I’VE been challenged this week on a few fronts.
Our car broke down on the way from the north-east of England to my home village in Scotland. And by broke down I mean died. The first challenge was to cough up enough cash for the RAC to tow us north, the second was to willingly cancel the installation of my new log burner in order to put a deposit on a new car.
I was challenged further when I picked up my beautiful baby niece for the first time, knowing that my mum, who is almost 60, will now be her full-time guardian. Should I be doing more? Could I be doing more?
Physically, I have been challenged all year. My insides are basically either on strike by doing nothing, or upping the aunty holding a full scale demonstration with placards and stomping about. By that, I mean I live daily with pain. I added to the challenge though by agreeing to strengthen my core. Google ‘planking’ so you can empathise. It looks harmless enough. It is not. It is evil.
Thrown into the mix of challenges this week, was the crushing blow that the dream job my husband went for – for which he is suitably qualified and more than able – didn’t even yield an interview. He is devastated. If I’m honest it’s the tip of an iceberg. The rest of the iceberg looks like asking God for direction and new opportunities, so not getting past the first hurdle means a rethink on what we believe God has said to us, as a couple, over the years.
Actually, if I had wanted to, this week would have been the perfect opportunity for a pity party.
I was asked on Sunday how I manage now that we are in a new season of ministry in our church, whereby we don’t get to speak all that often any more. I’m not going to lie, it’s tricky. That question in itself would normally be fuel enough for me to run a bath and wallow in my over-thinking, self analysing dirt that leaves me feeling despondent and deactivated.
So I went another way.
On the day when we knew the car was going to go to motor heaven, we took the boys on an adventurous walk. We climbed trees, jumped across little rivers and walked ourselves happy.
On the day when I picked up my beautiful little Emily, I prayed over her and committed to doing all I could, rather than cave under the pressure of what I can’t.
On the day when my stomach pain became so bad I had to carry round my hot water bottle for good measure, I found myself sending a Facebook message to a friend who is going through exactly the same thing. My focus then is not to stay down, but is to quickly reflect – and share – how far I have come, to inspire her to do the same.
On the day when all my insecurities about church and ministry and my part in this great salvation plan came right to the fore, I decided to head straight to Scripture, and found this little nugget of wisdom.
Taken from the Passion translation of Song of Songs, it says:
“I’ve made up my mind,
Until the darkness disappears
And the dawn has fully come,
In spite of shadows and fears –
I will go to the mountain top with You
The mountain of suffering love
And the hill of burning incense
Yes, I will be Your bride.”
I’m not sure what this says to you but I was instantly motivated by the challenge and declaration of these words.
I’ve made up my mind…
What is your mind set on? Because it makes a difference. Have you believed the words of scripture and the encouragements written here, that you DO have a part to play in reaching this world with the Good News of Jesus? Or have you allowed the challenges of life to drown out that certainty?
Until the darkness disappears and the dawn has fully come…
The most challenging times in our lives are not when we are at our lowest and darkest, it’s that time in between. The grey area of uncertainty before the light at the end of the tunnel is often the hardest place to exist in. The children of Israel were prepared to go back to a life of slavery because in the ‘middle’ of their journey they grew despondent and tired. I love that the writer here acknowledges that some times are harder than others but vows to keep going ‘until…’
In spite of shadows and fears…
Hands up, if I let it, fear would dominate my life. What will happen if… What will they think… What if I mess up… what if it’s not just another usual pang of pain and this time it’s more serious… I could go on and on. Here the writer is encouraging us to take hold of the reality of life. It is hard sometimes. It is scary. It is unknown and because we have heard and seen other people go through other hard times we live with that shadow. But we can go on in spite of this. We can choose to cling to our God-given destiny and refuse to let it be trampled on by the stuff of life.
I will go to the mountain top with you…
Beautiful. Is there anything more spectacular than the view from a mountain? And is there any view more hard to come by? Great news, you don’t climb on your own. You do it with Jesus and you do it as part of His church.
later it says:
Yes, I will be your bride…
It’s like someone renewing their vows. They’re stating again, in public view, that they are still committed, still in love, still passionate about the one they’ve given their life too.
On this week of challenges I made a new vow myself. That I would remain part of His bride. Don’t get me wrong there was no danger of me leaving. But the stake in the ground – amidst a season of challenge – needed to go that bit deeper.
So this week, as a Activate woman, committed to living my life in such a way that my pain points people to God as much as my joy, I have renewed my vows.
Yes, Jesus, I will remain planted and flourishing in the local church – your Bride.
Yes, Jesus, I will recognise that pain is part of the journey and challenges will come but when you overcome the grave you overcome the world. In You I have resurrection possibility.
Yes Jesus, a life with you IS Good News and my friends need to hear it.
Yes Jesus, now that I have navigated the shadows to get to the mountain top, I commit to helping my friends get there also.
Yes Jesus, I’ve made up my mind.