Wrestling & Resolution

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I

“I have woken up to some of the darkest, most oppressive discouragement I have ever known. I’ve often felt lonely and misunderstood. I’ve doubted God more in the three years since Anything than in the thirty-plus years prior. [...] Sadly, none of the above is exaggerated. But none of the below is exaggerated either. I have woken up to some of the most joy-filled, life-giving, exciting days I have ever known. I have never had such deep kindred friends on mission together. I’ve believed God and seen him move more in the three years since Anything than in the thirty-plus years prior. I’ve never loved my life more’

- Jennie Allen, Anything (epilogue)

Yesterday, I went on a walk.

(This doesn’t happen very often).

A friend mentioned that she walks, it helps to clear her head. It’s good housekeeping. If anyone needed some good internal housekeeping it was definitely me. I walked through the leafy, post-rain scented suburbs of North London, speaking to God and being really honest about where I was at [read: my many frustrations]. This time of introspection focused on the root causes behind my good and not-so-good habits. As these thoughts floated to the surface, I struggled with the difficulty of dealing with the not-so-good stuff. Identifying your uglies is one thing, but getting rid of them - especially when they've become part of who you are - is a whole other story.

II.

“How can both lists be true and present in our lives at the same time? Because we are in a war. And there is no more rewarding, or more difficult way to live”

- Jennie Allen, Anything (epilogue)

Life can be pretty amazing.

There are times when we have those miracle-esque moments, those almost magical breakthroughs. I’ll share with you one of mine. Halfway through university my loved ones and I experienced what I can only describe as personal trauma. This manifested itself as anger and as I transitioned into work, that anger turned into anxiety. I’m not talking about the typical moments of anxiety we all experience, this was a stay-up-all-night-in-fear type anxiety. It meant that if the tiniest thing didn’t go to plan (think ‘a stray item falling off your desk’ tiny), my mind would unravel, telling myself that I was bound to a life of failure because of this mistake. It meant that during the times I should have enjoyed the most, like birthdays, left me on edge, never able to relax. It meant that I pushed myself to the edge at work, over-performing to the point of exhaustion, sickness and being bed-bound for days on end. It meant that I isolated myself from my friends. It meant that I spent a year of my life believing that one day, what was left of a life that once felt perfect would finally be taken away.

As I started to experience God in a more meaningful way all of this stopped. No medication, no counselling, no deliverance (lol), no self-help books needed. Nothing. My circumstances hadn’t changed but it was as if someone had flipped a switch and all that craziness dissolved. It sounds bizarre but I guess I had been healed from anxiety. I hope and expect that we will all have (or have had) experiences like this; when one of our issues dissolves in a blink of an eye. But that is not how most of life is; that’s not how this process of unlearning the bad stuff and growing the good always works. Instead, it’s a process of going back to basics, peeling off the layers which weigh us down, hold us back and lure us onto the path of self-sabotage. And while God can dissolve the layers in a flash, most of the time he doesn’t. Our growth and maturity come when we do the heavy lifting ourselves.

III

“We are on a mission together for our few short years here. We are made for this, but that doesn’t make it breezy”

- Jennie Allen, Anything (epilogue)

Don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it is. Every horrid circumstance, every tough conversation, every challenge points to a new layer to peel off.

Layers and layers of solidified junk and confusion. Layers of bad habits learned from society, from history, from peers. Some parts crumble off easily, but most of it requires some digging, some scrubbing, some peeling, some pulling, some perspiration. This is what makes our development feel uncomfortable even though it’s so necessary. While God’s principles are ideal and stunning on the page, we're tasked with applying these in all our human complexity. It’s in this process that you learn and you emerge more equipped than before to take on whatever life throws at you next.

"You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

- James 1:2-4

I've always assumed that this verse is all about external circumstances. Today, I see it in the light of the internal battles we face; the things that hold your mind captive, that tell you that you can’t, you won’t and you aren’t. The difference between these thoughts becoming dominant voices, and bouncing back is the ability to look directly into that darkness and wrestle with it. Today, I’m talking specifically about your personal ‘demons’, some of which may have hung around for so long that they’ve become part of the family. I’m talking about fear, insecurity, control, anger, unforgiveness, ego, impatience and whatever springs to your mind as you read this. It’s clouding your vision and stifling you. It’s incredibly difficult to come face to face with That Thing, but instead of distracting yourself with activities, ‘inspiration’ or other people start peeling back that next layer.

No matter how tough it might be, engage in the process of wrestling and resolution.

 

 

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