For me, the last 6 months have been pretty tough. I’ll spare you the gory details but in short, I have been fighting battles on several fronts.
Remember those old pop-up monster attractions at fairgrounds, where you had to take a sledgehammer to each monster’s head? The minute you slammed one, another popped up? The prize went to she-who-could-slam-the-most-monsters in a minute? Yes, well, that’s been my life so far in 2017.
My solution? Well, I knew that I needed more of Jesus, more quiet time, more worship, more space to process and to invite God on this journey with me. But in reality, I chose (instead) to just make myself very, very busy.
Without me realising, quiet times in the morning soon turned into Facebook-surfing. That book I bought on putting God back into the centre of your life? One chapter was read, before being quietly pushed under the bed to act as a dust catcher.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t backsliding, this wasn’t moving away from God. If anything, I believed more, it was just that deep down, I wasn’t feeling that peace, the security that comes from knowing you’re firmly in God’s hands, despite what’s swirling around you.
In fact, the last time I truly felt that overwhelming peace, was a few years ago when I took a mad, last minute day-trip to Jarrod Cooper’s church in Hull. At the time, I was in a bit of a personal tornado and all I could think was, I need to be in God’s presence. That’ll fix stuff.
So I rang my long-suffering cousin who lives in Yorkshire and after she agreed to be my church wingman for the night, I did a 308 mile round trip journey (yep, in an afternoon) to go to church.
It was worth every mile. But that’s another story.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when finally, I realised I was going to have to slow down. I took a few days away from things, felt marginally better and thought I’d maybe even conquered the strange stressful malady which seemed to be following me around like a dog on heat. But deep down, I knew things needed to be radically different.
So many of the necessary changes in my life were out of my control, but I knew if I could just get my heavenly peace back, I’d be ok.
And then this week, something remarkable happened.
I’d known for a few weeks that we were having a visiting speaker/prophet at work. I knew too that the plan was for him to spend individual time with each member of staff, sharing whatever God told him. For some, that’s an utterly terrifying thought but for us Pentecostals, we tend to get a bit excited about such things.
Now I should say that I’ve been in meetings before where people have ‘prophesied’ and it’s felt like a case of too much cheese before supper. I’ve been left thinking, ‘Really?? The creator of the universe, the one who flung stars into space wants me to know that he looks a bit like an orange? He has lots of layers and once you get past the pips, he’s a bit juicy in the middle? (Yes, it’s been that odd)
But here’s the thing, when you genuinely, really connect with the power of the living God for the first time, there’s no mucking about. There’s no hysteria. You’re just simply awestruck by his beauty, by his presence, by the way you want to curl up in a ball and absorb the very real presence of the living Jesus. And the prophecy that follows isn’t scripted, generic or auto-suggestion from a leader, it’s personal and very specific. It’s God talking to his children.
And so, as I walked into our conference room at work on Thursday, I went with an open mind and the minute I walked in, I was struck by the holy presence in the room.
A worship song was played and I could feel myself melting into that oh-so-familiar (but sadly missed) embrace.
One by one, different colleagues were called up to be prayed for and as time went on, I began to think that I would be missed out. I continued to feel this lovely presence of God and in the end I said, ‘Lord, if this is all you give me today, it’ll be enough’.
At which point I suspect, God laughed (in the lovely, kind way that only he can).
Next thing you know, it was my turn.
What on earth would he say to me?
Please, please, let it be real. Jesus, I really need to know you see all this, that you get it.
Fergus (the prophet) took my hand and started to chuckle.
You’re the 90-mile-an-hour lady. You’re always here, there, busy, but sometimes it all gets too much and you crash and burn. God says ‘slow down’.
He then said a few other things which will remain between me, God, the audio recorder and the other 20 people in the room.
But suffice to say, he repeated (almost word for word) something I had said in the privacy of our living room just one week before.
He then prayed against it and I remember feeling this incredible sense of love, peace, just no-words feeling of being overwhelmed by a father who loved me enough to send a man from Australia to tell me to slow down. A man who would pray with me about something I’d said in private, something no one could have ever known.
I walked out of the room, wondering if I was even safe to drive. I felt overwhelmed with God’s kindness and compassion and gentleness.
And I felt free.
I slept deeply that night and all day today, I have remained slightly stunned and shocked at what just happened.
I didn’t want to listen to nonsense or the narrative of the world around me, so I plugged myself into worship music. I felt protected, distanced, loved, absolutely sure of God’s love for me.
All of a sudden, all the battles I’d been raging just didn’t seem that important any more. Once again, just like the 308 mile round trip to Hull, God has given me a glimpse of the bigger picture.
And that changes everything.
That makes me drive home and sing so loud and so freely to my Spotify worship playlist, that people in the car next to me look at me in surprise.
It makes me wander around the supermarket, silently praying for everyone who walks past me.
It makes me want to write blogs, to sing my heart out again, to tell everyone. It means I’m now able to make decisions, whereas before I was locked in indecision.
It means I can be courageous and say to people who speak harmful things into my life, ‘no…no more’. It means I no longer have to be something I’m not good at being. I no longer have to live up to anyone’s expectations, but God’s.
And you know what, this feeling of being overwhelmed by God’s graciousness might pass, but that’s ok.
He’s reminded me again in extraordinary fashion, that he’s heard every thought, every cry.
He’s truly the God who sees.
And that’s enough for me.