I needed to take a new picture the other day using my webcam. It took me a while to figure out why my face was always in shadow. I must have taken about eight photos before I realised I was looking at myself, not at the tiny lens in the top of the screen. Not at the camera.
And I thought, oh. Is that what I’ve been doing all this time.
It’s very hard to do anything much if you’re constantly observing yourself. Checking your own progress. Re-playing conversations, assessing your performance. Looking in the mirror of other people’s responses. It’s also exhausting. No wonder I’m tired all the time. And so self-conscious. Why sometimes I talk as if speech was about to be banned, and at other times I can find nothing to say. My harshest critic has always been me. My biggest bully (and I’ve had a few) has been my own dear self, reminding me always of my failures and never of my successes.
So at the beginning of my 4Xth year I’ve decided to switch off the me-cam. I don’t need constant reassurance that I’m on the right track. I can trust God’s word and God’s methods to set me straight when I need it. I’ve decided to actually trust myself and my gifts this year. Possibly for whole days at a time. I aim to resist refuelling at the pit stops of self-pity, fear and sadness. I am going to check my progress, if I must, against what God says about me. I am going to surround myself with people who encourage, words that inspire and images that delight me. (No cat pictures though).
Jesus got a little exasperated with his disciples from time to time. On one such occasion, he had healed a boy his followers had not been able to cure. They asked him why they couldn’t do it. He said
Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17 v 20
I have no idea what this will look like, and that’s the point. I have speculated far too much about how things will look, or how I will look, and what others will think about it. Time to stop. So I’m switching that off. Now.
This is a dangerous little word for someone like me. A champion at delaying, putting off, filing until later, waiting for the right moment. (Not a lucrative skill, sadly). But it has been a dangerous word for me because I moved some time ago from the armchair faith of general principles about being nice and honest and helpful, drawn from the cosy stories Christian children are raised on, to a somewhat more immediate and messy version, which involves more, er, involvement. What I mean is, it’s not so much a matter of what God did then, so much as what He’s currently doing. Not so much what those distant Bible folks in their long robes and sandals were getting up to, but what He’s asking me to do, now. It’s the kind of faith that sometimes makes me afraid to open my Bible. What’s He going to say to me? Ask me to do?
Moses is a fairly famous Bible man. He’s the one who led the enslaved people of Israel out of Egypt after some spectacular intervention by God in the form of plague, turning the nile to blood, sending swarms of locusts and frogs, inflicting boils on the Egyptians, and (I know I’ve missed a few but you get the idea) finally the death of the firstborn including that of Pharoah himself. Like I said, spectacular. God recruited Moses in the middle of the desert from a burning bush. He tells Moses that He has heard the cries of the people under oppression and He’s going to sort it out. ‘Now, go…’ he says to Moses, ‘..for I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ Er, hold on, says Moses, not unreasonably. Me?
Yes this is a story which predates the modern era by several thousand years. How is it relevant to me? Or you? Well, maybe it isn’t to you, but it resonates with me and millions of others who like me have experienced a very personal call to get up and do something that seems impossible. Or just easier for God to do without me. The impossible may not be leading an oppressed community out of slavery, it may be simply speaking up instead of being silent, setting a situation right, taking the lead or even making room for someone else to shine. Quite often, what God does when He speaks is to remind me of who He is; the aspect of His nature that I need to remember for the situation I’m in or the task I’m facing. The point is, God speaks now. And each time I listen, I grow. It is the weird paradox of God’s eternal forever nature that He is unchanging but not monotonous. My life in God is unpredictable, exciting, and occasionally terrifying but never boring.