I started this year feeling pretty lost in 2011. With only twenty goals on the conservative version of the list(!), I wasn’t really sure which way to turn. I was believing God for a year of new opportunities as I finished off my MA dissertation and turned my eyes to consider what God might have in store for me next.
But I didn’t know what that would be.
And so I had slipped back into my time-honoured tradition of goal-setting. Goals, after all, are a great way to get things done and make progress. The only slight problem is that they can take you a very long way in the wrong direction if you’re not careful! By the end of the first week of January, I was beginning to suspect that I was vulnerable to making this error, vulnerable to obscuring with a lot of activity the fact that I didn’t know where I was going or why.
That post ended with a longing that I would not attempt to shore up my identity by doing things, but rather that I would discipline my heart in 2011 to wait for God to reveal more of who he created me to be, in order that what I might I do would flow naturally from that
A few days later, I posted again and this time I had the outlines of a plan to help me wait and listen well. Today, I want to revisit that plan to see whether it might serve me for 2012.
CREATING SPACE FOR GOD TO SPEAK
- Meditating on Scripture (which may mean dwelling in it, rather than reading great swathes of it)
- Times of listening silence before God (which means a silence that is heart-deep: thus, not only no music or talking but also no reading at those times. How will I cope?)
- ‘No agenda’ devotional times (and yes, no agenda means no prayer shopping lists, not even church/pastoral care-related ones!)
CREATING SPACE FOR GOD TO SPEAK THROUGH OTHERS
- Reading (thank goodness!) in the area of spirituality
- Perhaps even exploring spiritual direction again, and definitely appropriate openness with believing friends
CREATING SPACE FOR ME TO RESPOND
As I read this, I don’t know what to think. These practices have been great for me. And, mostly, I have actually practised them! Listening silence is the only one at which I grimace slightly. I wasn’t getting that quite right at the halfway point this year. I’m still not, to be honest. I can journal. I can pray. I can read. I can sing. But, for some reason, I can’t do silence which is heart-deep. Not consistently anyway.
But all I can sense is that I need to deepen these practices in 2012. They have been wonderful, without doubt…
to journal (and to blog with increasing honesty and vulnerability)… to commit almost all of my Fridays to solitude and reflection and fun… to hang out in the same passages of Scripture for months (John 5:19 has been the soundtrack of my year!)… to spend the occasional chunk of three to five days with no agenda other than prayer, reflection, solitude, reading, listening to God and the wise people around me… to engage in a series of coaching sessions reflecting, in essence, on what John 5:19 might mean for my life… to read lots of books on spirituality… to spend a week on the leaders’ school run by Father’s House Trust and experience God at perhaps the deepest level ever in my life… to lose myself at my college desk in deep theological thinking (that’s the thoughts of those whom I’m reading, not me, by the way!)…
…all these things have been deeply transformative and they have begun to confirm the strands of calling which I first began to dream aloud in the early days of this blog. These practices have helped me to discern the beginnings of what God seems to be saying over my life, who he is calling me to be, in a my way that no set of goals ever could.
Yet they are not enough. As doors have begun to open for me this year in ways I didn’t expect, I am starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I know I said I wanted to pursue teaching and writing opportunities alongside my call to pastor the church which, even now, remains nameless on this blog (to be rectified soon, perhaps!). But I never really believed that anyone would actually be interested in my writing or teaching! I never thought that God would be so clear about wanting me to do this further study to prepare for what comes in the second half of ministry. I never expected to publish an academic article, let alone two. I never expected to get the other opportunities which have come my way this year. I never thought I’d have opportunity to serve not only in the church where I am now, rooted in a community which keeps me oh-so-real(!), and yet also to serve a wider audience with writing and teaching.
And now all I can think is that if the branches of the tree seem to be spreading out more, reaching higher, then the roots had better go a lot, lot deeper! 2012 needs to be a year of ever-deepening intimacy with my Father, deliberate spiritual practices which will tune my heart to the rhythms of the triune God. Habits which will train me not to become enamoured with apparently greater successes but, instead, to set my eyes all the more firmly on the One in whom all the fulness of God is pleased to dwell.
That is what I want most of all for 2012. Eyes which don’t ever stray from him, whatever comes to me. And a heart which can say no to everything else – in order to say Amen to what he has already said Yes to in my life.
Even as I write this, I have no idea how it is going to look, no idea how I’m going to navigate the challenges and prepare my heart to be more rooted in the only One who deserves glory and less distracted by all the other pretty diversions which life offers.
But I trust in the God who has brought me this far: he alone will take me safely through it all. He alone will do it and I will trust him.