Nearly morning

Romans 13: 10 – 14

Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Sleep. What a wonderful, beautiful thing we get to do every night. While our bodies recharge, it takes us to warm happy oblivion, or a field of flowers, or a flight over our favourite city, or whatever you dream about, until the alarm punctures its membrane and pulls us awake. It can take a while for us to get our bearings, and reluctantly give up the dream we were just in.

Who wants to get up? Who would? Especially at this time of year, if like me you live in the southern hemisphere. The icy dark winter mornings are not exactly inviting. And the dream can be so lush, and the bed so warm, that getting up is the last thing you want to do. It’s cosy and comforting here. It’s cold outside. We’ll have to do stuff once we get up. Let’s just stay here as long as we can.

The funny thing about staying in bed longer than you need to, in my experience, is that it seems to get less comfortable as time passes. I find myself wriggling round to find a good spot. When I try to lie-in, I rarely get back to sleep unless I’m ill.

For a while I’ve been in a state not unlike sleep. I know this because I am starting to wake up. In the same way that we don’t realise we’re dreaming until morning comes and we have to face the fact that we don’t actually have the power of flight. Only I’m having the reverse experience.

Let me explain.

Years ago I was much less reserved in my Christian expression. I didn’t preach on street corners or anything like that, but I probably came across as a bit, er, eccentric. References to God seasoned a lot of my conversations. I hung out with other slightly eccentric believers. I spent a lot of time praying and reading Scripture. Cool things happened. People got emotional and sometimes physical healing. We listened carefully for God and He let us see him work in spectacular ways.

We moved house. And then we moved again. And I fell asleep. Not immediately, not completely. But something took my focus off Jesus and put it onto making things comfortable for the people around me. I allowed the structures and traditions of the worship and churches we became part of to shape my expression and my expectation. Both became restrained and restricted. And swaddled by the comforting structures of codified worship, I drifted off to sleep.

Since the fire, and perhaps for some time before then, God has been sounding the alarm in his gently insistent way. He’s showing me what to repair and what to throw out. Priorities to re-set. Idols to destroy, like pain, fear and pride. I want to protect myself from being hurt. I have anxieties about what people can accept, about getting things wrong. I don’t want to look foolish. But I know that in God my life finds full expression, and that in God its fullest expression is more than I have allowed myself to experience. In the last few weeks, I have been seeking out opportunities to rebuild the lost connection and I have found him waiting to receive me and satisfy my thirst.

So I’m awake and I’m getting up.

You?

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Peace and quiet.

Been quiet for a while, just noodling around, reading other blogs, taking the pressure off myself to be constantly doing, producing, and figuring out. I was helped by the fact that the young ones were off school for two weeks. I did ask God for some peace, because holidays can be tricky, stressful times. And I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the need to keep them occupied and get work done and not let the house descend into chaos.

Well, He answered.

I have to say that it was a surprisingly peaceful, no, supernaturally peaceful, break. If this peace thing is what I’ve been missing out on for the last couple of decades, then perhaps I’ve been getting back pay because it has been supremely calm and peaceful in my heart, my house and my life for weeks now. Nothing spectacular has changed in our circumstances, but something has been changing in me.

Fellow travellers on the road of self-doubt and second-guessing will know what I’m talking about when I refer to the negative monologue that accompanies me through each day. Harping back to previous mistakes/ embarrassments or opportunities lost, or projecting new ones onto the horizon. Well, it still drones on but for some reason I find myself hearing it from a distance. It’s not an audible voice, but a cast of mind that I have been more aware of and detached from. The writer of a blog I follow wrote out of a depressive episode recently, with amazing insights for both official and closet depressives. I suppose I’m doing the opposite here, writing out of a period of extreme contentment, joy and stability.

Many months ago I heard an old song by Cece Winans called Everlasting Love. The last line, and the refrain, is ‘Know that the peace that comes from above is the same everlasting love..’ I am blessed to be able to say it’s easy for me to accept the notion of God’s love for me because of what he’s done in my own life. But I always thought of peace as a separate piece, so to speak. Peace was dependent on my having all my ducks in a row, behaving perfectly, doing good stuff. Performing. It was something I had to earn, in other words. Once all the work was done, then I could have peace. That’s even harder than trying to keep a house clean and tidy with four children and dog in it. Dream on.

The idea that God’s peace is part of his love, and as such is not a goal to achieve, but a gift to receive and breathe in, began to filter into my anxious thoughts through this song. And in tiny and large ways since, these thoughts have been confirmed. I am learning to increasingly lean into that love and trust it with the weight of my anxieties, ambitions, failures and successes. I have stopped trying to pretend to be other than I am, to appear less weird or eccentric or ‘religious’ or whatever, and I have found myself received by those from whom I expected rejection. I have approached scary situations with a sense of fun that has surprised me, and genuinely seen mistakes as stepping stones to teach me about myself, not gravel in my shoes to hobble my progress. I am taking myself a whole lot less seriously, ironically, by taking myself more seriously. I am taking charge of my emotional responses instead of letting that whining petulant voice have all the fun.

Who knows what will happen when I hit a major setback. Well, I’ll be writing about that too, no doubt. Trouble has come, and it will come again. That is a certainty in every life. But I refuse to miss out on the good parts by dreading what storms may or may not lie ahead. I have decided to learn to be content, like Paul, in good and bad times, in plenty and in want, in health and in sickness. Because God is the same always, and his love will outlast this life.