Warning: this blog is deeply personal (and rather long), something I haven’t shared before but the message, is one that we all need to hear, and I feel like the only way to convey what I want to say is to share with you my story.
It was Colour Conference 2008. We were sitting in the Royal Albert Hall and I felt empty.
It was the first full day of conference, the Friday and I did not know up from down, left from right. I had been at my job for almost one year at that point and I had already started to hate the environment and my role. Although I was serving on team at church things had come up that made it more difficult to be joyful in serving…I didn’t know where I belonged, my “identity” was shaken. I called out to God and with a rather demanding tone I said “If you don’t do something in this next session I think I’m done because I have no strength left and the path I can see myself headed on is away from this all.”
Four years later, a month before Colour, we are in the present and last night I sat in a cinema in Paris with tears falling down my face. Even with my best friend sitting beside me I feel alone. My thoughts are reflective of someone prone to drama, someone who doesn’t know where her life is going and is scared of what the future may hold or rather, what it doesn’t, someone easily recognisable from 4 years ago, sitting alone in a crowd of 3,000 women, but this time something is different.
There I was sitting in the lower level of plush seats which make up the beautiful and luxurious Royal Albert Hall in London. Colour Conference, a time of empowering the feminine side of church to rise up, seek out injustice, love, and be all that God has called us to be.
You would have thought that it would have been enough for me, the call to action, but it wasn’t. I felt alone, depressed and without understanding of who I was. Having been raised in a home where I was loved by not only my immediate and extended family but an entire community of friends, you would have thought I was not the one who would feel alone in a crowd. Something was missing from my life. I didn’t understand who I was. You see, I’m not a girl who ever had a vocational passion. I didn’t want to be a doctor, or an astronaut, I’m pretty sure I said I wanted to be Minnie Mouse when I was in Kindergarten. Sure, I liked architecture, and politics and singing, and writing and creating, but none of these screamed VOCATION, PURPOSE, LIFE GOAL. Because my current job wasn’t the best for me, because my role on team had changed drastically and I didn’t have a boyfriend I thought I had no identity. I had a disconnect as to what identity meant. But that’s where my thinking was wrong. I was trying to seek my identity in what I did for a living, how I served at church, who the person standing next to me was. If you asked me who I was I could use the words: marketing manager, driven, focused, connect group pastor, leader in ministry, ex-girlfriend of, daughter of, etc etc. However, all these things are quite frankly, that which can change in an instant. These words are volatile and ever-changing.
Back to Colour, Brooke Fraser stood up to speak. I will NEVER forget the moment she started speaking. A piece of glitter fell from the ceiling and she made joke about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and everyone laughed. Instantly I took to her presence on stage and knew I had to listen.
She spoke about how we aren’t robots, that unlike her car, which she could control to warm her or to cool her in the hot Australian sun, we were created with free will, in the image of Christ. God, when He spoke life into us could have made it easy and had us worship Him out of obligation or control, instead, He chose to give us free will. She spoke of a passage from the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, that goes like this:
And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtual as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them,
You affectionate uncle
I don’t know why that particular passage spoke to me something in me went…oh…and caught my attention further…Suddenly I understood why I longed to be more, know more, have more than I did currently…
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
Then it hit me…God created me, you, humanity in HIS image…we long to be near our creator…this showed me what it meant to know my identity in Christ. I understood that it was not my job title, my position in church, whose girlfriend or wife or sister or daughter I am that defined me, instead, when someone asks me who I am…I am child of the most High God, who loved us enough to send His son down so that we could live in relationship with Him. He loves me with a passion that even the most passionate person can’t fully comprehend (and I’m a pretty passionate person), He knows no limits, He withholds NOTHING from those who love Him, He turns all things for good (even if we can’t see that in the moment), He leads us in a straight path. HE CANNOT LEAVE YOU. We can run but he is EVER PRESENT. And in HIM I am all that I need to be.
So last night, after a small moment of sadness and unclarity, I stopped and went, ya, maybe I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or what is supposed to happen next in my life, whose wife I will be one day, what city I will live in next, or even why I am serving in a particular area of church and where that will lead me. None of this is relevant to my identity and I will not allow the fear (because God does not give us a spirit of fear: “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline” 2 Timothy 1:7), to creep in and say that I am not enough, that I should know what is next, My identity, who I am, is in Him.
And that gives me comfort, personally, as I make decisions about my future, because if I stop, drown out the voices in my head, and stop allowing other people to try and define who I am, my path will be made straight and all the fear will slip away. God will open doors when needed, and close them when it’s not right…we simply need to be clear in whose we are and live each day with that knowledge, seeking Him. We are given today, so why worry about tomorrow, seek Him, cling to Him, find your identity in Him and your future will be decided.
so…today, remember who you are, made in God’s image…so go knock the socks off today…