I feel like life in New Zealand is pretty busy – especially for young adults, who are getting used to Uni or work, and juggling new found freedoms along with new found responsibilities. Culturally, we are formed to be busy and on the move. Do you feel that?
2018 has been a year of new beginnings for me, and that’s made it feel busy and full. That can be exciting, but it’s also challenging. I began work as a youth and young adult’s pastor, and was lucky enough to have an existing role with the Diocese of Auckland expand to allow me to give more to young adults at a regional level. Early on in the year I realised I needed new spiritual disciplines to sustain me, so as part of that process I developed a habit of prayer-walking during my day at work. I have found it profoundly nourishing in my life.
At the office in Parnell, I’ll try get out and head down Parnell rise, reflecting and praying about young adult ministry, about work commitments, about the businesses I walk past and the people I came across. Usually I’ll grab a coffee and sit for a while too. People do prayer-walks in different ways. For me, it has been fairly reflective and personal. For others it’s more overtly outward. Different times and places call for different things.
This discipline has been for me an acknowledgement that ministry is not my ministry. If I am to do well at my two jobs, I need to let my work be shaped and guided by the Spirit of Christ, the One who lives in me – for it is His ministry I participate in. That’s reassuring to remember.
Recently, if I am honest though, I’ve been really slack with this habit. I’ve been slack in general, too, at engaging in a disciplined way in reflection with God on my life and work. In the process I’ve become anxious, weary, and fearful. I’ve found it hard to focus, or be clear on the vision God has given me in ministry. So, today I headed down Parnell rise at midday and took the practice back up. I took a book to sit with on a stoop outside a café and prayed for those that passed by, and when I felt like it was a good time, I opened up the book and read. The first page had the words of Haggai 1:5-7. Here God speaks to his people in a time in which they were lost. They were toiling in the fields, but yielding little results, they were eating, but they didn’t have enough, they had clothes, but they weren’t warm, and they were earning, but their wages were falling through holes in their money bags. Twice, God says to them, “Give careful thought to your ways” (TNIV). The Message puts it this way: “Take a good, hard look at your life.” But the most hard-hitting of all is the NLT: “Look at what is happening to you.”
“Look at what is happening to you[!]” Those words rung in my ears. I’ve felt like that recently…like life is happening to me. How about you?
“Reflect”, God was saying to me, as he held up a mirror. It hit me. I haven’t been sitting with God and others, nor with myself, to give careful thought to my ways and take a good hard look in the mirror. How can I listen to God’s nudges, if I don’t even know where I am at the moment – good or bad? How can I celebrate the wins if I don’t take stock of life, and pause? How can I tweak small things, or make monumental changes, if I can’t see what is being neglected?
As I sat and reflected, I noticed a pigeon in front of me pecking at the floor. It was missing a talon. I realised that, as silly as this metaphor is, that pigeon at some point had something happen to it, or ended up getting itself into something that left it worse for wear, and it had retreated, and paused, and let it’s body heal. Now here it was, missing a talon, but strong as ever, different but pressing on. It couldn’t have done that had it just carried on like nothing was wrong. As I sat and reflected, I felt that peace of God, the kind that surpasses all understanding, settle into my body and work its way down into my heart.
One of my favourite songs at the moment (perhaps you know the one) says “He never told me it would be easy, he said suffering would come. But he promised peace.” The thing is, unless we ruminate on that peace…unless we reflect on it, and what God is saying to us amidst our unease, Christ’s peace won’t sink into our souls.
If you are tired or weary, or anxious, or whatever…hear the Spirit of God speaking to you with the words of Haggai 1:5-7. You’re racing ahead, and working hard, but you have missed what is going on for you…so stop, reflect, and look at what is happening.
If you and I are going to allow God to shape us and sustain us for the long haul in the hard and painful Christian life, then we are going to need to take time at regular intervals to pause, to journal, to talk it out with others, to listen to God, to hear him speak through pigeons on sidewalks and in the pages of His Word. We are going to need to press pause, rise above the chatter, to do lists and tasks, and take a good, hard look at our lives. We might just find some things to celebrate, and we may just realise the tweak we’ve needed to make all along.
Some Questions to help you:
When can you take time today to reflect on how you are doing, and where you are at?
What wins can you celebrate from the past week in your life?
What is God asking you to take a hard look at? Why have you avoided it?
How will you adjust your patterns of life?
There are some great spiritual practices that have been used for generations of Christians too that can help you in this journey, such as:
The Daily Examen
The Empty Chair
(And many more). You might like Google one from the list above and try it today.
Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui.
About the Author:
Jeremy works part time as the part time as the Diocese’s Young Adults Facilitator and as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at NorthWest Anglican. He is married to Katie, who regularly shows him how to be a better human. He spends his spare time brewing beer, reading, and watching Suits. If you want to chat to Jeremy about anything GC-related, you can email him at JHarris@auckanglican.org.nz.