Thursday, 29 July 2010

Stripped

N.B. Please bear with me, this is the first time I have attempted to articulate these thoughts in writing.

Over the last few months, a lot of things have happened (some good and some bad) that have led to me experiencing the feeling of being broken and beat up inside. I say good and bad, because I believe that at some point in our Christian journey, (at least once, but probably many times) we must go through the fire in order to be refined by God. Sometimes the situations we go through are beyond our control, friends becoming ill or moving away, family members falling out, the government scrapping a savings scheme we were relying on. Sometimes those situations are scary. And sometimes those situations arise because of concscious decisions we have made.

But regardless of how those situations came about, when they do, we have a choice how to react to them. Some would say that suffering is a choice. To be stripped bare, to lose all means of survival but to cling to Christ, can be a choice. To choose to remove from your life all that distracts you from loving God and doing His will, can be a satisfying feeling, though others would have you believe that it is unnecessary.

What am I trying to say? Over the last few months, I have been looking at ways of simplifying my life. I have given away many of my possessions, stopped falling for the commercials and tried to only buy essentials, rather than special bits of tat that are unnecessary. I have attempted to spend more time with people, eating, meeting up, talking. I have tried to spend less time on Facebook and messing around on computers. I have tried to value the input of individuals in my life. I have given when people have needed, and not expected repayment. I have tried not to worry about money. Most of all I have chosen to rely on God when situations have become hurtful and heartbreaking. I have, in effect, stripped myself of some things that others take for granted.

Many people have said to me recently: "I'm really proud of how you're coping with all this" or words to that affect. I am not entirely sure which things they are proud of my ability to cope. But I do know that these last few months have meant more than just removing physical distractions and obstacles from my lifestyle. I have experienced God stripping things away from me too. Breaking off the casing that has surrounded me for so long to reveal the raw, sparkling core of my being. Relighting the fire of passion for things in my heart. Christ has been de-cluttering my soul, so to speak. I cannot say that overall it has been the most pleasant of experiences. But I do know that whatever it is Christ is doing, I am proud that I am not done yet. I am glad that I am still being moulded into a work of art, and that there is more of me to reveal, more of my potential to see, and however painful that experience may be, I know that it is worth going through. For Christ has a greater plan for me, to do greater things. And I need to be ready for that.

So watch out world, I'm just getting started!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Nine

N.B. There are many times I wish to write, but I sit and I wait for the words to come tumbling into my head, and most of the time they make no decent amount of sense to record in a blog. Please be patient. My time will come again. :)

On Sunday, I was rushing about like a mad person, as per usual before the service, trying to make sure everything was ready for Sunday school, making sure the Music group had the words, ensuring the room upstairs was ready for the group to use, etc, and all the other things that have fallen upon my shoulders in the last few months. It was crazy, and by the time the service started, I suppose I was just about ready to go home for a nap!

After the first few songs, during which I was trying to sing in the worship group and also mouth to a few young people on the front row to face the front and stop messing around, the preacher stood up to do the short children's talk. I went and took my seat next to the young people on the front row, hoping to use the next ten minutes of the service to relax before heading out to lead Sunday School, when someone tapped on my shoulder, and a hushed and hurried message about some child refusing to come into church was told in my ear. I sighed, and attempted (probably unsucessfully) to sneak down the aisle into the back of church, where, there indeed, was a young girl, around nine years old, standing in the lobby area, flatly refusing to enter church.

It was a child that I knew fairly well, and got on well with her mother, and at first the disciplinarian side of me flared, so I tried gentle coaxing and pushing at the same time, taking her by the hand and playfully shoving her towards the door. She put up quite a resistance, and dug her heels into the floor, making it near impossible to get her into the church, and as I didn't fancy dragging her up the aisle to the front row where my seat was, we settled for a nice comfy seat in the vestibule, where we could see and hear what was going on in the service without actually being a part of it. In a way I was pretty grateful myself to be out of the service to get some breathing space.

So we sat, and I began to ask her why she didn't want to go into church that morning. The conversation contintued along these lines: (Me in Italics) (Katie* in bold)
*child's name changed for confidentiality.

"Where's your Mum?"
"In there." *points to church.*
"Where's your brother?"
"In there. " *points to church*
"Oh. Don't you want to go and sit with them?"
"No."
"Have you had an arguement with your Mum?"
*nods*
"Oh dear. What about?"
"Cause she was being naughty."
"Why was she being naughty?"
"Cause she told me off."
"Well, why did she tell you off?"
"Erm... cause I was being naughty."
"Ah. Well don't be naughty then!"
*giggles*
"So why don't you come and sit with me then?"
"I don't want to. I hate church. It's boring"
"No way! You find having a relationship with God himself boring? You find coming together with others who believe and celebrating that relationship boring?!?"
"Yeah... well I don't even know if I believe in God anyway."
"Oh, okay. Why is that then?"
"Because who created God? Who is God's parents?"
"Why do you think that God had to have parents?"
"Well, how did he get there?"
"Okay, well, you know that God created tree's?"
"Yeah."
"So if everything is created by something, then you go back and back and back to the very first thing that started everything else. You can't keep going on forever, can you?"
"No..."
"Well, Christian's believe that the very FIRST thing, the thing that created the first thing that was created, was God. He started everything."
"Oh..." *pause*
"Sometimes I find it hard to believe in God too. But I think choosing to follow God isn't always about what we think or feel, it's what we choose to believe."
"Huh?"
"Well, I believe God does lots of things in our lives. And sometimes we choose to thank him for them, and sometimes we choose to thank other things for them. Like, if I pray to God to help me pass a test, and then I pass a test, I can either choose to give God the thanks, or to give myself a pat on the back for working hard for it. In my life, if I look carefully, there are many things that God probably helped me out on, that I never gave him the credit for. And in your life too, there are probably things that he's done for you. Sometimes we just have to choose to see God in things that other people don't."
"Yeah."
"But when we pray to God to help us get something good, that doesn't always mean that He is going to say yes. God knows what is best for us, so sometimes he won't give us the things that he knows are going to harm us, or things that we don't really need."
"Yeah, like the time I asked God for a barbie bike, and I didn't get one."
"Yeah, like that. But even if we pray to God to help us when things are bad, that doesn't mean he is going to say yes either! When bad things happen, we can choose to blame God for them, or we can choose to accept that God knows much more than us, and to trust that things will work out for the best."
"Yeah."
"You see Katie, I believe we can only see a part of the picture that God see's. It's like a giant painting, with hundreds of different colours, and the painting is made up of lives, of the life of the universe. Now our little life may be in a part of the picture that is really dark, maybe black or brown. We could ask God to change it, to make it a different colour, or for God maybe to make a situation easier or better, but we can't see the bigger picture. Cause the bigger picture is that it's important that for a time, we go through hard stuff. Cause it makes us stronger when we come out the other side, and it helps us in the future to be better people. So when we pray to God to make our situation better, and maybe he says no, or he doesn't change the situation for us, that doesn't meant that he wants us to go through bad stuff, but it means that he can see and understand the reasons for the bad stuff much better than we can."
"Yeah I guess." *long pause*
"Ya know, when I was your brothers age, my parents got divorced. And at the time, I really prayed hard that God would bring my family back together, and would make my parents get along. And it was really hard to go through that, and at the time, I didn't really understand why God was making me go through this really tough time. But now, 6 years later, I can see that it helped me to become a better person, and it means that I can help other people whose parents are separated or divorced, cause I can understand a little bit of what they are going through."
"Like me."
"Yeah, exactly. I know that it might seem hard and scary and not very nice at the moment, but things will get better. And you are going to be a much better person because of it. And I am sure that your Dad loves you very much, even if he can't see the right thing at the moment, and seems to be being a bit horrible, it's just cause adults get confused about stuff too. And sometimes they focus their energy on the wrong things.
"Yeah. All my Dad cares about at the moment is money. Cause we are living in his house. He just won't help us with anything, and he never really supports me or anything."
"Oh sweetie. That's feels rubbish, doesn't it? I'm afraid your Dad just has his priorities a bit messed up at the minute, and he is more worried about money than people. But one day, he is going to realise that. And Katie, if your Dad misses out on a few years of your life because if this, then he is going to miss out on something really special. He's going to miss watching you grow up! Something I'm not going to miss out on. And your Mum and your brother are going to see too. Because you are going to be one amazing young lady, you know that? And because of all this really rubbish and hard stuff that you are going through at the moment, you are going to be so much stronger, and so much braver at the end of that. And there are lots of other people who are around who are here to support you, even if right now, your Dad is too confused to do that..."
*We paused, and Katie nodded with tears in her eyes. I gave her a big hug.*
"I know something that God helped me on! When I started Year 4, my school work was really low, but then it got really good in the middle of the year, and I had prayed to God about it."
"That's great!"

By this time it was almost time for Sunday school, so we headed round into the Main Hall and everything carried on as normal. Katie stayed pretty close to me for the rest of the morning, but she went back to being a kid again. But that didn't change what I had seen in her that day. Up until then, I had seen her as a pretty average 8/9 year old child, who acts out once in a while, has the ability to spike a high temper, and who most of the time is more interested in playing around rather than sitting still. But I saw a part of her that I had previously ignored. In the many conversations I have had with her Mum, I assumed that Katie was oblivious to all the stuff going on with her parents apart from what she had been told, and that she knew very little. How wrong I was. She knew exactly what was going on, and there was a large part of her that was hurting, and confused, and just didn't know what to do.

Looking back, I guess it was that part of her that acted out in the refusal to go into church on Sunday. But in a way, I am quite glad she did. Because it gave me an opportunity to reach through the childish fa├žade she often dons and grab her hand. Maybe stop her from falling too far. And in a way, I was only able to do that by sitting with her, and choosing not to see the stubborn child that was acting out. But by allowing her to just be, and talk, and not be forced to sit in a service when all you want is for someone to pay attention to you, and the person you are, and the part of you that is hurting so bad. I doubt that what I said to Katie will stand any kind of ground as she heads into her summer holidays. But I hope she remembers that I care, and that I love, and that I will listen, should she ever need it.

God bless her, her family, and all she walks beside in the future.