dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: Prayer

Look Around, Look Ahead, Now What?

So we’re supposed to have been pondering these questions for discussion tonight: Where am I in my spiritual journey? Which area in my spiritual journey do I think God wants me to focus on in 2018?

Where am I? The short (and safe) answer would probably be: At the start of a completely new phase but having to get back to the basics and relearn some things I’ve forgotten in the past couple of years.

I can’t really see how else to sum it up. The long answer requires elaboration of historical context, and the listing of a truly complex web of factors including relationship/marital issues, emotional and mental health concerns (possibly mild clinical depression), stress and fatigue. It’s not that I’m denying culpability in the decline of my own spiritual health – I’m saying that I’m probably a classic specimen of a woman who’s had to (or took it upon herself to?) carry both hers and her husband’s responsibilities for some time, and crumbled under the weight of it all.

I’m not supposed to be the leader of the household, I shouldn’t be the one pushing for a lifestyle that integrates more with what we say we believe. I’m not supposed to have to be the spiritual barometer in the household, I’m not supposed to be the one pushing for some sort of regular family prayer or scripture reading time.

I shouldn’t feel awkward singing worship songs to or praying over my child. I shouldn’t feel out of my depth and anxious about wanting to pray as a couple or a family over anything, good or bad. I shouldn’t have to feel left out and lacking, wishing that my husband would pray over me like I know other men pray over their wives. I shouldn’t be battling tension and anxiety and insecurity about whether or not I actually married a Christian in the first place, or whether being Christian really means anything real to him at all, and whether that is grounds for divorce.

But I do. All of it. And I’ve spent much of the last few years pitying myself and letting my anxiety and frustration grow to a point where I’m having trouble with resentment and bitterness and finding it hard to give him the benefit of the doubt in anything. And it was probably definitely and obviously a stupid move but I deliberately let my own spiritual discipline slide in the process, thinking that if he realised how absolutely shitty things were getting, he’d finally wake up and get his act together.

I’m struggling to reconcile the need – and the scriptural command – to submit to him (and to the grace and mercy of God), and the staring-me-in-the-face-screaming-me-in-the-ear need to hold up the crumbling foundations of what should be a God-centred, Spiritually-led household. At least, what I think makes a household a God-centreed, Spiritually-led one. I think that what we are now, is not… I don’t really think I’m wrong?

I’m struggling to reconcile “wait”, “rest”, “trust”, “hope”, and “submit” with the physical situation staring me in the face – the fact that in a lot of the ways that matter, we’re really no different from a family of atheists or agnostics.

So… what does God want me to focus on this year?

I think it means something that we’ve made the decision to settle the family in this church. I think it means something that all the signs are pointing to it being the right move to quit my job despite the risks and uncertainty. I think it means something that we feel this is the right cell to stick with. I think it means something that the cell mainly comprises families that are a little older and more experienced than us. I think it means something that we both feel a connection with the cell leaders, a sense that it is safe to trust them. I think it means something that he’s been willing to attend a 7.30am men’s meeting.

I think the sense I’m getting is this phrase: Hold on.

You’ve come so far. There’s no turning back. Hold on.

And there’s this part of a song (Eyes On The Prize) by Sara Groves that’s coming back to me now:

I got my hand on the gospel plough
Won’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Ain’t no man on earth control
The weight of glory on a human soul
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

The wait is slow, and we’ve so far to go
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

When you see a man walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee

When you see a child walk free
It makes you dream of jubilee

When you see a family free
It makes you dream of jubilee

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.

Moonlight Prayer

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“It’s beautiful.

“Will I one day get to see it up close in person?

“You know, I’ve always found it so much easier to talk to You when I’m surrounded by stuff that You’ve made, instead of stuff that we’ve made. You know what I mean, don’t You?

“It’s like, when someone has gotten married and is moving house, but they’re still walking around in their old house and letting the old things and old sounds and old smells and old atmosphere and old thoughts and old feelings permeate them… and suddenly it feels hard to believe or imagine that they’re married and no longer live here.

“Being stuck here on this physical plane is a bit like that, cos I know what’s real is where You are, in another dimension.

“Being stuck in a job where there’s nothing but concrete and metal and dead trees everywhere around me, in an office where the air itself seems to suffocate small plants to death, is MUCH worse. Cos there are nearly no reminders of You anywhere at all.

“It’s not that I don’t want to talk to You more. I just need… help, sometimes. Thanks for this one. I needed a reminder of how small I am and how huge You are. And it’s beautiful, which is a real bonus.

“Thanks again for the plants. Sometimes I egotistically think You must have created them all those millenia ago just with me in mind – the silly 21st century plant-lover whose every soil-based attempt is a disaster. Heh.

“Leave me this little conceit for tonight; You came down here and suffered the bounds of gravity and fragile skin, what’s it to You if I… oh, never mind.

“Thanks, anyhow. I guess You allowed me to forget to put my keys back into my bag (right now I can’t even remember when or where I last saw them, actually, which is absurd) so that I would have to sit down and write this. It’s good, I think.

“Thanks.”

Dry Spell

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It’s been more than a month since we’ve seen any sign of rain. Today, on the way to dance class, I thought I felt a very slight touch of the shortest little drizzle ever. I thought I was imagining things, but then one of the other ladies said that it had drizzled a little on her way to class as well, so I have hopes!

On the way home from class I saw a post on Facebook that said it had rained in the west, but only for a short time. My path took me past all the sad vegetation that I’ve watched wilt and dehydrate in the unrelenting heat for weeks, and I can’t help but feel sad that most people don’t seem to care. They’re more upset about the weather and the haze because it inconveniences them or makes them feel ill, than the fact that it’s an obvious sign that something is wrong that’s bigger than just their tiny little lives.

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I mean, just look at this. Just a few weeks back this was a lush new planting of a roadside landscaping project. And now, it’s just pathetic.

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Have you ever seen bird’s nest ferns look quite so tragic? I haven’t. I live on a tropical island. We’re right smack on the equator. We have rain all the time. Right? It used to be a running joke that we don’t have seasons here, we just have two variations to our climate: hot and wet, and hotter and wetter.

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I’m told that the ti plant is really quite hardy, but look at this. I don’t even know if they can revive if the rains start tonight and everything goes back to normal. Walking down this road used to be a real treat, watching their red leaves waving merrily. I’m waiting to see what the town council will do if everything fails to revive.

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These are two views of what used to be the green field across the road from my estate. I mean, seriously, just look at the devastation. It’s thoroughly depressing.

I was kinda upset when I saw, about a week ago, a line that was supposedly a quote from a government minister telling residents to stop watering their plants to conserve water. It was on a page of a newspaper that someone next to me on my morning commute was holding. It felt like a confirmation that the society I live in puts no value at all in anything except what can give them more personal comfort, convenience and pleasure. Everything else can go to hell.

It’s a micro-level look at the global attitude towards climate change and all the other problems that it’s obvious our planet is experiencing, isn’t it? We don’t care what happens to nature. It’s just there to look nice and give us something nice to look at, and that only when it’s convenient and easy to maintain.

I’m not saying I think we should go green and all become tree huggers who would prioritise flora and fauna over human lives, but I do think we should think a little more about what we really understand of the fact that taking care of creation was the first job, the first command, that God ever gave to mankind… and He never rescinded it.

We think it’s so amazing when some people put their jobs above all else and reach great heights… at the expense of their health and their families. We think it’s awesome when people show such dedication to their jobs and such love for their employers that they’d sacrifice all sorts of things to get the job done and avoid making their employer disappointed.

Do we realise that God gave us this job and that most of us don’t even care? Were we paying attention when we got the memo?

Lord, I don’t ask for rain because I’m sick and tired of the heat and dryness, even though I am indeed sick and tired of the heat and dryness. I ask for rain because your creation is crying out for relief, and so few people care, or are able to do much even if they do care, and only You can bring the rain that heals and restores and gives new life. I ask for rain because we need a reminder of how nature, which You created, it the only thing that restores nature, of which we are a part. I ask for rain because so many people are praying for it and it hasn’t come, and though we don’t know why, I think about how some of these praying people may be children or young believers who may not understand why their requests seem ignored and may not know how to deal with Your silences.

I ask for rain because I know now what physical dryness is, when previously I only knew emotional and spiritual dryness, and I thought that I knew everything there was to know about them… and this physical dryness has shown me more things about the spirit than I knew before. And I wish to see the physical rain that will help me visualise the power of spiritual rain.

Jesus, bring the rain.