Monday, October 28, 2013

Three seasons

The last two years of my life have, in a lot of ways, become the most important years of my entire life - certainly in my adult life, anyway. Some of the things that happened were seemingly very random, yet God clearly spoke to me recently that everything has happened exactly as He ordained it and has happened at just the right time. God spoke to me of 3 seasons over the past 2 years - the season of Death, the season of Burial, and the season of Resurrection.

This is of course a parallel with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the first day, He died a brutal death on the cross. On the second day, His body was buried and a stone rolled over the mouth of the tomb, where He was to be held for evermore (or so the people who buried Him thought). On the third day, Jesus cast off the shackles of death and rose again, from the darkest place imaginable to a place of brilliant light and wholeness, having accomplished the greatest mission anyone would ever accomplish in the history of the world - to open the door for the souls of human beings to be saved. This journey cost Him everything. But it gained Him everything as well and achieved something that could never have been achieved by anyone else.

The season of Death began when I went through burnout in August 2011. My health died, my job died, many relationships either died or were dealt fatal blows that would eventually bleed out later on. This was a hard period - a very lean period where I was too sick to work so most of my time was spent at home, trying to work through my emotions and gain some understanding of what had just happened to me. Meanwhile those who in a lot of ways played a part in my downfall seemed happy and prosperous. This was a very, very bleak time. I picked up some bad habits which I hadn't used for years, such as cigarette smoking, mainly due to the horrible stress I was going through at the time. During this time two living environments in Taupo folded up and I ended up moving back home with my parents in Tauranga in June 2012. The season of death lasted one year.

From August 2012, the season of Burial began. Things had already died - now the funeral arrangements were being made and the death was made final. This was the season where I began cutting my ties with those who had played a part in my downfall in Taupo and where many of the relationships God didn't want involved in my future for various reasons were steadily weeded out of my life. This was the season where I finally saw that I needed to start coming off antidepressant medication for the first time in 8 years. As before, this was a season of deep soul searching and self analysis. It was almost 100% inwardly focused. Despite how bleak this season was, and how much loss was involved, I began to see a real strength begin to develop in myself during this time. I saw a boldness and a courage begin to emerge that I had never seen before and I also saw something amazing happen through my book being picked up by a major publishing house in the USA which would see my story propelled onto the world stage.

From August 2013, the season of Resurrection began. It started with the beginning of a new relationship with my girlfriend. Other amazing things were to follow. I cast off the last of the wrong friendships that had been holding me back with a new found sense of courage that my girlfriend helped me to discover within myself. It has continued to blossom into something new as after being out of work for nearly a year and then having a job which was only part time, I now have a good, respectable full time job which I will start in the middle of next month. I feel stronger, healthier and more confident in myself than ever before. However, this is only the beginning of this new season. More things are going to follow. The seasons of death and burial each lasted a day in the life of Jesus - or a year, in the life of me. However, the season of resurrection lasted forever. I believe my life is going to be similar. I have gone through something which probably would have killed someone weaker than I was - yet I got through it and I am a stronger, healthier person than I've ever been as a result.

I see a vision of myself as a butterfly that has been locked in a chrysalis of development for a very long time. It's a very small place to be in - tiny, in fact, and there was no room for anyone except myself. There was nothing happening except self analysis, emotional processing, self development, emotional healing. That's all my life has been about over these past two years. During that time I've felt a sense of almost claustrophobia - yet I always knew it was too soon to be emerging from this place of development as you have to make sure that you don't leave the place of growth and development too early. In the same way a butterfly will die if it exits the chrysalis too early - I couldn't leave this place of development until I was fully ready as any left over baggage that wasn't fully processed would be carried with me into the promised land I was walking into, and corrupt my blessing. I had to learn to not only accept the place that I was in, but to embrace it and really make the most of it to make sure that I was as strong and well developed emotionally as I could possibly be so that I could prepare myself properly for the future.

I believe I am out of this place of development now, and I am now learning to think more about other people rather than just myself all the time. However, due to the time I have spent thinking about myself and processing my own issues, I am able to speak into the lives of others with a level of depth and clarity I never would have had otherwise. However, it's not as if I have just blossomed immediately. I remember seeing the monarch butterflies we had at our house when I was growing up. When they came out of the chrysalis, they didn't just fly away straight away. They had to spend time straightening up their wings, allowing them to dry out, and probably went for a few shaky test flights before they really had the confidence to begin soaring. I believe this is the place that I am in now.

Ultimately I am beginning to walk in the season of victory, and though it's unfamiliar as I've never walked in a season like this before, I feel as if I am ready for it. I had to go through the spiritual journey I've been on over the past two years to be able to get to where I am today because without those experiences I never would be able to walk in the season I am in now. I would have just polluted my blessings with the darkness in myself. Fortunately, thanks to those two years of death and burial, I've been able to overcome most of it so that I am now able to contain the blessings that have come into my life.

If you find yourself in a place of confusion and uncertainty in your life, or if you're going through some terrible pain similar to what I've been through, don't lose heart. God hasn't forgotten about you. He knows what He's doing in your life. He's preparing you for greater things and the sooner you learn to embrace the season of preparation, the sooner you will be ready for the good things He's got for you and wants you to walk into. He's keeping you in that place of development not to hurt you - but because it's where you need to be. God loves you and wants you to walk into new things as a whole, strong, emotionally and spiritually healthy human being because if you walk in to a new thing with old baggage, you will corrupt it. So stay strong. Embrace the pain of growth and remember that it's for a good purpose.

Take care.

Friday, October 11, 2013

God is in control - even when we can't see how

The subject of God being in control of our lives and circumstances - even when we don't understand what's going on - is a subject often preached about in Christian circles these days. Often, His control means an answer or an outcome that we often don't expect, but later turns out to be the right thing.

Recently, my heart was deeply impacted by someone I once considered to be a close friend who has taken a proud stance for something that God very clearly indicated for me to take a stand against. I'd spoken to this person on several occasions yet they chose to ignore me despite the fact that I was doing as I was clearly told by God. The final nail in the coffin for this situation came up when I was talking to this person and all of a sudden my heart burst into flames with an urgent message from God for this person - "Tell them what I've told you." I stopped the conversation and explained that God had put it on my heart to tell this person exactly what God had told me. I explained that the stance I had taken was because God had told me to and that God was actually opposed to what this person was standing for. And once again, I was ignored as they continued to verbally defend something God had clearly told me (and them) that He was opposed to. Though they openly admitted that they knew that I was doing as I was told by God - they still continued to support what I was standing against and therefore had chosen to act in deliberate defiance to the will of God.

I literally couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought this person was a close friend and here they were, deliberately dishonoring the Rhema word of God because God's word didn't line up with what they wanted. It's one thing to do the wrong thing and dishonor the word of God because we don't know any better or think we are doing the right thing when we really aren't. However, to be clearly instructed by God's Rhema word that we are doing wrong or are supporting something that is wrong - yet continue to do it anyway - is another matter altogether. I've learned in my walk that the Rhema word is the most important word a Christian can possibly hear. To see someone I once considered a close friend deliberately dishonoring the word of God because it didn't line up with what they wanted indicated that their pride was more important than God's truth - which was heartbreaking.

After months of trying to figure all of this out and dealing with the heartbreak, God clearly spoke to me. He simply said - "I don't see why you are so surprised this has happened, Graham. I'm not taken by surprise through all of this. I orchestrated this whole thing right from the beginning because I wanted to show you that this person does not have a place in your life any longer. This all happened due to My will and My purposes. Your life and ministry from this point on needs to be built on a firm foundation and part of that foundation is having people around you that can be trusted and can be relied upon to honor My Word and put it above themselves and their own wants and desires. Those who don't fit this mould will be removed because it's for your greater good."

I realized that most of my worry and stress in this situation had been simply because I thought that God had actually wanted this person to be a part of my long-term future and that God was angry because things hadn't gone to His plan. However, this wasn't the case at all. God knew exactly what He was doing and knew that this person could be relied upon to do the wrong thing - which is why He put the test of character in place so that I would see that they would fail it. It hurt now - in fact, it hurt enormously and a big part of why it hurt so much was the disbelief in my own mind as to what had just taken place. But I realized that a bit of pain now when the truth is revealed is better than an enormous amount of pain years down the line when a foundation has been built and it collapses at one point due to the pride and dishonor of someone who has spent all of that time focusing on what they want instead of putting God's Word and His truth first. God knew exactly what He was doing right from the beginning.

I have found that these types of situations often seem to happen when people are called apart for ministry - such as myself. God seems to be very pedantic as to who He wants in their lives - and who He doesn't. Since going through burnout in 2011, God has done an enormous amount of pruning in my life. He has removed people out of my life that He doesn't want to be there, He's removed me out of situations that were no longer beneficial and He's removed a huge amount of the fear and desire to please people at any cost which has plagued me my entire life. This fear has been replaced by a boldness and a courage to take a stand and do the right thing regardless of what it costs - and who decides to walk out of my life as a result. All of this has happened because of the life and ministry that God has planned for me. He wants the right people around me and wants me to have the ability to do the right thing and stand by God's Word and His truth before anything else.

The main lesson I took from all of this is that God knows the beginning from the end and that when He puts certain circumstances in place within our lives which cause reactions from others that we don't expect (and sometimes even shock us to the core) we need not be surprised and think that God has been taken by surprise in all of this. He hasn't. He knows people's hearts better than we do and He knows who can be relied upon to do the right thing - and who can't. If you are struggling with unexpected changes in your circumstances at the moment and are perhaps facing something similar to what I've faced - remember that God knows the beginning from the end and that everything happens for a reason. The reason may not always be what you expect - but it's right nonetheless and although it may hurt temporarily, it will benefit you in the long run.

Take care.