Again, possibly this might be a rather personal blog, but one which I hope might bless and encourage those who read it.
As many of you know I am a bit of an “Everything or Nothing” kind of guy, and sometimes I am quite driven, and try and be conscientious, I long to see more of God’s Kingdom break in and try and seek to serve God and those I minister to faithfully. I admit I don’t always get it right, but I do try.
Also, I’ve blogged about being a Christian with depression and about going to counselling, I would want to urge anyone who might be feeling they struggle with depression, or think that they might need some counselling to do the brave and the right thing, and maybe chat to your doctor, or book yourself some sessions with a Christian Counsellor (most clergy should be able to hook you up with someone, although there maybe a bit of a wait).
Yet more recently I have been challenged about two thoughts, self care and taking personal responsibility.
Talking with the counsellor when work was really stressful, and he asked “why don’t you get to the Doctor and get signed off?”
Yet as conversations continued, it is very easy to come to medics and ‘other professionals’ or people we put on pedestals and expect them to “fix us”.
If I had been signed off for a couple of weeks, it would be nice, but after a couple of weeks, would anything have changed?
I wouldn’t feel bad for cancelling a meeting if I said “Dr’s orders”, rather than simply saying “No” to something.
If I got signed onto ‘reduced hours’ that wouldn’t really do anything either as actually I normally manage (or fail to manage) my own dairy.
Yet too often we look to someone else to make it all okay.
Actually there is a lot of this in the Gospel, looking not at ourselves for Salvation and rescue but from Christ.
Yet, sometimes God, or another human being, doesn’t burst into our situation and wave a magic wand, sometimes God asks us ourselves to take responsibility for our situation and to change it.
Sometimes God leaves the ball in our court.
It is easy then to revert to a position of a victim, or perhaps a prisoner, when God has placed all we need for a new future within us.
I am really struck by John’s account of the healing of the man by the Pool at Bethsaida, Jesus asks him “Do you want to be healed?” -he’s sat there supposedly wanting healing, but to actually be healed and learn a new life and a new identity not as the lame man who sits begging beside the pool, was for him a challenge.
I believe in many situations God himself has given us the tools to change our circumstances ourselves. The power is in our hands and our lives, through God’s Spirit within us. His Spirit within us is greater than he that is in the world, and is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
So, instead of going to someone else, personally thinking about self care, God’s call not just to be a good minister but also a good husband and father, good son and grandson, good nephew and uncle, good friend, neighbour and colleague.
Busy is a choice.
Taking time out, especially for retreat times and being with God, is not an optional extra for indulgent Christians, but actually part of God’s call to be a human being, loved because of who we are not because of what we do.
I have been chewing over the phrase about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and God’s Kingdom’s call is for the whole person, not just the more overtly and obviously Christian bit.
Jesus says that his “Yoke is easy and his burden is light”, which makes me ask are the burdens I carry not of God? Are they self imposed? Am I trying to do them in my own strength?
A book I’ve flicked through is called “Driven Beyond the Call”, the title is very thought provoking are we driven beyond what God is calling us to do.
My friend Andy Schuman was talking about leading a spirit-led life and he joked about the phrase “God’s not doing it so could you do it Vicar!”
-Are we trying to push doors open when God is saying “not yet”?
-Or faithfully carrying on with what we maybe should have laid down?
Perhaps my busyness is due to my own drivers?
Perhaps there is a need to be needed?
Perhaps I don’t like saying “No” to people?
If I’m honest, sometimes I feel guilty about taking time off, feel as though I am being self indulgent, but often this is a false guilt, a guilt that robs us both of our peace and our joy.
A story I love is the story of Elijah who sees God break-through on Mount Carmel, and ends up exhausted in a slump in a cave, and God makes him fall asleep and gives him breakfast.
Mark Rich once said “sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep”, often when we are tired and exhausted we look upon the world with bleary grey eyes, and we become more and more depressed.
Often busyness is actually an illusion or state of mind. Often we rush around and we miss the critical thing God is doing, which is the last thing I want to do.
A great thing to give up this Lent is busyness.
Perhaps God is calling us to look at our world with him, with refreshed eyes.
Philip Yancey says “there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore, and nothing we can do to make God love us any less”.
Discovering “Who I am when I am not busy?” for me feels like a terrifying question to ask myself. Perhaps that’s a question you might ask yourself too?
One of the songs which moves me deeply is the song by Matt Redman: When the Music Fades:
Which talks of the hush of a busy world, a stripping back, and a silencing of all the noise and discovering afresh God’s goodness and awesome love.
In fact the Church, Soul Survivor Watford, had become so well known for its worship music that they stopped all musical worship and just sought God without lights, smoke machines, PA systems and amps, guitars and full bands… For the worship leaders if was incredibly painful, challenging their whole identity and contribution, but in doing this they came through this dessert time much deeper, here is what Matt Redman wrote…
“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart”
Yet in coming to Christ, as we really are, without the noise, work and busyness, we discover something much deeper about ourselves and also about God.
“You search much deeper within, the way things appear you are looking into my heart”
God calls us all to “Be Still and know that I am God”.
God calls us all to ‘come and lay our burdens down gladly at his feet’, James tells us to “cast our burdens onto the Lord because he cares for us”.
So, to conclude, perhaps this Lent isn’t about whether or not we have another chocolate biscuit but rather we encounter God in a new and deep way, leaving the noise and busyness aside, and taking the responsibility to give ourselves the space and freedom to just be before our heavenly father who loves us.
So, my challenge for Lent is to learn afresh what it means to simply “BE”.