An ah-ha moment and an unexpected dinner party
It feels like we haven’t spoken properly for absolutely ages, that’s totally my fault I’m so sorry! SO much has been going on (all good things, yay!) and life has been really full. I guess you could say I’m sort of 'maxed out'.
I had planned to write a blogpost on some of the major themes from Colour Conference (that’s still coming, just not today), but this afternoon during worship at church the last two or so years flashed before my eyes. Prior to that moment, I’d never really considered the last two years in their entirety. I’d never considered them as the first two chapters of what will hopefully be the long story of my little life, even though that’s where this journey started in a way. Today I got a clear sense of how much my inner world and - as a consequence - my outer world have changed, and I’ve been filled with gratitude and awe ever since. I quickly opened up the ‘Notes’ section of my iPhone and frantically typed out all the words that were pouring into my head, and I’d love to share them with you. I hope this little snippet of my story encourages you to keep going, and reminds you that This Thing, this crazy, Jesus life might just actually be the real deal.
P.S. I was kind reluctant to share this, not completely sure why though. But as the saying goes, life begins outside of your comfort zone, and at this point you and I are friends, so it’s all fine :)
Oh, and before I forget, we are live and active on social media now! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for some daily inspiration and what I expect to be good ‘God-drops’ (even if I’m MIA on with my blog posts).
All my love,
Today I'm just really seeing the last two years of life and thinking to myself wow, outside of all the questions and mystery that God, the Bible and all things spiritual, when you witness first hand the healing and release that Jesus has given me, my friends and so many other people near and far, it’s enough to trump any doubt.
The last two years have had so much growth, SO much emotional and mental healing I can't even begin to explain. One day I'll talk about this in detail but for now I'll say up until summer 2014 I was definitely broken. In pieces, for many reasons - although in hindsight it didn't really feel like something strange at the time. I suppose by that point I had assumed that there wasn't really much to life except a series of random good circumstances buldozed over by the bad ones. It’s not that I didn’t have a good life, I would actually say I’ve been pretty lucky with the hand that I've been dealt, but inside I was twisted and bruised. Since then, since that summer, since encountering God in a clear and personal way nothing has ever been the same.
Yes, life has continued to have extreme highs and lows, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes but after each storm instead of emerging more angry, more defiant and more "me against the world", every challenge has brought more maturity. As the saying goes wisdom is learned from costly experience. Instead, every lesson learned now brings a sense of lightness, release and freedom that I would have never thought was realistic nor attainable.
I say all this to say one thing: freedom from depression, grief, anxiety and a whole host of other things is found right here. I know because I’m speaking from first hand experience and it's the most amazing work in progress I've ever witnessed.
I’m not saying that I don’t still have questions.
I’m not saying that I totally get how God works, but allowing God to do His work in you, to fix your broken pieces is all the evidence I need. In fact, we're taught to expect that in this life things might look a bit hazy, but once the dust settles, everything will be as clear as day.
For me, that is enough.
Enough to give this a chance and drop the restrictive, futile effort of trying to be a "good person". Enough to let go of my obsessive human desire to have all the answers and all the boxes ticked because, guess what? We never will, no matter what you believe in, or don't believe in. All it takes is you opening up and putting your guard down. It takes getting out of your comfort zone just for a moment and connecting with God and those around you.
I know it's hard but you won't regret it.
Let me give you an example. For those of you reading this who know me either personally or from a distance, and look at what my friends and I do with fellowship / connect group and Sisterhood with intrigue but also a perhaps some trepidation, I understand. I understand that from the outside communities can look intimidating and insular. It’s human nature to want to fit in, and sometimes we choose to sit on the sidelines to avoid the risk of being rejected, hurt or betrayed.
I understand, and I know how you feel because that’s exactly how I felt. I clearly remember the first day I went to fellowship at my friend’s house. I thought I was going to a regular leaving dinner but when I walked in I saw all these faces I didn't know. Some I had seen from a distance, but we definitely weren’t even acquaintances, let alone friends. Being the shy and reserved person I can sometimes be, internally I was panicking, I didn’t want to be judged by a bunch of strangers. (Admittedly I let my own preconceptions get in the way).
The group started singing and praying, so I decided to be a polite guest and good sport and join in… cue the moment that triggered this entire two-year journey. The best way I can describe the rest of the evening is as follows: nuts, out of this world and like nothing I'd ever previously experienced (that's another story for another day). Nothing has been the same since and we have grown in friendship and trippled in size into a community that quite frankly? I couldn’t imagine my life without. I also understand why from the outside it seems bizarre to some people that may know us personally - it's always a bit strange when different social groups start to overlap and merge. And to be honest, I was just as bewildered. But that's the Genius of Jesus for you, always doing the unexpected. Ha.
In summary what I’m saying is, I get it. People can be scary, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and just get involved. There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about being in a group that allows the Holy Spirit to ‘show up’ in a very radical way (that’s another story for another day). Just as your own personal relationship with God is vital, you need to get planted in a Jesus-centered community. I’m labouring this point because
1) in previous years, I was the LEAST likely candidate to ever be an advocate for this and;
2) it has been a very important element in my journey. I believe it is a large part of why in these two years I’ve grown closer to God and seen more of Him than I ever had in the 4 years preceding this when I was struggling and striving on my own to ‘be a good Christian’.
Last week I headed to the Cotswolds for a countryside getaway, which was brilliant (I’d totally recommend it). On my way there, I got chatting to another fellow passenger and she asked me a really interesting question. She asked me if I felt like I was on a mission with what I’m doing with FreelyWritten.
My initial response was no.
Not in the sense that I didn’t read a book somewhere that told me this was The Right Thing To Do nor did I feel pressured by anyone. On the other hand though, I did feel a compelling need to write down some of the things I was learning and my thoughts. I don’t see it as any different from when your friend goes to a new restaurant, discovers a new music artist or tries a new beauty product that works wonders and tells you about it. In my view this is the exact same thing, just on a grander scale - on life-altering scale.
So that’s why I’m here, that’s what brought me to the point. I know some may wonder why I can’t just practice my faith in private. The answer is I could, and I do - but if someone I knew had encountered something like this and didn’t tell me I wouldn’t think they were a very good friend! This whole shebang is a huge ah-ha moment for me; I was like AH so all these years this REAL life had been right on my doorstep but I'd overlooked it?
To end what started as a brief reflection (but has turned into a lengthy one), I sense your curiosity, I sense that so many of us are looking for that ‘more’. For me, this is it, and more than I could have asked for.
The best thing about all of this is that there's no qualification criteria, no expectations, no ‘change yourself / your hobbies / your friends’ requirements.
All you have to do is just show up, be open to receiving and then show up some more.