I Thirst

World Youth Day (WYD/JMJ) 2011 was the start of my relationship with Jesus. It was also the first time God began my journey of healing which is still ongoing to this day.

Years earlier, in 2009, my family was struck by…well I’m not sure what it was but we lost 4-6 family members in the space of six months. One of those people was my grandmother. If you’ve ever had a grandparent who made life so much better by just existing and showing you what unconditional love looks like then you’ll understand why we adored this woman. This made losing her so suddenly that much harder. After her passing I went on a vendetta against God. One thing you have to know about me is that I’ve never doubted God’s existence.  I had this understanding that God loved me, that he didn’t want to see me hurt or damaged so I in turn went out of my way to hurt him.

I would embrace whatever darkness and evil was in me. I was intentionally mean and cruel to others. I would go to church and spend most of the time daydreaming about things no one should be thinking about in the presence of God. And yet, in spite of my cruelty God didn’t give up on me. Instead he gave me a friend who saved me from myself and unknowingly set my journey of healing in motion.

Then came WYD 2011 in Madrid and I fell in love with the country and the people. The atmosphere was amazing and really touristy for the most part when we weren’t going for daily mass. But one night we had Adoration, and for those who don’t know this is where you sit in the presence of the Body of Christ and just keep Jesus company. If my facts are right it’s inspired by the moment just before the Passion when Jesus asked his disciples to keep him company and pray with him. So we’re sitting in Adoration in a massive church with hundreds of other pilgrims while an amazing band played music. A couple of the others fell asleep, some people were praying and I was just sort of sitting there.

In that moment, and I will always remember this, the Holy Spirit revealed himself to me for the first time. That wave of peace which exceeds all human understanding (Phil 4:7) hit me and I began to cry. Looking back it was as though the Spirit was saying “I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting and I’m sorry. I know you feel alone and broken and unwanted and I’m sorry but the Lord God, the lover of your soul is here with you, hurting with you and you will never be alone”. I balled my eyes out because I hadn’t even been saying anything, I can’t remember what I was thinking or if I was praying but I remember that feeling because I’ve felt it a number of times since then.

I’ve heard people talk about accepting Christ, being born again etc and I believe I was born again when I was baptised as a baby (there’s a story in there for another day). That was 100% the moment I accepted Jesus. God address the stagnant faith in my heart and I underwent my conversion. I realised how I’d been stuffing things into the God-shaped hole in my soul and how my grandmother was my idol. God began a great work in me that day, it was my River Jordan Baptism Dove descending moment and since then I’m a completely different person.

My WYD experience was my first Upgrade/Leveling Up as a Christian and since then they’ve been several more. I just look back on it and I can’t wait to go on another pilgrimage like that. I hope everyone can encounter God like I did that day because it’s one of those moments which changed me. Like my first Christian crush (ie an elder in the faith whom I look up to and admire) Judah Smith always says, once you meet Jesus and accept him into your life, you’ll never be the same again.

Wellness at 21

A few weeks ago I turned 21 and at last I felt like my physical age matched my mental age. I’d felt like I was older than I was physically since I was about 16 or 17 and when I revealed my age I always felt embarrassed because I wasn’t as old as people assumed I was.

Looking at me now I feel like I fit in my body and my mind is working as it should be at this stage. In many ways I feel that I’m okay with where I need to be and in other ways I’m still a work in progress. I know the latter is the truer statement but humour me while I reflect. I’m coming from a talk given by two comedians on ‘Wellness’ and they each shared their stories and experiences with their personal wellness which got me thinking. How well am I?

I know mentally I’m in a much better and stronger place than where I was five years ago. I practically live off of stress  and my self-esteem takes a punch almost weekly. I still have urges to self-harm when I feel overwhelmed by life and I still don’t pray as often as I know I should. Just thinking about today, I’ve done things which weren’t kind for me to me but I know myself well enough now to know it will pass and I’ll be alright.

I finish my degree in a few weeks and everything around me will change. I will possibly move in with my brother who has a very different belief system to me and we often clash over it but we love each other. I will probably stay in a society which is very different to the one I want to be in simply because going home isn’t an option right now. I will definitely face a lot of fears and things that will terrify me.

For the past three years I’ve been pushing myself towards my career as a journalist and I feel like I’ve drained myself already. Like I need to take a break and just be young and not have my life planned out. I have an idea of what and where I want to be in five years time but I don’t have a strategy or a set of tactics. I just want to feel my age and maybe work in a shop or cafe and not be rushing into the business of life just yet. I still need to get to know myself better.

I made a list of unpopular (as in not widely held/supported in the Western Context I’m in according to my knowledge) beliefs I have at 21:

  • I don’t support same sex marriage. Putting that out there. That doesn’t mean I have hate for those who experience same sex attractions. We are all human and we are all deserving of the same amount of love and respect. I support you in your humanity, but I don’t agree with every decision you make. Isn’t that just part of life?
  •  I don’t support war.
  • I don’t support abortion (I’m stubborn about this one but there is no condemnation in my heart for those who choose otherwise. I just feel all human lives are equally precious, from beginning to end).
  • I didn’t enjoy The Notebook.
  • I’m saving myself for marriage, so sorry fellas how about we pray for our chastity instead?
  • Everyone’s a little racist and/or is allowed to have unfair beliefs. No I don’t like the fact that someone can look at my skin and think it’s right to call me an ape or think I deserve a lynching. I’d love to squash those ideas out of humanity but I don’t realistically think that will happen completely. I think the spectrum of beliefs define the peaks and lows of being alive in a society. The light can’t exist without the dark and vice versa. Even then where do you draw the lines and when do you steal away people’s rights or freedoms? It’s a hard question but as I write this, this is where I am.
  • I don’t believe we, as in humanity, are the centre of the world. I believe that position will always belong to God.
  • I don’t believe in luck.
  • I do believe in witchcraft.
  • I don’t like swearing.
  • I don’t think there’s a point to shaving my legs.
  • I believe modesty (as in not wearing revealing clothing) is charming.
  • The greatest compliment I can get is being called a woman of God and a follower of Jesus.

That’s what I came up with and maybe on my 25th birthday I’ll look back at this and laugh. Some of these points are defined by my faith, heck I think all of them are influenced by it. It’s still the most important thing to me and always will be.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds and I’m nervous to think about it. I will however take what it throws at me and I will throw it right back at life. I have a great support system and a deeper understanding of the woman I’m becoming. There’s still a long way to go but I’m alright with that. I’m scared but hey, everything I love to do is a little scary. I’m terrified before speaking to an audience, or singing in front of someone, or clicking ‘Publish’ on a post. But they all make me so happy and it’s in those moments that I’m sure it is well with my soul.

I have something to hold on to and I have scores of people cheering me on and I still get scared sharing my beliefs with others but that’s part of my experience right now.

That’s where my humanity and mentality is at 21. We’ll see where I’m at at 22.

Gracious Grace

I’ve been reading Judah Smith’s book ‘Jesus Is____’ as of late and I have to say, it’s brilliant. I am biased though because I have a deep appreciation for Judah’s way of preaching. God revealed him to me last year when I was going through a dark patch and he does have an aura which speaks to my heart. He’s a brilliant example of a man of God.

The book explores the various things that Jesus is, e.g. love, merciful, etc.. In a chapter of his book he discusses grace and how Jesus is grace. Grace is one of those aspects of faith which had surrounded me my whole life but until I was out of my comfort zone and the word was being tossed at me I had to investigate what this grace thing is. I suppose for each person grace has a different definition. Even for me the meaning evolves and fluctuates depending on what’s going on in my heart.

For now I’ll define grace as knowing and acknowledging that Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his love for us, means we have been forgiven our sins eternally through his mercy. Your definition may differ from mine and that’s alright, why not share it in the comments. While I have this definition God’s grace has been blooming for me fairly regularly and sometimes I even realise it.

I was reading ‘Jesus Is____’ yesterday and I had a bit of an epiphany. Remember that sin I said I struggle with? That one sin which pops up when I least want it and I’m foolish enough to slip away from holding Jesus’ hand. I slipped again last month and looking back I felt nothing, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel dirty, I didn’t feel clean. I just felt average, and that terrified me. Usually I end up feeling disgusting and filthy. I feel guilty and hated and dark and like I’ve just dragged Jesus’ name through the mud.

I was so used to condemning myself and making myself feel like trash. I would pull an Adam & Eve and try hide away from God because I just wouldn’t feel worthy. I felt like he would strike me down at any moment because I was wasting his time and wasting oxygen by praying for forgiveness. I hated myself as much as I hated my sin.

Reading about grace yesterday made me realise something. Over the past few years my relationship with God has grown and improved so much. Heck, I was praying at the bus stop and I’m sure I made the people around me very uncomfortable but I didn’t care. There’s still a lot of growing room and I look forward to the years to come, but looking at the old me and how I am now my heart is glad for how far I’ve come. I’m still only an adolescent spiritually but even that is a blessing because I’m not an infant any more.

What was revealed to me was, even as a mere adolescent, God’s grace is constantly on my life and in my heart. My self-condemnation was me not believing I had grace. I was stuck in the idea that I had to force myself not to sin to make God proud. I’m not saying not trying not to sin doesn’t make God proud but I was trying out of my own power and not letting him lead me. When I sinned and I didn’t feel anything I believe that was because I knew I wasn’t condemned. I was disappointed in myself but I knew God would be with me and I didn’t need to worry about it. He doesn’t condemn me so who am I to condemn myself?

I don’t know, I guess that’s just a little testimony for me. Before I couldn’t comprehend the concept of grace or why it was there. When I was merely aware of it I believed it just meant I was forgiven and still needed to do the right thing to make God happy. Now I’m at a place where I try to give Jesus the reigns and I follow him. Sometimes I fall but he holds out his hand every time and like a child I run to grasp it.

Grace and peace, brothers and sisters.

They walk among us

God is love. You are His angel

Each day my views of the world are reshaped and transformed by the touch of the Lord in my life and the lives of those around me. One concept which I believe I’ve finally begun to grasp is the concept of angels. Most of us are familiar with the concept of saints and how the Bible describes us all as saints when we believe in God and follow the ways He has set out for us (some are just recognised by the church more than others but we are all saints). I’ve been touched enough to believe that in the world there are scatterings of angels from whom resonate the warmth and love of heaven; an unearthly kind of joy and happiness and love.

If you ask anyone who knew my grandmother they would say that she was a clear example of an angel on Earth. She could speak to anyone and everyone and at her funeral there were politicians, diplomats, civil servants, nurses, doctors, unemployed people, gardeners and maids all present because she had managed to touch each of them with a heavenly love and acceptance. Ironically, to the average human, her name was Angelina which means ‘little angel’. Like I’ve mentioned before I no longer believe in coincidences and while this cannot be given as an example of unquestionable action by God I do think that He had it planned out that way.

The reason that I was struck by this concept of angels on earth is because of a woman I happened to meet. When you first meet her or see her from a distance one wouldn’t think that she’s a Christian, she just doesn’t fit the mold we tend to have in our minds. She has long black and pink hair, laughs louder than most and has a past which only a character in a novel could bear. She has been blessed with the same heavenly presence I felt radiating from my grandmother years ago and she doesn’t seem to know it. Last night we celebrated a birthday in the city and on our way back we met a man in his 30s. Everything about him screamed trouble, drugs and a little bit of crazy. He looked like a punk.

This woman, let’s call her Jane, struck up a conversation with him. First she asked about his lip and tongue piercings. Then she asked about his age. Then his sexuality which surprised both me and a friend we were with. As their conversation progressed we were ready to step in and pin him to the ground if it came to that but there they sat, across from us in the train talking like old friends. I didn’t want to eavesdrop but from what I picked up he was a homosexual man who had encountered a lot of pain and rejection in his life, and there was Jane, talking to him ‘on his own level’, as a friend and reformed drug addict herself. Occasionally the name ‘Jesus’ would touch our ears. Suddenly, to our surprise and the surprise of the others on the train, he burst into tears. This man who had seemed so confident, cocky, crude and funny was crying. Something about the scene made me feel so broken. Before I knew it Jane was crying too and then our friend joined in the tears. There was this man who had gone through so much pain and turmoil, being told that he was something that he really wasn’t, having grown complacent in his own imperfection. There in that train was someone who was telling him about God and Jesus, the 3-in-1 who love him more than he had ever known before. He was being given another chance instead of just being written off like he had been his whole life. A stranger had made him cry.

I won’t say that he was immediately converted and was singing Alleluia in the train from then on but he was touched by something, on a level which we as people may never fully comprehend. God had sent this person who had spoken to him in a way he had possibly never been spoken to. Everything in me had said to keep away from him but there he was sitting across from me, hugging this woman who had experienced so much of what he had. It may be one of the most out-of-this-world things that I have ever witnessed.

Apart from this man Jane spoke to bikers, drunkards and who knows who else over the course of one night and while not all of them may have been convinced they did hear about Jesus from someone who loved him. It’s not always about who loves Jesus though, the emphasis I want to place is on this person, so loved by God, that He has entrusted her to preach to the broken without actually preaching to them. She has done so much in her life that would put off so many people but she is the kind of Christian whom Jesus loves; imperfect, a smoker, a drinker, a friend, a servant to his Gospel. She’s the brand of person that I would like to be when I’m older but I know that the plan for me may be a different one.

There is a purpose for each and every one of us. God has made it so that we may use the talents He has blessed us with in order to serve Him as best we can. For Jane and for my gogo it’s through talking to people. His plan for me is probably something different or something similar. God has a plan for each of us and when we live that plan, I do believe that we radiate His glory and we too become angels.

One day, today and for the rest of my life, I’d like to make Him proud and be the earthly angel He intended me to be. I pray that you may find that gift of the Holy Spirit in you as well and that together we can glorify Him.

Praise the Lord O my soul! Worship His Holy name. Sing like never before, o my soul, I worship your Holy name!

God bless you