Sunday, 31 January 2016

Purpose and encouragement

Recently, I have the lost the discipline of writing. Life has overwhelmed me, somewhat: enough to distract me. I've found myself wandering in circles: occasionally, actually physically doing so.

Overwhelmingness came from inside. Facing a major life decision: where to live, what to could have been coming to an end (it's not, as far as I know), we could have been moving (we are, but not far...)....

It was hard. But now, as I drift towards an outcome - I can't say I have MADE a decision, but feel as if the way is beginning to come clearer - I seem to be finding new purpose. And I now realise that, in some ways, I had become lacklustre about the most important purpose of all.

Seeking the most precious Pearl.

Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of immense worth: so valuable that a merchant gave up everything he had to buy it. (Matthew 13:45 - 46) We read a devotional by Chris Tiegreen every day, where he talks about this and Paul's assertion that Christ is everything and anything else we might gain which benefits us is just rubbish. Paul says (Philippians 3:8 - 9) "Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him."

I hadn't lost my focus on God - indeed, I sought God and His wisdom earnestly in prayer. But I had let the concern, even worry at times, about our decisions dominate my thinking and emotions. I had stopped searching for the most valuable thing, which was Jesus himself.

Being faithful to worship Jesus, to know him better, was the most important thing. More important than where I should live or what I should do.

I was helped to remember this in tiny, imperceptible ways. Ways in which there was such a subtle shift in my spiritual life that I could barely identify it. For a few months, beginning just after I had made a momentous decision about where I would live, I became part of a group which met to explore spirituality. We thoughts about how we could love God more and be better disciples, we practised different forms of evangelism and serving, but most of all we learned to worship in new and different ways. And as I worshipped, I found myself changing.

The decision I had made - to move - had not left me with peace. After making it, I wanted it to work, although I realised that I was always LOOKING for things which would confirm the decision. The new path promised adventure and excitement, uncertainty and the prospect of having to rely completely on God - but was it really where God wanted me to go? Were some of my motives selfish?

As Marilyn Gardner says in her blog Communicating Across Boundaries   "I think I may have been looking for the wrong things –my purpose, my calling, my sense of significance and belonging–surely Jesus’ tiny story taught me to search out the most important thing. I’m joining the jewel merchant.I’m looking for the Excellent Pearl, the Flawless One, the Pearl of Great Price. He is here and I know the hunt for Him will never disappoint."

I eventually realised that I needed to stay put. I had  become distracted from The Main Thing - knowing and worshipping Jesus. As Marilyn says: "I’ve felt my sense of self being swallowed again by the mundane, by the endless question of who I am and what am I doing here. I’ve wondered again at my purpose.

I know my life has meaning here. I firmly believe we are here on purpose. I just need to find it again.…I need to uncover it. Sometimes it seems to be more hidden for me than for others. And often it seems illusive. Just when I stop looking and settle into my routines I find it in between spiritual direction clients or under a pile of clean clothes. The moment, however, I go to grab it always seems to disappear."

 I needed to stay in my job, stay in the town I am living in, just stay. There was no clear call either way: sensing no sense of purpose in leaving, with no clear idea of what I would do if I moved...

...but then little joys started to come my way.

Relationships that had been a little difficult and tense were restored: difficulty and tension vanished overnight and they became a complete joy.

My job became more rewarding. I saw changes in the children I teach as they became more mature but also in the learning and knowledge they began to develop. I became ridiculously thrilled when I asked them to highlight boring connectives in their writing and an apprehensive little voice said: "I can't FIND any..."  I was delighted to deliver an almost perfect lesson for my yearly appraisal: something that had never happened before. I felt encouraged.

I began to appreciate my life here more. I realised that in my focus on moving, I had stopped opening my arms wide. I had pulled back on giving of myself.

My word(s) for this year to encourage myself are 'Be generous'. I am not a naturally generous person, except perhaps in befriending others, which I had neglected. I needed to learn more and more to open myself up and be generous with my life - with what God had so generously given me.

So, near the end of the first month of the year, I look back and am thankful for renewed energy, renewed direction, a renewed sense of I keep my eyes on Jesus: "...who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2, The Message

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