We have been on a bit of a break over here at Renew, mainly due to Christmas and because our Bible Study doesn’t run during school holidays. We finished up our year of study enjoying a Christmas meal together in our local town.
As today is the last day of 2018 I wanted to check in and summarise my year with you. Those of you that attend Renew weekly will know that we are coming up to our 1st anniversary on the 17th of January. We didn’t actually start publishing our studies until later on in the year until we felt a little more courageous to do so, which incidentally is the theme of my blog post today!
Every year both Hayley and I seek God for a word, one that will speak into the coming months of both what we can expect from God and what God expects from us. My (Rachael) word 2018 was ‘courage‘. I spent the beginning of the year studying the word and asking God for scripture surrounding that word and then spent the rest of the year meditating on the scripture and the word, trying to implement what God has told me into my daily life.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
I felt God telling me at the beginning of this year that I would need to be courageous and stand firm, knowing that He would go with me. This made total sense to me as I knew that I was stepping into new things. I’d been studying a leadership course at church and along with that, I had to begin something new, which is where Renew started.
My vision was to share the applicable word of God with the ladies that attend our church, to enable newness for their lives and discover freedom in the promise of the living breathing word of God. My heart has always been to allow Jesus to reveal Himself by the movement of the Holy Spirit within these meetings. Despite knowing that God was with me, I was very anxious about the beginning of this new ministry. I felt very apprehensive, scared and enormously under qualified to be bringing the word of God to people that had been Christian far longer than me! So in this month I pushed into the promise that God had given me. I chose courage and I’m so glad I did!
Next came February. I was due to go out on a mission as part of the course I was studying. We were to fly out as a group of six to Romania. Not only did I have to leave behind my young sons who were just six, five and eleven months old but also my husband who also went on mission to Russia a week prior to me going.
I was informed that I would be leading this team of far more qualified people whilst in this strange country, hundreds of miles away from my family who I had never left for longer than two nights before! This really did take courage. The week before I flew out my children and I kissed goodbye to my husband as he went off to Russia on his trip. I had three kids, a business and a house to run, all without him and again something I’d never had to do. I recall our team meeting for our trip to Romania that week and me saying that the week in Romania would be a breeze in comparison to the week I had endured without my right-hand man. It was chaotic!
The week was one of two halves. I entered into the beginning of the week feeling totally unequipped, nervous and very frightened. I had no idea what to expect and as leader of the team I felt all eyes on me, judging my actions and decisions at every step. Of course all that did was lead me to not making any decisions at all. Thankfully the team I went out with were all awesome, very equipped, very experienced in mission and not tough on me in the slightest. All these fears were in my head and now I see the reason that God had given me the word courage was due to the issues He wanted to lead me through this year.
I’d found myself totally and utterly stuck in a cycle of fear. The fear was attached to rejection, which I now know most people face. I was continually looking at people to approve me and when I didn’t receive that approval I went into a spiral of anxiety, limiting beliefs and major self-pity! This week of mission taught me so much about myself and gave me so much time to lean into God and seek His wisdom. I didn’t have any kids around to distract me and I was so far out of my comfort zone all I could do was seek the beautiful face of Jesus, that or just curl up in a corner and cry!
When I arrived home I was a changed woman, filled with confidence and on a high, lifted and exalted by God – or so I thought. What followed were a few months of my stepping from His grace into my strength and wow was it a lesson. You see courage in God is different to courage in the world and I was about to learn why.
Over the period of a few months, I’d begun to feel a bit differently and looking back over the things I wrote in my journal I’d say my heart was quite arrogant actually. I was starting to become someone that was far from the person God was directing me to be. I actually cringed when I read some of the things I had written!
God stepped in again and there was a new lesson. I saw that I was the one holding on to the plans, not releasing them to God. I was the one that knew what was best, I wasn’t listening to the Holy Spirit at all. The crash came in the form of rather a large rejection for something I had my heart set on. My heart was broken, I was ashamed, ridiculed and felt totally and utterly let down. Again I called out to Jesus, I needed to see things from His perspective if I was to make any sense of what had happened.
At that time, I was working with a coach and a counsellor which was such a move of God. I was able to work with this man to break down why I felt the way I did and to make sense of my actions. I began to look at myself more deeply, I did personality tests and studied the results, I looked at my upbringing and things that had happened in my life to make me feel so insecure. Once I had all the information I needed I went to Jesus in prayer and took Him with me to the moments in my life that had added to this root fear of rejection and I asked Jesus to speak to me at these different phases of my life. It was powerful stuff.
It took courage to do that, to examine myself and my heart and admit that I was wrong. It would have been so much easier to say that it’s not my fault and those that have rejected me clearly don’t like me but that’s not God’s way. If I’d have done that I wouldn’t know what I know now. He told me that I would need courage and that He would not forsake me and my job was to trust Him. I’m so glad that I did. God healed me from that root fear of rejection. He showed me something I’ve never seen before, He showed me that in His Kingdom there is no favourite, there’s no competition, no striving, no ambition and no fear. I don’t need to strive for my place in His Kingdom, I don’t need the approval of man to be who He called me to be. I don’t say that through arrogance or apathy, I say it through the eyes God gave me, the eyes of freedom. In June I was finally free, free to see that the plan of God is infallible. I was able to do what He had called me to, finally standing firm in my true identity with authenticity and humility.
We saw so much happen this year in our church, we even made several news channels with our Uniform Bank. If I hadn’t have been courageous and obedient to follow the path Jesus led me through, that initiative may not have happened and many would have gone without school uniforms this year. The lessons God teaches us to do with our own hearts doesn’t just stop with us. Sometimes we have to go through suffering in order to express who God truly is. We need to step out in obedience and allow God to clip away at those rogue roots so that we are able to flourish and grow and when we grow those around us grow. Giving uniforms away isn’t just volunteering, it’s contributing to the filling and forming of God’s kingdom here on earth and without the lessons I learned this year I wouldn’t have played my part to its full potential.
The word I have for this year is Freedom. Freedom to be. Freedom to do. Freedom to say. Freedom to act. Freedom from fear. I am no longer fearful of what others think of me, again not from a place of arrogance but from a place of knowing that I have the heart of Jesus within me and those that love Him will love me.
I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name. – Isaiah 45:2-3