2 Cor 12v9

Friday, 5 February 2016

Bringing Our Mess

I think if you asked me to tell you what I wasn't good at, you'd be there for hours. Some weeks I wonder how I am still managing to survive as a human. I am forgetful (not my fault) and undisciplined (my fault). I am rubbish at basic DIY and anything that requires coordination, which covers activities from cooking to sports to doing my daughter's hair. I have no inner clock, which makes me a poor time manager, and I am very indecisive - I can only make a firm decision at the last moment when it's too late to do anything else. I am a rubbish home manager - I read tons of books on it and have to have lists everywhere just to keep us from drowning in chaos. I have concentration issues so I have to listen with a pen in hand, or chant to myself as I'm doing a task so I don't forget what I'm doing. I have major headaches every now and then which take me out for days. Certain social situations overwhelm me and I probably confuse people by saying the wrong thing or zoning out too soon.  And on and on and on.

Here's what I'm good at - honesty and learning about God. Those two qualities combined means I really love to speak and write, because I get to study who is God, compare my own inadequacies, and put the two together which means people can see Him even more clearly in the contrast.

Some weekends when I am due to preach, I will make so many mistakes in every day life (the stuff other people seem to be able to handle without thinking about it) that I seriously question my ability to do anything at all. Then I use the only thing I've managed to do successfully that week - to write a sermon - and God does something amazing with it.

This week I've spoken twice to groups I haven't preached to before, and both times I wrestled with the message because God wanted me to talk on grief, and if I'm honest, I still fight back a bit because I'm still gutted that's my testimony. I wish I could get up and talk about miracles instead. But that's not what I've been asked to do. So I spoke about how the bible says "Blessed are those who mourn", not "get over it and move on".  Often the bible commands us to mourn, and in my experience, mourning and trusting in God (and finding joy in Him) don't have to be opposite things. Mourning is a really important process, from death to relationship breakdown to infertility to the end of a dream, because if we don't do it well, we get stuck for the rest of our lives. When we don't mourn, what we are doing is taking our loss and regret and anger, and we are putting it into a little box called "Do Not Touch" and we bury it deep down. We think we are doing God a favour by not letting it get in the way, but actually we are saying to Him that there's an area in our life that is off limits to Him, and He is not allowed to use it. We label it as bad and unnecessary to our story, when in reality He probably wants to do something amazing with it. He is not limited by "bad" or "good" experiences - He uses them all! 

This stuff has become straightforward for me to speak about because I've wrestled with it deeply for the last year and a half. I have seen what God can do with it and it has made me more amazed at Him and more certain that my own strength will get me nowhere. 

As a result of speaking these messages, I was able to meet some incredible people and hear their stories. These are people who are far better at handling every day life than I am - they probably have the organisation and social skills that I lack, and turn up to places on time. But they all, like me, have faced devastating situations that meant that they have had to mourn whether they wanted to or not. Some of the stories have taken my breath away. I wonder how I would've managed if I'd faced what they're facing. I wish I could tell you all their experiences but I don't want to break confidences on here.

Here's the thing - I can never get over how God takes my mess and my poorly coordinated life and He uses it for good. People shared with me how God had spoken to them as I brought my story, and that they felt important things had been unlocked right there and then. Some people weren't even supposed to be there that day but had come through unusual circumstances and heard me say things that spoke into painful situations they had been wrestling with for over a decade. My struggles and my story seemed to have broken through into areas that God wanted to open that day.

One guy's story I have to share though. He came up and grasped my hand and told me about his teenage son who had died more than twenty years ago by messing around with his friends at school. He said that he had spent the first few months after his son's death staring out of the window, unable to do anything, totally bankrupt before God (what a beautiful, painful phrase). He had poured himself out in this time and eventually been able to rise up and carry on. But for all the years since, he had looked back at that time with a burden of guilt and regret. He had wondered whether God would have wanted him to handle those first weeks differently and that had bothered him all that time since. When I was able to teach about mourning, he realised he had been seeing it wrongly for all that time, and that God used that time of brokenness just as much as He'd used all the positive activity since.

As he wrote in a letter to me later that day, "I thank you so much for retrospectively giving me permission to sit and aimlessly look out the back kitchen for those months.....Grieving for our beloved son, yes and feeling guilty for so doing - but now no longer - released from one more of life's shackles."

That's why I'd rather be a mess in God's house than a competent coordinated person outside of it. All I have to do is bring what I have (good and bad) and give it to Him and He can use it to do all sorts of stuff I'd never imagined. 

This is my continued challenge for this year - to stop looking at my inabilities and rejoice in what IS in my hand. I feel more certain than ever that I need to stop wishing I was someone I am not, and I just need to do what I can and lean in to Him for the rest.