Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back Over 2009

Where do I begin? 2009 has been the most fun, most traumatic, most spiritually fruitful, most painful and most healing year I've ever had. Most of 2009 has been coloured by falling in love with, getting engaged to and breaking up with Ollie, a truly remarkable, wonderful man... who struggles with addiction. Watching him fall into addiction and all the behaviour that goes with that was hard but even harder was watching the reactions of some of my close friends towards him, some of whom who have struggled with addiction themselves. But, God was at work in our relationship. Within the instability, unpredictability and pain of this relationship, I learned so much about myself.
  • I struggle hugely with trusting other people & trusting God.
  • Yet at the same time I try to please everybody.
  • Many of my actions have been driven by an intense fear (worry, anxiety, terror) that I didn't even know was there.
  • This led to me leading people to believe that I am stress-free, coping very well and generally a very stable person while inside I am despairing. It also led to the fragmentation of different areas of my life: college, home, church, boyfriend. I didn't allow any of these areas to interact with eachother. My mum doesn't know anything about my church, I won't let anyone from my church meet my college friends, etc. It takes a lot of stress and energy to carve up your life like that and strive to keep them separate. This often led to me not being able to/wanting to get up in the morning.
  • I really don't want to teach religion in schools- it stresses me out, I find it very difficult & I don't want to put myself in a position where people could accuse me of brainwashing their kids. I'd prefer to be able to be completely upfront about my beliefs and teach English, possibly resource English (can you believe that there are people who go through the Irish education system and graduate being functionally illiterate?!). I'd prefer people to know that I am a born-again Christian and not think I'm being deceptive or have furtive motives for teaching religion. 1 Peter 3:15 "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" How will people see the hope that is in me? I want them to see a woman who is fully alive in Christ, not a woman who is stressed out because she is trying to save the world (God has already done that).
  • God will never leave me or reject me- I really believed that He would love me, take care of me and then at some point leave me on my own.
  • People's real expectations of me can be very different from the expectations I perceive them to have.
  • I don't have to fight every battle, I can even avoid most of them. This past year I had very heavy (sometimes spiritual) battles on every front: family, church, college, personal health & well-being. Some of these were unneccessary.
  • I need to talk to people and let them know where my head is at. I don't mean accountability where someone else is keeping tabs on my behaviour, I mean I need to get things off my chest so that they don't get repressed and affect my emotional/mental/physical health.
  • I can hit rock bottom and God is there, closer than He ever was. There is no depth I can fall to where He cannot carry me. He is more than strong enough to carry me and my burdens!
  • I am beautiful.
  • I am worthy to be loved.
  • I am worth taking care of.
  • I thought I could heal Ollie of his addiction. I really thought that if I prayed hard enough, loved him enough and took care of him that that would deliver him from addiction. I can't. Only God can do that. He does it instantly for some people. Other people struggle through it and eventually get free. Some never get free. This doesn't affect their salvation or spiritual growth, but it does alienate them from other people and especially the church. The church in general doesn't know how to love these people. We need to learn because God has given them to us to take care of, not to wave a magic wand and heal them but to take them where they are, love them and walk alongside them. Am I saying that this is easy? Definitely not, but God has told us to love one another.
  • If it weren't for Ollie coming into my life I would have kept struggling along thinking that living this way was normal (at least for me). It frightens me to think that if it hadn't been for his intervention (and God working through him) I could quite easily have ended up on valium, in a looney-bin or dead. I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just telling it like it is. I bless God for him.
These thoughts culminated in the following conclusions:
  • I don't have to teach religion, nor do I want to.
  • If I am so stressed and run-down that I can't function, I can't help anybody.
  • I don't have to say yes to everything.
  • I now have a number of female friends who I'm learning to confide in.
  • I can be truthful with myself and others without being afraid of offending anybody. I can ask difficult questions of myself or other people. Jesus said that the truth makes us free. Being truthful with myself gives me a freedom I've never experienced before.
  • Preaching the gospel does not necessarily mean leading thousands of people to Christ, it can also mean leading one person to Christ and walking alongside them for a few years or even a lifetime and loving them unconditionally. The journey does not end at being born-again, it has only just begun and each of us needs support and teaching and love right until God calls us home again.
  • "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 My flesh is dead. I don't have to rely on myself for anything. Jesus lives in me, in my body, and is strong enough to live this Christian life for me. This is not a cop out, it's not denying my responsibilities, it's a recognition that I don't have to strive anymore. I can submit to Him, lean on Him and trust Him to carry me through everything. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest." Hebrews 4:9-11 I really need rest. When God created the world He said that there was evening and morning after each of the first six days. On the seventh day He rested, but He doesn't say that there was evening and morning on this day. He is still resting and I can rest in Him. I can be free from fear and I can rest in Him. How amazing is that?!
So, where does all of this leave me? At the moment I feel like someone has tried to play the xylophone on the inside of my ribs with a spoon, I feel exhausted and I am constantly running to God with my fears. But at the same time, I feel hopeful. Open-heart surgery takes a while to recover from and I've had a lot of open-heart surgery this year.

To finish, here are a couple of quotes I found in a book I was reading last night, "God's Provision" by Charles R. Swindoll.

  • "Our English word 'worry' is from the German 'worgen' which in that tongue means 'to strangle'".
  • "Jesus dropped by His friends' home in Bethany. He was, no doubt, tired after a full day, so nothing meant more to Him than having a quiet place to relax with friends who would understand. However, Martha, one of the friends, truned the occasion into a mild frenzy. To make matters worse for her, Martha's sister Mary was so pleased to have the Lord visit their home that she sat with Him and evidenced little concern over her sister's anxiety attack... Mary's simple faith, in contrast to her sister's panic, won the Savior's affirmation. What is wrong with worry? It is incompatible with faith. They just don't mix."
  • "We just take life one day at a time. That's the way God dispenses life. Because He never changes and He knows what will work together for good. You and I don't."
  • "God is never at a loss to know what He's going to do in our situations. He knows perfectly well what is best for us. Our problem is, we don't know."
  • "Not even becoming a Christian erases our imperfections. We still make mistakes-even dumb mistakes. But, thank God, forgiveness gives us hope. We still need a lot of it."
  • "Contrary to popular opinion, God doesn't sit in heaven with His jaws clenched, His arms folded in disapproval, and a deep frown on His brow. He is not ticked off at His children for all the times we trip over our tiny feet and fall flat on our diapers... He is a loving Father, and we are precious in His sight, the delight of His heart."
Here's to a year of peace, refreshing and just living.
Grace & Peace (Shalom)

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