Tag Archives: fear

Reflections

I’ve just listened to Rick and Kay Warren being interviewed at the HTB leadership conference.

I was hesitant to listen to it. I knew it would hurt. I knew it would poke me in the parts of myself that are still raw and still painful.

I was right.

It is full of the most profound reflections on pain and mental illness, on suicide, on grief; that I have ever heard. If you haven’t listened to it, I really recommend you do.

There are wonderful nuggets of wisdom – but what is most astounding to me, is that through the agony of their words and the beautiful grace of God – that which is the most painful and destructive in life will be the greatest foundation of the greatest works of God.

His words echoed through my memories to one of the hardest seasons of my life when I wanted out. When I wanted an ending more than I wanted restoration, when I wanted oblivion more than I wanted to make a difference – the chaplain of my school told me that these darkest days would be the beginning of my life’s ministry.

I didn’t believe it.

I believed, even in those days, that I had been called into some kind of christian pastoral ministry, but I didn’t believe I would ever be able to live out that calling. I didn’t believe that the agony of those days could ever come to any good.

I was wrong.

I do not claim that this calling is easy, nor do I claim that I want it 100% of the time. Sometimes, I would love to do a job which didn’t involve me opening my heart to those things that have most bruised it. What I do claim, is what an enormous privilege it is to be able to see, in this lifetime, a restoration of some of my darkness.

I quote the book of Joel a lot on this blog – but it’s the promise that I cling to and the promise that I see every day when I go to work.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm – my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will be people be shamed.” 2:25-26

I so often felt that the years when my depression had its tightest grip had been lost to me. Not only metaphorically, but because even now I can barely remember those days through the haze of mental illness. These verses from Joel were my promise and are my reminder of why I do what I do.

And when I get weary, I turn to them and to John 10:10 which says “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Mental illness has been a thief in my life, it has stolen years and killed parts of my, left its own legacy in my heart and my mind and on my body.

But in this I have hope – God is bigger than the thief. And more than that, he restores what was lost and gives us more than we could imagine. Truth be told, this side of heaven, it is often not what we would imagine (we prefer to imagine a much easier ride, I think) but what he gives us is greater than an easy ride (however much an easy ride might tempt us). God gives Himself. On a cross. The God of Heaven and Earth, for us, as a broken and scarred young man who understands pain and understands struggle and remains with us through it all. 

It isn’t easy.

But God is in it all.

So it is more than worth it.

Women

We’re a funny breed aren’t we? 
 
We’ve fought for rights and freedoms, and yet we turn on our own and attach viciously. The Daily Mail’s “sidebar of shame” is full of articles about the way women look, the bad dress choices and the slight speckle of cellulite on size zero thighs. I find it even more disturbing that many of these articles are written by women, about women. 
 
In all honesty, I’ve often struggled in my relationships with women. The only woman I ever really trusted fully and completely was my Mum. Getting burned a few too many times made me wary of real deep connections with other women. I have always felt that we know exactly how to wound one another as women- we know our vulnerabilities too well. When I’ve needed counsel or advice, I’ve always gravitated to men for a listening ear or some counsel. 
 
In the last five years, I’ve been really challenged and encouraged to let my guard down. To be vulnerable in my friendships, and to seek out women I can look up to. The challenge of being vulnerable and open with women has been difficult, it’s been uncomfortable at times and it’s felt a bit unnatural. My inherent self-preservation instinct automatically creates barriers. I’ve been hesitant to let my ‘darker side’ be shown.
 
And I’ve discovered something really special about women, and some extra special women. I’ve made some real, lasting and deep friendships which have shown me that we aren’t all bad as species! I made one of my closest friends through the realisation that we were both (and I quote) “a bit yellow and a bit from Essex”. Being bridesmaid at her wedding was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I’ve also found women leaders with whom I’ve been able to be open and honest, with conversations that span from the very stuff of life, putting the world and the Church to rights, to the creation of weird and wonderful new words(!) 
 
Recently, I sang at a Women’s Prayer Breakfast at my church. Having never been to one before, I was a little apprehensive. What I found, though was a group of women who were desperate for connection. Open to hearing from God, hearing from one another and loving each other. It showed women at their best. 
 
We need to show ourselves at our best. Show that we can be supportive and loving and godly without the sneering and loneliness and gossiping.
 
I can’t help thinking that we could really make a difference if we fought alongside one another, instead of against one another. 
 
 

I’m Not Good Enough For This…

It’s a big week for me. It’s a big week ThinkTwice. Why?

Because on Saturday I will be standing up in front of over 1000 people to talk about mental illness at the Youthwork Summit.

In all honesty – I’m petrified. Not only is this the first major speaking engagement I’ve done, but I’m doing it under the ThinkTwice name, in front of people who’ve been writing the articles I read and presenting the radio programmes and conferences I’ve listened to and attended.

One of the biggest things that scares me, is that people will “find me out”. You see, despite the fact that I lead a fulfilling life, doing work I love, inside, I’m still scared that I’m the broken and rather messed up girl who first dreamed of ThinkTwice years ago. I’m far more scared that when I stand up on Saturday people will see that I’m a fraud than the sheer number of people who’ll be there (although there are a lot of people!)

It got me thinking. (Which is dangerous, I realise) I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. People far older, infinitely wiser and more experienced than I have these crises of confidence. We don’t feel good enough to fulfil the callings God has placed on our lives.

Sometimes they can feel all too responsible, too big, too scary! Sometimes, it’s not that we don’t trust God’s plan, but that we don’t trust that we’re good enough for God’s plan. Think of Moses- called to rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh’s tyranny – and yet scared to speak because of a lack of eloquence. Jonah was so fearful of his call that he ran away!

The thing is, it’s not really up to us. It’s God who is the giver of these gifts – however unworthy we feel. Jesus tells a parable of talents, where a master goes away and leaves his three servants with different amounts – the two with the greatest amounts invested and increased what they had – the third was so fearful he buried his and handed the original amount to his master. It was a risk for the servants to invest their talents – and it paid off! They ended up with far more than they imagined.

Isn’t the same true for us? The less worthy we feel of our calling – the more danger there is that we’ll throw it away. The more we trust the God who gave us our talents  – the more we allow God to use what He has given us – the more we’re glorifying God.

I may have made it sound formulaic and simple – I know it isn’t. The fact is, though, we are good enough because God created us. It’s not  anything to do with us. It’s everything to do with our Maker. He has given us everything we need for the job he’s called us to.

So even though I’m still petrified – I’m good enough to do the job God’s called me to do because He’s called me to it and gifted me for it.

The same is true for everyone. We are good enough because He is.

Trap or Treasure?

Ever since I can remember, I have felt “called” into a specifically “christian” ministry. I toyed with the idea of being a singer and actress for a while, quickly dismissed the idea of teaching primary school children, rejected the idea of nurse because it involved science etc etc.

All the ideas I considered were never really more than that. Just ideas. Because from the age of five – I’ve known that I have a job to do. I had no idea, of course, of shape and name at that age. But I wanted to be a missionary, a preacher, wanted to work for the Church which I loved so much.

Indeed, the calling got me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. When I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, the knowledge that I needed qualifications to get into LST meant that I carried on.

It has been a massive encouragement and blessing to me, to have an inkling of where I’m headed. God has been incredibly gracious in prodding and calling me on in the right direction, in promising me a future when I was lost in the past. I have treasured my calling.

And yet.

Recently it has begun to feel like a trap.

Because this is hard. This life, is hard.

It takes so much energy, to be the person I feel called to be, to lay my story out for people to poke, prod and question.

And sometimes, I wish for a different life. I wonder if a different life would be less painful. Less all-consuming. Less of a sacrifice?

Because what if I walked an easier road? A comfortable job that didn’t involve the questions?

What if I could feel, for once, like a twenty-two year old instead of a forty-two old?

Perhaps these feelings are some kind of long forgotten and neglected rebellion?

Perhaps, it’s just been a long week.

But the difficulties of this life, this one where I’m called to bare my soul and speak of my vulnerability, this one which uses the pain instead of burying it – it is, after all, the path I chose.

For all my sense of calling, I chose to say ‘yes’. I chose to write and speak about those things which most scarred my soul.

I choose the light instead of giving into the lure of the darkness.

It is a choice I would make again. And again.

And so I guess, this is the price I pay. It is not, in perspective, a very high price. I gave up my “right” to give up on life. I gave up my “right” to give up on God.

I have been through too much to give up now.

I need reminding of that, today of all days. I can see it as a burden, a trap.

Or I can be reminded of the grace it took to get me to today.

 

So I choose to be reminded of grace – to see the gift, instead of the trap.

 

It isn’t easy.

 

I trust that it is worth it.

 

I want to change the world

There. I’ve said it.

I want to change the world.

I want to every child born to have enough love, clean water and food to live and thrive.

I want to see governments that use their resources wisely.

I want a justice system that truly rehabilitates drug users instead of letting them get sucked back into addiction and the underworld.

I want people to be open about mental illness.

I don’t want words like hate, or stigma or prejudice to ever need to be used because they don’t happen.

Some would call me an idealist, and they would probably be right. Some would say its because I’m young, and they would probably be right, too. But, I am all too aware of my limitations and I know that some of what I hope for probably won’t be seen on earth until Jesus comes again.

And it has struck me recently, that I spend a lot of time limiting my dreams.

I tell myself I am too young, too female, too broken to make a difference. Sometimes, I am too cynical.

But if I trust in a God who is bigger than my dreams – surely I must trust that he can make some of them come true?

If we all spend the energy persuading ourselves and others that we can’t make a difference, on actually going out there and making a difference – what would the world look like?

I get so scared that I’m not good enough to make a difference, that I make too much of a mess in my own life to help others, that I end up dithering around and not doing anything!

So my challenge to myself, is to dream big dreams, to allow myself to want to change the world and do all that I can to affect that change.

Join me?

 

Endings

Regular readers of this blog cannot have failed to notice that I am coming up to the end of my degree in theology. It has been the best three years of my life, and I have faced things that I had been running for for many years.

Endings are hard. The accompanying loss can is painful. I know that, as excited as I am about the next stage of my life, the thought of leaving this place I have loved so much is incredibly daunting. The loss of the safety of Bible College is particularly scary – it has been my safe place, my home for three years.

And the hardest thing about endings is that there is something about loss which revives earlier losses. I sit here and cannot help but recall the other endings, the relationships (that may still remain but change shape) the things I was all too glad to leave behind, and those which pulled hard at my heart.

I cannot lie, I am scared about what comes next, after all I am leaving home, leaving LST and beginning “adulthood” proper. 

And yet. I am excited in a way I have never been before. I am excited that I can begin the next phase of my life. I am excited that I am not entering into the next phase of my life as battered and bruised as I was when I first walked through the doors of LST. I have grown up, met friends I will keep for life and learned more about God, who He is and His relationship of love to the world He created than I ever thought possible. 

I am looking forward to working this out in the world. I’m also petrified. But I’m beginning to think that fear is okay as long as it does not prevent me from acting out the calling God has placed on my life. 

For as this chapter ends, I have to trust in the Author who has my story in His unfailing hands.

Who are we?

A couple of thoughts from the Chapel service yesterday at LST:

Who are we to doubt the power of the God who fed over 5000 people with a manky packed lunch?

Who are we to shirk the responsibility of using our giftings for the Kingdom of God?

Who are we to not be part of God bringing change?

Who are we to keep staring at the darkness – instead of bringing the light?

Who are we not the change the world through the power of God?