At the moment I am in a time of doing the repetitive training, laying groundwork for what lies ahead, so when the time comes it is as natural to me as breathing. I have been building into my life the habits that will sustain me through what is coming: writing daily, reading the bible each day, reading through the whole bible regularly. Reading the bible right through in a year is quite achievable for me, around 4 chapters each day, but I haven’t done it in years.
I haven’t felt able to.
Last time I did this was straight after I first became a christian at 16. I pushed myself to read through it as fast as I could, making it an achievement to tick off the “good-girl-christian list”, and did it in seven months.
But I didn’t savour it.
It gave me an overview of the whole bible which I had never had, despite going to church for nearly my whole life. After I had ticked it off, I camped out in Paul’s letters, and often used my bible reading as a way of mentally harming myself by reminding me of how much I was failing to measure up to the job of being a good christian. My attitude towards myself hadn’t changed from self-loathing when I became a christian, it just found new avenues to cut me down.
Yes, I had met God,
but I didn’t know how to dwell there, to be a dwelling place for God.
That’s what I’ve been learning lately, now that most of my walls and structures have been broken down, when nothing is left but my bare soul and God.
Something I want to do is open up space to talk about difficult topics, to meet things that are usually avoided, to meet a slippery God who always seems just out of grasp, just around the corner, but never quite accessible.
To do that, to open space where there hasn’t been any before, we need to re-imagine things, to let them take new forms, new labels, to let them take up different spaces in our lives, not just the one box we might want to put them in, and seal them up, but to be able to step back and trust. Trust that you, yourself, can handle what comes, to trust that letting things take their own form will be better for you and others (and maybe not as scary as we think), to trust God that good will come from it.
Sometimes it takes a re-imagining of God to be able to do this, to open up the box we have sealed God in and let that warm gold breathe into our lives where it will, letting it burn away the limits we have placed it in.
Opening these boxes that we’ve tried to keep closed and shelved in tidy, out-of-the-way locations, is hard and painful. We are adjusting the structure of our inner beings. But if we open ourselves to God, the God who is Love, the very foundations of our inner shelves are shaken, and God begins to ask us seemingly innocent questions, but ones that make our chests constrict, our breath catch. Questions like why have we connected that box with this one, why are we so afraid to let things breathe, to unseal the boxes, to let our experiences and ourselves live.
Although I’m pretty sure my internal shelving system no longer has any structural integrity, God is still pointing out boxes left in the rubble, still sealed tight.
The other day a friend of mine shared that it had taken eight years for God to break down the structures he had built in his life, eight years to tear down the walls, open sealed boxes, break up an unsuitable foundation. And it had taken twenty-six years for a vision God had given him to come to pass.
That’s a lot of demolition work. And a lot of slow and careful rebuilding.
It’s been nine years for me since I received a diagnosis that crumbled all my dreams and plans into dust,
that shook the foundations of who I thought I was,
and who I thought God was.
It’s been years of slow and painful breaking down, tearing away, sometimes leaving me wondering what can still be left.
But slowly a new foundation is emerging out of the rubble, new patterns to my life, new ways of being and thinking, and new habits starting to outline how the new building will take shape. The new foundation is being laid out in a way that will capture the sun/Son in a whole new way from what I had thought my life would be doing. It uses many of the same pieces and materials as the original had, but in a new configuration, some of the slabs of stone turned on their sides.
The transformation of our lives is a slow process.
While I know God does gift miracles to help this happen, Paul talks about taking every thought captive for Christ (2 Corinthian 10:5), renewing our minds is as much about the habitual thought patterns as the revelations which trigger shifts (see Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23). God doesn’t want us to be puppets, being controlled in every small detail of our lives.
We are invited to work with God, using the unique set of talents and understandings (and yes, experiences) we have been given,
to work together in God’s story.
And for God’s glory.