset my mind. This includes a digital detox; saying goodbye to social media for a while, which means I won’t be posting links to the blog on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere.
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This is a lesson I’m learning and is full of experimentation for me. I’ll let you know how it goes, but why don’t we do it together? It's more fun that way. Email me if you’re interested in doing your own Soul Fast; it can be one day, one week, giving up whatever you like… just give it a try.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Right?