For quite some time I wanted to give you an update but could not find the energy to do it. God is at work for which I am truly thankful. Two weeks ago we had our annual women’s retreat and the team who had come has been a wonderful blessing. I really enjoyed it, but at the same time I was often tired and had to skip some of the program.
Several of the learning processes I wanted to share with you in the following are connected to things said, prayed and even sung over me during this weekend (the team sang the theme song over me as a special blessing – Prov 3:5-6). As Adela, our retreat speaker, said, the weekend was probably a turning point. I am on the road to recovery, but it seems a very long road and I am advancing only slowly. Shortly after the weekend I also had my first online conversation with Karen. I knew her from a workshop a few years back and her insights and advice were very helpful.
So what is God teaching me?
- The first important insight was the importance of being secure in God’s love. “The powers of darkness fear those most that are confident and secure in God’s love.” – I realized that this is something which was part of last year’s healing to an extent I would not have dreamt of. Yes, I am secure in God’s love, I know that he loves me without conditions and that there is no condemnation no matter how much I fall short of perfection. If I had not had this security during the last weeks and months, I might have already left the country. It gave me an additional strength I was not even aware of. The attacks could not hit me with their full force.
- While praying for me, Adela had the impression that all these problems of the last time are a preparation and purification for a future ministry. This was maybe the most crucial insight. Not only did it answer my main question of the last months – how should I interpret this accumulation of problems and stress – it also gave me a new perspective. The problems might be due to Satan’s attacks but they are also part of God’s training program. This goes a step further than saying God will use it for good, because it tells me that there is purpose in it.
- Based on this insight I realized that dealing with multiple problems at once are my weak point. I have never been very good in multitasking especially when I felt assailed by too many things at once. God is teaching me now how to do it, and not in my strength but in his.
- Karen asked me among other things what I am telling myself in these situations. I realized that I unconsciously told myself: I can’t handle it anymore, it is too much, it’s not fair, – and eventually – I don’t want anymore, I don’t want to go on like this. This unwillingness to deal with multiple problems prevented me from living out of God’s grace and strength. Now I am slowly learning in these situations to call on the Lord and trust that his strength is perfect in my weakness when I feel overwhelmed. It’s amazing what difference this self-talk can make.
- It was also very helpful that by looking at my prayer mails Karen was able to identify at least four major losses and a long list of stressors (26 and still counting). So the question was if I had grieved these losses. I had not. This was part of my recovery work during the last weeks, for example, by writing a good-bye letter to Fatomata, who had died in July.
- Karen also gave me an article from Henri Nouwen which provided valuable input. This article underlined for me the need to let go and let God work it out (parable of the river), stop trying to control things, which is hard when you feel so much out of control, tossed around by circumstances like a ball. I also realized that I had accumulated a lot of resentment, towards all these circumstances and the people involved in it. I still need to work through these points. Interestingly enough, there was no resentment about the accident itself. Through this article I realized that because I felt so much gratitude about God’s intervention on the day of the accident, that there was no room for resentment. Gratitude is an antidote to resentment.
- Last weekend I finished listening to the “Sacred Romance” (audio book). One paragraph was especially significant for me: about God using warfare to draw us into closer communion with himself. In a way it underlines some of the above insights. There is warfare, but not because God is not in control or because I have not resisted the enemy enough. The author goes on to say:
“Warfare begins to feel different. The whole thing is not about Satan. It’s about communion with God, abiding in Jesus. The issue is to keep focused on God’s goodness instead of being obsessed with the enemy and his attacks. The only reason to focus on the enemy is to rebuke his lies.” (my paraphrase)
- This audiobook also reminded me of James 1 – trials are a reason for pure joy, because God uses them to grow in intimacy. Or as the Life Model puts it – to grow in maturity. This was a reminder of what God had spoken to me a few months ago. How quickly did I forget!
- Being instead of Doing: That was a topic I had often meditated about in summer. I often wondered if all the problems that kept me from doing what I was supposed to do was a lesson in Being? This seems to be reinforced now through the article from Nouwen. We need to trust that ministry is not so much what we do but the power that flows from us when we abide in Christ.
So now I am learning to put all these insights into praxis. The last weeks were definitely a training ground in patience. Right now I am basically learning to do nothing, except listening to the Lord, and resting in him in all kinds of problems, including my lack of energy. It means total dependence, because I never know when I will have enough energy to do something.
Last week provided ample opportunity for putting things into praxis: On Tuesday I got the car back from the garage that had painted it. On Wednesday I had planned to have the very last repair done, only to discover three more problems that need taking care of. Plus I had problems with the police twice (not my fault). This was a lot of stress all in one day (or actually half a day), but I was thankful to see that I was able to handle it fairly well. On the other hand, the next two days I was too exhausted to do anything. Saturday I worked on resolving one of the three new problems, only to discover yet another one when I was again stopped by the police – two days ago darkened car windows have become illegal here. While I am writing (Saturday) a mechanic is working to take them off. This means less protection from the sun for us and our shopping. I still find it difficult to accept these adversities as a normal part of life. I guess this is part of what I have to learn. I was always waiting for life to become “normal” again, meaning with no or fewer problems. But as a friend said: ‘Normal’ is only a setting on the dryer.
Some time ago I decided that I should probably stay in the capital for two more weeks after the car repairs are finished. For the moment it is too early to say if this will be enough to completely recover. Or if the Lord wants me to keep going despite my weakness. It’s a difficult balance. Therefore you can praise God for all he is teaching me, but also pray for my continued recovery and wisdom to know when it is time to move on. Thanks again for letting me share with you.