My Aunty Fay (Mum’s aunty) died last week. Her funeral is today.
She really loved Jesus.
The past four years, she was here in body but not in mind – dementia.
So when I heard the news, I was relieved she is now in heaven with her Saviour she loved so much.
And the thought stuck with me – she’s there! She’ll never struggle again. All her worries are left behind. Her earthly mission is complete, and now she’ll celebrate forever.
It really makes you realise how life is short, and we only have a limited time to fulfill our purpose here.
In heaven, everything’s taken care of. Our time on earth is the only time we can glorify God by obeying him, even when it’s hard.
Boy, I want to have purpose.
It’s so easy to get distracted by work, friends, building my house, writing my book, just constructing what I hope will be a ‘successful’ adult life.
I find it easy to get discouraged, to let things worry me, to fixate on the things that aren’t going the way I want.
But in heaven, I’ll see God. I won’t need to believe, because I’ll see.
This time on earth is my one chance to HAVE FAITH, even when things aren’t looking hopeful. It’s my chance to be OBEDIENT when it’s easier not to be. It’s my chance to STAY FOCUSSED ON MY PURPOSE – GLORIFYING GOD, when I can’t see Him in front of me.
For years, I have struggled with the nagging fear that maybe, just maybe, God isn’t really there.
The fear says I’ve convinced myself of the whole thing. And my life is finite.
I expressed this fear (read: broke down on the way to church) one Sunday with my parents when I was about 18. They told me that arguments about science, logic and philosophy can go on forever, but the major thing that convinced them of their faith was the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
I listened, I believed them, I found the Bible verses to back it up, I prayed and I waited.
I waited for that sure-fire conviction that I KNEW the Holy Spirit was in my heart.
For six years.
Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty sure. Hey, I was a church leader. I was mentoring a brand-new Christian. I’d based my entire life around this belief.
But that fear nagged, and whined, and whinged.
Then a series of events occurred in the lives of some adults I’d grown up around. Very disappointing, disillusioning events. ‘Hypocrite’ is the nicest word I can think of.
And that whisper of a fear became more than a whisper.
Finally, one day in March this year, I was driving home from work. And I was sick of it. I had non-Christian workmates who were better people than the ‘Christians’ I’d grown up trusting. So what was the point of God? I’d been looking for that certainty from Him for 6 years, and I’d been a Christian my entire life. What was the point?
As I pulled into my driveway that afternoon, I said this to God:
“I feel like I’ve been hanging onto you by my fingertips for months now. Well, this is me letting go. It’s up to you to catch me.”
Then I went inside and had a completely normal evening.
But over the next few weeks, something changed inside. At random moments, I’d get a mental flash of what my life would be like at that moment if I didn’t know God.
And it wasn’t pretty.
Without God, my life would end at death. At 25, I’m already ¼ (if I’m lucky) of the way there.
Just thinking about it, I can sense the wave of panic that would overwhelm me if that were true.
I would be tortured, wondering if I was missing out in life, if I was screwing up my one chance, if I should do something different, live somewhere different, be something different. And that’s just worrying about my happiness levels. What about things that really matter, like making a difference in someone else’s life? What impact would I leave behind?
(And worst of all, the question of vegetarianism. If I really believed I came from an evolutionary chain of animals, could I eat one? Not in good conscience. But they taste pretty awesome.)
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of worries that would overwhelm me if my life on earth was all there was.
The point is, with God, I know I have hope. I know I have purpose. I know there’s such thing as truly unselfish, sacrificial, perfect love. Endless forgiveness. I know that my life, experiences and sufferings all have meaning, nothing is in vain.
And that was the beginning of this year’s journey.
I haven’t written any of my novel since December. This is my third version of this blog post. It was a strain just to write my grocery list this week.
This is the most stuck I’ve been with my creative writing in ages. And I think it’s a good thing.
I got a little worn out by the end of last year. Part of it was because I hadn’t had a holiday in a while. The other part was because I put waaaaaay too much pressure on myself to write a perfect novel. So I took a break, and now I can’t get started again.
But surprisingly, as another week ends with me accomplishing nothing besides going to work and burning through half a season of Castle, God does not seem upset with me. No, He keeps telling me He loves me.
And the longer this goes on, the more I realize the only person upset with me was myself.
Though I’ve written plenty of blog posts about significance and identity in the past 15 months of running this blog, I still got sucked into the trap of associating my creative writing accomplishments with my own sense of purpose. I felt that my writing was the only thing that set me apart. And since I don’t do as much youth work volunteering as I used to, my writing was also my form of ‘volunteering’ for God. I was using my gift for His glory, right?
Well, yeah, you can write for God’s glory. But if you actually write to make yourself feel special, that’s not cool.
This bout of writer’s block has made me face that truth.
But, like I said, God doesn’t seem mad. He just keeps telling me, in a bunch of different ways, that He loves me just as I am. I don’t have to do lots of hard work to make Him happy. I can relax, be still, and be confident in my identity in Him.
So, where to with my writing?
At this point, I don’t plan to give it up. I’m slowly gathering ideas and trying to scoop up enough inspiration to get me back at the keyboard again. But, when I finally get to that point, I’ll be more aware than ever that success as a novelist or as a blogger has nothing to do with my success as a person.
I am one of 7,000,000,000 people on the earth. I am one of tens of billions to exist in history.
I just pulled a hair from my head, slipped on my Supernatural Glasses of the Unseen (i.e. my imagination) and looked at the tiny, tiny number stamped at the base of the follicle.
That’s right, God not only pays attention this little 1/7,000,000,000th of the world’s population, He knows exactly how many hairs are on my head.
Don’t believe me?
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-8 NIV
That’s straight from the Big Man himself.
He giggled at the funny cartoon I drew at work today. He pondered my next novel idea with me. He heard my silent thoughts, wondering if anything I did today had eternal value. (And the follow-up thought, wondering if I think too much.)
I’ve been studying Experiencing God this week, and I’m up to a section that particularly deals with the church and our roles in it. It struck me anew that EVERY part of God’s ‘body’, the church, is vital.
A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
1 Corinthians 12:14-18 MSG
Do I treat myself like I am an essential part of my Christian community? (With the community being not just my church, but also my Christian friends, family, and organisations I’m involved in.)
My default thought has always been that I’m a small toe. Handy, but not that effective or vital.
But there’s another part to this, too. Do I treat everyone else like they’re also the heart and muscle of this body called the church?
What would be different if I did? I’m not sure. But it’s something for me to ponder this week.
What I do know is, these verses make it clear that God has a very personal interest in my life, and my community. He wants to have relationship with us, work with us, and do life with us.
Sitting in my office each day, typing out stories that no one has read yet, I do. And that adds pressure. I feel pressure to finish and get published as quickly as possible, so that all this effort will mean something. I want people to read my work and hopefully come closer to God. I want to accomplish His work and please Him.
And I’ll admit – though this doesn’t sound spiritual at all – I want to get paid. I love my part-time job and I feel like God is telling me to stay put and keep writing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about the financial implications.
It looks like getting published will solve all these problems. But the other night, God reminded me of the truth.
I AM HERE.
In my post, ‘Waiting, Self-Doubt and Heroes’, I talked about people in the Bible who have had to wait – Abraham, Joseph, David and Jesus included. Yet while I recognized that waiting is normal, even an honor, I still felt like I needed to accomplish some ‘success’ before God would be pleased with me. I felt like He wasn’t with me in the waiting.
I should have known better. Actually, I did know better – in my head. Sometimes it takes a while longer to trickle down into my heart.
Almost a week ago, God dropped this one on me: “I am here”. And now I feel so relieved. God is here now. Not when I get published, convert a friend or do some other good deed. He is beside me in the present. In the waiting. And if my heart is in the right place – seeking Him – then He is already pleased.
The implications are enormous. The pressure is off; I don’t need to rush. I can let go of my frantic drive to accomplish something and embrace His peace. And it’s good.
With my previous mindset, I was limiting God. I didn’t think He was working because I couldn’t see it. So I strove to get myself to a place where God would use me. And I ignored the fact that God’s work is often unseen, and that it is always happening. Even in the waiting.
So now I’ll ask for His help to remember His truth: He is always with me and is always working. And I’ll pray that He keeps showing me areas where I need more reminding.