So… I am talking about a big decision, one of those which means changing jobs, moving house and uprooting children. Not that this doesn’t apply to those of you making decisions of the smaller kind, it might, but here are my very recent musings on making the bigger scarier decisions.
For a year we have been thinking about the next church… where will God want us? Where could we be some use? Where do we want to go? And seriously, who would want us? So it’s a big decision and one that will impact, change and rearrange every area of our lives. We haven’t made the decision or indeed found ‘the place’ yet, so reading this in the hope that you will get a neat plan of action for your own decision would be futile. But, what I can do is point out some of what I am learning and hope that you enjoy it.
To start here is a little about me, I am an activist and not a trained Theologian, so my thoughts are just that and probably not correct in all spheres of the Christian world. I like to think of myself as a practical ‘little t’ theologian. I love to listen and learn and then give it a try (just to see if it works for real).
Over the last year I have tried out all sorts of things to help us get in line with God in making this big decision.
Open door/ closed door.
I like this approach. The theory is you metaphorically push the door and if it opens you can advance. If it doesn’t you try another. I think of a kind of Alice in wonderland experience. You try and find a door that is a good fit and give it a shove. Obviously if none of the doors that fit open, then you have to take some special medicine and go through a door that previously looked impossible. Which may take you to a rather wacky place, entirely out of your comfort zone and where your very life may be in danger….O.K., possibly I got a bit carried away with that analogy. But you get the idea.
Prayer and Fasting.
I totally and utterly believe that you should start everything with prayer, continue with prayer and complete with prayer. This is one thing we do know for certain! That we should carry everything to God. We should share all of our hearts, concerns and thoughts. Even when you can think of nothing to say, then say that! I cannot count the times when I have prayed ‘Lord, I have nothing… could you use my nothing today, or at least loan me some of your something?’
I haven’t done enough fasting (clearly), so all I can say, was that it was an interesting experience. It started well with us praying and feeling encouraged. I liked the self-sacrificing discipline of it. I liked that it was time given up for God. I did not like the hunger rage that ballooned inside of me as the day wore on. I was not enamoured with the characteristics that hunger brought out in myself by the time I left for the school run. My children were not keen on the parenting style I demonstrated at tea time. My focused prayers of the morning became more prayers of survival, which after some reflection I concluded defeated the point. So maybe clear times of fasting in better arranged circumstances would be the ticket?
Signs and Wonders.
I love a good sign and a bit of wonder, who wouldn’t like to witness some meaty miracles? I decided to embrace this, as it fits with my rather impatient personality and my desire for an ‘instant fix’. It started well with signs and wonders popping up everywhere. A friend smiled when I said…. Or a happy feeling when I walked the dog, maybe a certain confidence upon perusing a job profile. We have been for two interviews and with each we pushed doors till they closed, listened to God and looked for signs. The problem with signs and wonders are: Sometimes things happen and you think it’s a sign, sometimes you don’t get signs when you think something should happen and other times you get signs for something you would rather didn’t happen. One morning on the school run I saw a sticker for a place that we didn’t want to move to on the back of a car and was left with a sense of dread for the rest of the day. The next day I saw a car sticker from the place I wanted to move to. I was flooded with relief until we got the ‘no interview’ news.
This can also be referred to as blackmail. It’s the whole fleece and dew argument. Is this a situation where we can lay out a fleece? Or is that merely testing God… However, even if we are very testing we do have God’s grace to consider. So I tried it, I tried being very, very good. I listened to 4 sermons a week from the HTB website (they are awesome… I particularly like Charlie Mackesy) not of course, that asking my husband to preach at me 4 times a week wasn’t appealing, it’s just that he does this anyway… mostly about recycling, ethical issues and being good stewards of God’s money (for which I am eternally grateful). I read books (thank you Jeff Lucas), I prayed, I read the Bible, I did many good deeds (honestly) and nothing changed. So I decided to stay in bed and give in to the misery of not knowing. I suggested to God that I was not best used in this state of mind so, if he could just resolve the situation I would be a better ‘field worker’. He chose not to act and by 9:30 am I was incredibly bored and my back ached, so I got up and carried on with the day.
I even told God that if we didn’t get the next job, that I would be terribly unhappy and a drain on my friends and family, but each time it turned out that I was fine and the ‘said’ collapse (I had been secretly looking forward to) never turned up. It’s like when you take a big leap on a trampoline and all the time you’re in the air thinking about how you might land and where you would bounce afterwards (safety nets are always useful) but never actually landing. You definitely started the descent but you haven’t actually landed. Maybe that is about God’s love for us?
Taking myself out of the equation.
I decided that since this was all about God’s timing and that no amount of things that I did were going to make it happen any quicker, it would be better if I pretended that nothing was happening and just got on with enjoying my present circumstances. Which is fine, as I love my friends and life here. Unfortunately, my brain does not work that way. It seemed that I had filled my head with the words ‘DO NOT THINK’ and instead of just covering the topic ‘that could not be named’ it extended into everything. Conversations with friends became very confusing. They would speak and I would forget to respond or I would speak and realise that there was no one there. Often I would talk in sentences where my words came out in the wrong order. I forgot stuff, school bags, meetings and occasionally my own children. One day I walked head first into the school gate in my confusion. So I have to conclude that God wants us to participate and think as we go.
I love Bible verses, you must give them out to people they are so encouraging! They have been a life line through all this waiting. Sometimes however my interpretation of the verses has been questionable! I was so encouraged when my mum gave me this verse:
Exodus 14 v14
‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’
Then less encouraged when I looked up The Message translation:
‘God will fight your battles for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut.’
What are you trying to say mum?
Then a friend shared a verse she was thinking about:
Proverbs 31 v.25
‘She is clothes with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.’
So at best, you will find me standing still in the corner of my kitchen quietly laughing at tomorrow. Weirdly enough, that kind of appeals to me. Seriously though, you can take great things from these verses. It is not all up to us! Thank goodness! God has us. He has got it sorted, all we have to do is to cling on to him and pray like crazy.
So hands up, I don’t know. All we can do is let go and let God! Give him your plans and the desires of your hearts and we will get there at the right time. I am sure that you are out there, lovely church community! We can’t wait (seriously I cannot wait) to love and serve you and get stuck in. I hope you might like us too. We have many flaws (of which, I have no doubt you will discover) But we have a Big Huge God that knows best and is well practised in taking our shortcomings and making them into something that works. See you soon.