‘Today the garden is full of colour and growth, but the sky above is grey without any breaks in the cloud.
It looks a little how I feel.
I know that my life is currently full of good things, but there’s a heaviness in my heart and try as I might I just can’t shake it off. Not for more than a few hours at a time, at any rate.
It might just be tiredness – family life and work life are both demanding a lot of me at the moment. I’m supporting friends through some painful situations. And with a new minister at church, the past keeps poking at me too.’
…… I wrote these words a few hours ago. I wrote several more paragraphs pouring out some of the feelings that have been weighing me down.
And then I had to take my son to his swimming lesson. And as I walked along the path to the pool I wondered, why is it that I feel so unlovely ? What is it that makes me feel so empty. Is it because I still don’t actually believe in my head and my heart and my soul that I am loved by God, just as I am. With my past and my present and my future all seen, I am loved.
As I rounded the corner of the building I had a sense of the release that comes from being loved and wanted. I let myself open up to the possibility that I could relax into just being.
I’ve been sugar and social media fasting on and off for the past month, and one of the things I’ve learned is how much I absorb the messages from everywhere, both christians and secular society, that I should be doing more, being more. Whether it’s about limiting my intake of some things or increasing my intake of others, or reading certain books, or being a friend in a particular way. Meeting the deadlines I create for myself with my work, or believing that I should parent or wife in a different (better) way than I do. And all of those pressures create an avalanche of questions. In my day to day life am I giving enough time to the things that matter? Are there ways to increase my discipline, strengthen my self-will, love God more? What about online – am I creating the right kind of social media presence (am I an encourager or a social justice blogger? What’s my niche? What if I need encouragement and can’t see beyond my own family’s needs that day?). Are my photos on instagram good enough? Does anyone actually like me or are we all playing to each other’s egos in order to make sure our own are satisfied?
It doesn’t sound much fun does it?
It hasn’t been.
I don’t think we’re meant to live like this.
Earlier this week my morning bible reading brought up this verse in Nehemiah chapter 8,
‘Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’
Because the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Not the rules of the Lord are my strength
Not the advice of other people is my strength
Not the way everyone else is doing it is my strength
But the JOY of the Lord
If I don’t have the joy, it’s not because it can’t be found. It’s because I’m not allowing myself to feel it. It’s joy that comes when I remember that I am loved. It’s joy that is there when I accept that I am enough. It’s joy that is present when I believe the gospel of Christ is true.
It’s joy that pours over me when I am not trying to achieve standards that I think I need to reach. It’s joy that comes as soon as I relax into the minutiae of my life and stop wondering if this is the life I want or should have, and whether someone else would be making a better job of my life than I am?
As I left the swimming pool my friend’s kids ran ahead and then surprised me with a bunch of flowers they’d bought for me. I couldn’t have felt happier.
That is the God I follow. One who surprises me with flowers. Who loves me unconditionally. Who just wants me to relax and eat the good food with as many other people as I can share it with.
By the time I got home the sky had changed. Or maybe it was just my perspective.