Together. Always

This year I’ve come to understand what it means to be content. Not complacent but being able to look at my life and smile truthfully. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, in fact this has been one of if not the most challenging year of my life. I’ve had to balance multiple commitments with work, church, fellowship and a thesis that may have robbed me of most of my brain cells and self esteem.

What’s responsible for this contentment has honestly been the faith community I’ve found myself in. Not only did I find a women’s fellowship which has taken me leaps and bounds over the limits I had put on myself and my relationship with God, but I’ve found a community of young people where Christ knits us together in love and fellowship. Both groups have lifted my confidence in myself and have helped me address my own insecurities. They’re not the reason I’m writing though.

I watch a lot of faith conference talks, apologetics and sermons on YouTube and on occasion I’ll look into the comments. YouTube comments 80% of the time contain the less attractive traits of humanity but these video are almost always filled with encouraging comments and thought filled discussions. On one such occasion there was a plea from a 13 year old boy who explained how he kept trying to follow Jesus and be good and holy but he felt like he was never good enough for God’s love. My heart broke for him because if you’ve ever been accused of being too hard on yourself this boy was exactly that.

The response was the most honest out pouring of love for this boy who felt so alone and so persecuted in his own heart. I commented as well and afterward he wrote to me in thanks. I told him that I could empathise with his fears and that the response from all those who commented was exactly what family is. The church is a family. Not the building, not the denominations, not the arguments but the individuals who live and love Jesus are a family. God through his love gave us a family we never would have thought to ask for. Brothers and sisters who want to walk with us on the path to holiness and people who genuinely want to see us get to heaven.

I was telling my dad about the youth group I’m part of and when I described it to him these were my words:
“There’s such a genuine atmosphere of love and acceptance. I think this is what it was like for the early Christians. They were a community of believers who loved God and each other.”

I really believe the Holy Spirit gave me that.

It’s because of this experience that I’m so passionate about church. It’s not just time out of your week to sing some songs, say some prayers and listen to a encouraging words. It’s an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries and be part of a community that doesn’t pressure us to be anything other than what God made us. It’s friendship, faith and family.

It doesn’t always play this part and no church is perfect, they’re all lacking in something but they are human. If God is the foundation then they will not fall and instead He will raise them up.

We all need to get our churches to that place. As individuals we need to be those people who love, encourage, serve and support all leaders in the faith not just those in our respective churches and denominations.

Family doesn’t begin in the united joys of heaven. It begins in the day to day wanderings of this life. Take from this what you will saints, but all I ask of you is to love. Love like Jesus. Love like a friend who would give everything up for the sake of a neighbour.

Singleness: the ongoing struggle

I’ve been wanting to write a post about singleness and contentment for a while and it’s funny that I’m writing it now when I’m really frustrated by my singleness and contentment is out galavanting somewhere else.

One of my closest friends has disconnected with our network of young women because she’s had enough of hearing about dating and being a ‘Ruth’, that it actually drove her into depression. If she’s pursuing all these things then how come the Hagars of the world are getting all the guys?

I’ve been in a similarĀ place when I see women who choose differently with regard to chastity or modesty and they’re the ones metaphorically ‘bringing all the boys to the yard‘. It can really get a girl down. Plus I’ve had my hopes dashed more times than I dare to count by unrequited affections. In that respect God’s shown me that I still have a lot to improve upon. There are things He needs me to work on while I still have that freedom.

What concerns me though is how in our women’s network there’s constant talk about getting married and finding a husband. There’s plenty of independence in there as well. A lot of encouragement for building yourself up and taking the bull by the horns so you don’t have to start doing that post marriage.

One thing I appreciated about my growth in church was that we knew and were reminded that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5), but we were also taught that not everyone’s going to get married and that’s okay.Ā Amongst Catholics there’s an understanding that people will either be priests, religious (nuns, brothers, friars, etc), married or single. Three of these vocations will mean a life of celibacy and serving God (1 Corinth 7:7-8) the latter of which is possible in married life but this is why it’s a vocation, it’s a way you’ve been called to by God.

It’s now that I’ve come to network with more Pentecostal, Evangelical, non denominational etc Christians that I’ve been perplexed by the emphasis on people finding a spouse. There’s plenty of spiritual teaching but dang if someone doesn’t mention a spouse at least once during a session there’s something up. It makes me wonder why this is the case. I know other denominations don’t have priests or people serving from a religious order, but why is it so alien to have someone led to a life of singleness?

Not everyone in the Bible got married. A lot of them just dedicated themselves to God until they went to heaven. This is the whole thing about priests and the religious. The 12 Apostles didn’t get married (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in Scripture), they just lived and died for the faith. I’d love that level of being enamoured with the Father so much that it stilled that occasional ache for my other half (wherever he is).

I’m not saying the Catholic way is the way everyone should go, that’s between each person and Jesus, but I do think the other denominations could learn something. We’re all pursuing that same satisfaction in the Lord (Psalm 42), chasing holiness and if we can help each other along the way that would be great. We’d be showing each other a lot of grace.

19/10/16 I’ve since made a Spotify playlist for the days when singleness doesn’t feel like a blessing. If you’re interested here’s the link Content & Beloved

 

Who do you choose?

I think, when it comes to sin, there’s that one that we all struggle with. It’s different for all and each of us but everyone struggles with something; whether it be lying, stealing, lust, envy, sexual immorality, whatever.

I know that I struggle a lot. I pray and I try and I’ve been given signs that God is answering my prayer for distraction and strength, but more often than I’d like I choose my own sinful nature over God’s glory and grace. It hurts knowing that I’ve hurt not only my Father and my friend but the one who knows me and loves me more than I will ever know. I return his love by turning my back for something that will only last in the physical world, leaving me feeling disgusting and guilty afterwards. I’m fairly good at showing love to my neighbour but when it comes to that one sin (and I pray that I’m not the only one) I don’t always love the Lord Our God.

Yesterday I fell and I was feeling that disgust and disappointment in myself and just before I fell asleep I was apologizing profusely to Jesus. I could tell that I was being torn, my great desire to be the child of God I know I am or to say a ‘sorry’ go to sleep and maybe try again later.

I had a dream. In that dream I was at a university with a friend. A lecturer/tutor was handing out assignments and the assignment was to either write a letter to Jesus or to the devil. I chose Jesus (praise God!) and so did my friend. In my letter I apologized for what I did and I hoped that He could forgive me and help me be clean and come closer to Him. As my friend and I walked we saw that others had chosen differently and even those who had chosen Jesus weren’t being kind to Him. Some of them took the opportunity to mock Him and someone asked me why I’d chosen Jesus and I think I answered because He is the one I want (It should’ve been the one I need). I was then asked what I would’ve said if I’d chosen to write the letter to the devil and without much thought I spoke out of character and I said “F-you”. I never swear but if I was going to swear at someone it would be the one who causes such filth in the world.

I woke up later than usual and I’m still contemplating the meaning behind this dream but I’m glad that I chose Jesus. It got me thinking about the people who chose Jesus but were practically spitting in His face. Choosing the light or the dark is an easy move to make but what do we do once we’ve made the decision? Do we try to conform darkness within the light or do we pick dark because it’s easier with less pressure? I know I’m not perfect and I stumble and fall all the time but I think this has made me want to preserve the light a lot more. The dark will always be there but I’ll have to do like Paul says and run in the other direction when it confronts me.

So which will you choose?

I pray that you don’t simply pick an answer but you find your answer.