I remember on our journey home back from Tanzania sitting on the plane as we felt the last of the bump before lift off thinking; What happened to the last three months went, it was like a vapour rising off the kettle just about tangible. Tanzania, our trip was amazing. I am thankful to God for the time I had there, for the heart it gave me and for things it reinforced in my own life; Mostly I am thankful for the people, both in my team and the ones we meet and worked with. God has a way of teaching me through people and I have so much respect for the people I was able to live with for three months and the people I was able to learn from for three months, but I have to admit even in the depths of a longish term mission trip I was beginning to get the sense that I was a fraud. I knew I had to do something, spend more time with God etc. get back into the ways of the quiet time.
I got home around the start of July and bar spending a lot of time with best friends who I had not seen in months I enjoyed spending a lot of time to myself, walking the dogs, heading out for a run, cycling even catching up on three months of TV. Basically doing a lot of nothing, which wasn’t a bad thing but it was not the God thing I needed. I did read the bible, even pray; yet when I look back now I would be lying to myself if I was to say I really spent any meaningful time with God. I am weird in that I love people, but need time to myself to balance it. In that time before going to Tanzania I would have sought out the comfort of a loving father. Spend time in prayer and study of his word, in no way am not saying that I was at the top of the Mount Christian: but I was in a good place, my faith was growing and I was spending good time in relationship with God.
it is amazing the dual effect that doing mission can have on your faith. Positive in being somewhere, that you are dependant on God, in a different culture seeing God working in different ways. Seeing a local expression of the church you love (Anglican) growing and making disciples, living with 20 other amazing Christians at different stages of their life; learning from them: Negatively in the lose of a personal time of real devotion and having that space to just sit in God’s presence and spending time with him, reading his word ,praying simple put; conversing with God. You become to busy and in that business lazy to spend your own time with God. You become lazy in the business of being busy for God, excusing yourself that you are spending time with him in all that you’re doing when in reality my own relationship with God is like a weakening muscle. You know it’s still there but that it’s not what it used to be.
Within a couple of weeks coming home, I was spending a bit more time on my own faith, but then I started to get lost in the fog of life, becoming busy with nothing. Over the three months of the summer I honestly now look back and say that my own faith was on the back burner and I was to prideful to admit it, On the outside I was fine, better than normal even. I had been to two Christian conference over the summer. Actively involved and taking in all they had to offer, writing notes of every sermon and seminar. Engaging in good Christian discussion at every available opportunity yet in the background, the spare hours of those conferences my faith was on the back burner I would sooner turn to Netflix or waste hours doing nothing than sit down with the Word of God and allow it to challenge me. I know the power it has, the power to challenge and call to change, and I chose to ignore it. Only now can I admit that the same hands that were raised in Worship where refusing to open God’s word; the same hands that would control my Ipad would sooner open any other apps other than my devotions or journal. The reality was and is; I am a Fraud, a Christian Fraud and I was to proud to admit it.
This was the reality of my summer, the reality of time wasting away doing anything other than the one thing I knew I should be doing. Not just because I was on the path of training for ministry but for the sake of my faith. I had become in short space of time the spiritual equivalent of proverbs 13:4 ‘ Lazy people want much but get little’. I was a fraud, Lazy in knowing that I wanted to grow, but I wasn’t willing to put the work in, every day my head would Issue the words ‘tomorrow’, every day I would deceive myself that it would be. That I would get back to working on my own faith tomorrow, the reality was I was a fraud I was being selfish and focusing on the things I would give me pleasure and avoiding the real work with the real benefit to me and my own walk. In my head and heart I knew I was being stupid, selfish. But as so often it is with Sin, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it; Distraction is no different, we would not allow ourselves to be distracted if we did not want to be, if we did not want to enjoy the things that were on offer elsewhere. Those things all of which are good things and can be good for us, but should not be at the sake of the best thing for us which is spending time with God. It is as Francis Chan would say ‘There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End a regular commitment. There is nothing more important you could do today’ I knew this truth but was afraid to act on it, because to do so would be to admit that I wasn’t okay, that I wasn’t being hyper spiritual after 3 months in Africa; spending hours in prayer to God interceding for everyone. I was afraid to admit my own sin/ weakness to myself, To God and to Others.
Thankfulness and Regretfulness
I sit here now closer to the end of my term than the start, and all I can wonder is where has the time went. It does not seem that nearly 8 months months have passed since I was sitting in heathrow with a sense of fear and excitement awaiting the rest of the team before starting our journey towards the unknown that was Tanzania. It does not feel like three months have passed since I have started training for the ministry in the anglican church in Ireland. When I sit and look back over the last year and reflect there are two things that come to the surface: thankfulness and regret. I am thankful for a God who has blessed me at every turn at the last few months, When I think of Tanzania I think of a team of random people brought from all over the UK at different stages in life, who became friends, then became like family; I am thankful for our relationships as a collective, and the individual friendships that I have with everyone of them. I think of every experience that I was blessed with everyday I was there, from the relationships that God built with the local loving people, to the Rolling hills that we were blessed to live in and around and travel through, to having a few days in the Serengeti. When I move my thought into the summer, again there is so much to be thankful for. Friends, Family, Long periods of rest, time to reflect on my time in Tanzania, Days exploring places that I have not been for a long time, Christian conferences where My soul was refreshed and knowledge of God and his kingdom increased and so much More.
The mirror of thankfulness is regretfulness; I know that I am a prideful person so it is not easy for me to admit that I slip up, that while I may be a saint, I am still someone who struggles with sin, The sins I have struggled with are what tie my regrets together. Neglect, how for months I have neglected my own faith and time with God to do something, anything else. How I have neglected friends and family for the sake of nothing, Laziness, How I would chose to lie about instead of spending the gift of time wisely, always thinking tomorrow is another day and never bothering with it. Pride it being unwilling to admit that my faith was not where it should, and being unwilling to be open with those closest to me. i could go on and on; however my regret is dressed with thankfulness, because God is a God of correction and love, he has slowly been picking me off, breaking me down, through conversations with friends, Sermons and my own quietly time spent with him, it is amazing how many seemingly random events can tie in so well. Allowing God to speak so clearly to me and Say ‘Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near’ (Luke 21.18) or ‘Andrew wise up, I am not calling you to walk alone I am calling you to be fully dependant on me’
So I finish reminding myself of the unlimited grace of God, reminding myself that I am not called to walk alone but I am called to follow him and in that follow depend of him. That if you want to take up your cross and walk the path of Christ, then you need the Grace of the father, the Will of the Son and the power of the spirit working out God’s soverign wil in you to be able to take even the first step. I finish asking anyone reading this that they would pray for me, that I would not lose sight of the God that I am beginning to serve, that I would decrease and that he would increase, that every day I would have less and less regret about the things I should have done, the things I should not have done; But that I would walk, live and serve in a way that Glorifies God and helps to build his kingdom. Pray for myself and our year that we would study well and that everyone would get all the marks they need over the next few years, and that we whould be able to rest in the buiness of Christmas. See the beauty of knowing your a fraud, is knowing you are God’s Fraud and all that matters is Living out his will, even though he does not need us for some reason he choses to use us.
Yours in Christ