Monday, January 30, 2012

Why so slow?

I was thinking about this on my drive back from Warkworth to Taupo today. I used to own a 650cc Suzuki v-twin motorcycle which I did all of my traveling on, and I now own a car. Needless to say, my little Corolla is a lot less grunty than my bike was and my journeys these days are substantially slower than what they used to be when I owned the bike.

There's something about going fast - which I did a lot of on the bike - especially on the racetrack. Going well over 200kmph at some points (about 125mph to my American friends who view this blog). It's an incredible adrenaline rush, and highly dangerous to say the least. One thing I realized about it though - is that going fast is an escape.

The worst job I ever worked at was at a shop that sold cellphones back in 2009. They'd just launched a new network (which was rubbish at the time) and many people were not happy. We got endless complaints in the shop and because of where I was mentally at the time (which was not a good place) I struggled deeply in this environment and found myself literally desperate to leave towards the end of my time there.

Throughout this time period I did more motorcycle riding than I just about ever have and did some incredibly dangerous things on the bike at times. I realize now that I was using the speed of the bike as an escape from what I was feeling. It didn't offer any real solution but it did help me take my mind off what I was going through at the time. Nothing really got resolved from my high-speed escapades but seeing as it made me feel better I sought to do it more and more.

My walk with God - especially over the last 6 months when I've been off work - has been incredibly slow - almost unbearably so at times. I have found this deeply frustrating over the years as I've wanted to just go charging out into my future and grab hold of what's waiting for me out there. But, God has had other ideas.

I've needed to go through this slow process so that I'm not racing ahead and using the speed of a fast paced life to block out things that I have needed to face and work through. I realize now that if I'd just raced ahead and grabbed what was waiting for me I wouldn't be able to be fully blessed by it because the issues that hadn't been faced would cloud the blessing and ultimately make me end up hating something that was supposed to be a huge blessing for me.

Building a strong foundation to contain blessings on so that they won't collapse under the storms of life is a slow process and one that cannot be rushed or overlooked. God knew this and that's why I've had to learn to embrace a slower pace of life - especially over the last 6 months. I've really hated it at times and occasionally I've seen things I hoped would be a blessing - but my heart protested and told me that I wasn't ready and that if I was to take this blessing now it'd have a bitter ending.

So if you find yourself in a slow place and you want to speed through it - there's a good chance you're wanting to use the speed to escape what God wants to do in your life. Embrace the slowness while it's around and once you are fully ready for faster paced things, you'll be able to appreciate them that much more.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The battle is won

This subject speaks right to the heart of something that's defined me my entire life - and that is war.

Due to the spiritual inheritance I have struggled with, my life has been one of endlessly battling to survive with the idea that I had to remain in a mentality of war at all times or risk certain death if I ever dropped my guard. I felt as if I had to fight at absolutely every second of the day in order to stay alive. Peace, rest, compassion, grace and love were all foreign things to me. I knew of them, but I had no idea what they looked like or felt like.

Once I finally began to find healing when I went through burnout in early August I realized just how highly strung I had been my entire life and just how constant and desperate my need to survive really was. It went much deeper than I realized. I realized that at the depth of my endless need to fight was the deep despair of believing that my fighting for my life was in vain and that regardless of how much I fought, I could never truly win and save myself but fighting in vain was better than just giving up and quitting.

The more I have unwound, the more I have began to realize that the battle for my life has already been won when I accepted salvation and that although the desire to fight to save my own life is still very powerful, it is only that - a desire and not a reflection on reality. I still need to work through this to process it completely but the realization that I am slowly gaining is that I am able to rest and that resting will not immediately bring death as I've always automatically expected that it would.

The world is able to support itself without my constant need for control of things and my desire to control the world to keep myself alive is not being resolved by trying to fix things around me. God is able to take care of me and He is able to carry me when I'm unable to carry myself and blocking out the entire world to enter into a place of rest or intimacy with God or another person does not for a second mean that I am being a deserter and leaving the battlefield and leaving myself for dead. Humans were not designed for war every second of the day. God is in control, and He's much bigger than we are.

The more I begin to experience God's grace and the realization that my life is in the palm of His hand and not my own, the more grieved I am at the years of life that I have lost trying desperately to keep my head above water and refrain from drowning when what I really needed to be able to do was to let myself sink so that God could truly catch me. That's something I've found nearly impossible to do - truly yield to another person - even God - allow myself to break down at times and stop expecting so much of myself. I've felt like I've deliberately lost the war if I've tried to do that.

God fights for us - especially when we can't fight for ourselves. He is so much bigger than we are and our feeble desire for control and the satisfaction we get from controlling things is nothing compared to His unfathomable knowledge, power and influence. To God, there is no equal. So why do we fight so hard to keep ourselves alive when the One who has always been and always will be is on our side and has our best interests at heart?

It's terrifying letting go of the war, especially when war is all you've ever known and your entire life has been defined by a desperate need to survive at all costs like mine has. When you deliberately forsake control it's a scary place to be as the fear that drives us to fight all the time comes to the surface as it's lost the cover that was holding it down. Though this is hard, that's the best time to face it as it gives us a real chance to see what is driving us, break through it and become more at peace with the realization of what's been true all along - that God is in control and that we don't need to fight all the time. It's ok to live and ok to be loved.

To all of you warriors out there who are terrified to leave the battlefield even when you know God is calling you out of it - learn to let go. The battle is won. Letting go takes time but it does happen. God can fight better than you can and He's on your side if you've chosen to follow Him. Take heart and allow yourself the chance to let go of the fight and truly begin to live life instead of just surviving.

Take care.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Comfort in discomfort

Kind of a backwards title, but one that makes a lot of sense once you dig into it a bit deeper.

Sometimes the most comforting place that a person can be in is when they are facing extreme discomfort in both themselves and their circumstances. Look at it this way - you can have piles and piles of garbage buried deep under the surface in your life - like a pond with clear water at the top and a lot of dark sludge underneath. All looks fine as the water is clear but the only reason the water is clear is because the sludge hasn't been stirred up.

Regardless of how clear the water may be at the time - the sludge is still there and if you put your foot into that pond it's going to go right through the clear water and into the sludge. The best place for that pond to be in is not where the water is clear and the sludge remains under the surface - but when the sludge has been stirred up and is moving around as then it can be removed.

Our hearts are much like that pond. We may have the appearance of being completely whole and together when our lives are full of comfort - but if we have sludge at the bottom of our hearts that's not getting stirred up, we're not going to be able to appreciate the comfort we currently have. Also, the second something comes into our lives that really shakes us up - or "puts its foot into our pond" so to speak - that clear water is all going to be filled with mud anyway.

That's where the principle of "comfort in discomfort" comes in. The best place we can be in, is when the sludge in the bottom of our hearts is being stirred up by discomforting circumstances. It may be painful and highly distressing but it's better for the sludge to be stirred up so that we can see what it is and "filter it out" of our lives so that when we do return to a place of comfort, we will be able to enjoy it that much more because of the sludge that has been removed due to the discomfort that brought it up. You can't spell discomfort without comfort. :-)

I used to want nothing but comfort in my life and to have a "non-disturbed pond" so to speak, even though there was far more sludge in my heart than there was clear water. Over the years (and some brutal hardships) my mindset has changed and though I still have sludge in my life to a degree, a massive amount of it has been removed due to the times of discomfort that have disrupted the water and brought the mud to the surface. Once it came to the surface, I was able to deal with it and move on. This was a process and one that kept on getting deeper and deeper - which usually meant it hurt more and more - but with time and perseverance I see a lot more clear water in my life and a lot less sludge than I ever have previously.

I'm at a place in my life now where I am very nearly at the end of my journey through the spiritual wilderness and I'm about to enter into the promised land. I feel more ready for this than I ever have yet I am still aware of remaining sludge in my life. I now get frustrated when I feel comfortable as I know that sludge is not being stirred up, which means I am not making any progress. I appreciate the situations that surface the sludge now more than ever as it means that I am dealing with more darkness and getting one step closer to the land of plenty I've been waiting for.

I hope this speaks to someone out there. Don't wait for the sludge to settle back down if it's stirred up. Allow God to help you clean it out of your life and watch the progress happen.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pinpointing the problem

Something that's struck me in my Christian walk is the way that issues in people's lives can remain unresolved because the core of their issues are not addressed and people only deal with the symptoms of their issues or just gloss over them altogether.

I've battled with relentless anxiety and depression my entire life. I've been a Christian involved with church over the past ten years and I've spoken to many different people about my problems in the hope to resolve them. No doubt they've meant well but it's been a deeply frustrating time for me to say the least as nothing has seemed to work.

I've been told that I need to listen to more Christian music, that I need to confess forgiveness more often, that I need to pray more often, that I need to focus more on others etc etc and though all of these solutions have been good ideas within themselves, they've never addressed the root of what's been happening with me and have just left me frustrated and often discouraged.

It was only once I collapsed on account of burnout in the middle of last year that I was finally able to get insight into the core issue causing depression and anxiety in my life - thanks to the insight of the Holy Spirit. Now that those issues are finally starting to heal and unwind, all of those other things that people have been telling me to do have suddenly become much easier to work out in my life. What I was being told initially was not wrong by any means but it didn't address the core issue which just left me in a place of despondency and frustration.

One thing this has taught me is to listen to what people are saying when they are talking to you about their problems and not immediately try to jump in with a solution as if you give them the wrong one, regardless of how well you mean, it's just going to frustrate them. The best way to help is to pray for insight from the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you to pinpoint the darkness in their lives because He's the one with the best knowledge of the situation. It's also possible that you can't help them right then and there because God may have other plans. If that's the case, the best you can do is just listen to them as best as you can and don't try and shove any solutions down their throat. Most of the time people just want someone to listen to them to show that they care.

I can't help but wonder how many people have walked away from Christianity in disgust because they were unable to find any healing for the issues in their lives and though the Christian people they've met were able to pepper them with well-meaning ideas, nothing really spoke to the core issues in their lives and so walked away from the one thing that could truly uncover their problems and help them to heal.

For this reason, if someone comes to me for counsel I try very hard not to just ram solutions down their throats and try to actually listen to what they are saying and I'll pray for insight and will share a word of knowledge if I receive it. The fact is they know their hearts and themselves better than I do, and so does God so I need to be able to listen to them and the insight of the Holy Spirit if I'm to have any hope in pinpointing anything in their lives. It's only once issues are fully faced and pinpointed that healing can begin.

In conclusion - when people are coming to you for counsel - listen and pray. Don't jump in gung-ho with a solution as often you can just frustrate them. Listen - pray - then listen some more. Both to them - and God.

I hope this is of some help to someone. All the best.