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A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE


It’s now coming up to a year since my baptism, and longer since my first brush with the Lord. This has been a period of great spiritual growth, though it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

My initial tendency seemed to be to lurch from one extreme to another. I’d come home from church on a Sunday, with my head in the clouds, and spiritually regenerated. Reading the bible also seemed to have the same effect. My emotions and awareness seemed to be so heightened, that at times I didn’t feel I was in touch with the world at all anymore.

‘You’re going mad Joyce’, I’d say to myself. However, the next day I’d get up and go to work perfectly normally, come home, fully functioning, then back to work the next day. ‘I still think you’re going mad Joyce’, my thoughts would say, as I picked up the bible again, preparing for a further experience of wisdom and enlightenment. ‘No, I can’t be. If I was, how could I still be my normal logical self in between times?’ A few months perhaps went by, and I had a vision, accompanied by further tears and mixed emotions. ‘Definitely mad Joyce,’ I said, but then I immediately replied ‘ NO, I DEFINITELY AM NOT!’ I’ve worked that one out now, and won’t be drawn on that matter any longer! Firmly in the lie drawer, and the key thrown away!

So then there was the other extreme, when I was so absorbed by the hustle bustle of the world, that God seemed rather far away. My rational self would speak to me again, telling me to forget those other silly notions, and to concentrate on the ‘real world’. This would be fine for a while, but then I’d remind myself of my actual supernatural experiences of God. These are the everyday, tangible supports for my faith on which I relied, when I did have doubts. These are the things that I know happened, that I did not imagine, which were benevolent, and for which there were no other explanations.

And so I bounced around on almost a daily basis between being ‘normal’, and being in some kind of enhanced state of mind. It took months for me to bring the two extremes closer together, and settle into a steady awareness of an ‘always present’ God.

George had spoken of ‘putting on the armour of God’. Well, after the Alpha course, and Freedom in Christ, I used to think of this rather arbitrarily, as going out each day, and trying to remember that God was thereabouts, ready to help. Alternatively, that from His word, I could hopefully recall something that would help me that day. This was a present, but rather ‘detached’ God. – Wrong! On a good day it turns out to be a lot more than that! I feel now, sometimes, what I can only best describe as a sort of fuzziness around me – and No! It’s not something from the night before! This is a gentle, protecting presence within me, and surrounding me, showing me how to see the world and how to respond. It’s difficult to explain, but it softens all the edges – a bit like seeing the world through fine gauze, while being wrapped loosely in cotton wool. It allows me to retreat and bask within a wonderful comforting Spirit, or move out into the world, relating to people in a softer manner, so that barriers begin to melt away. This is my growing everyday experience of the Holy Spirit. He is also there as a buffer, because, if I relax and let Him, this same softness absorbs all the knocks and disruption that the world sometimes brings. The only time so far, that I have struggled to relate to this new feeling, is while driving the boys to school in the morning, when I try to continue to hold on to this peaceful presence, but still respond to the road conditions and the boys’ amiable (or not so amiable) chatter!

And so I began to settle into some kind of everyday relationship with Him, and over the year, began to even understand myself a bit better. I’ve come to appreciate a little of the intricacies of communication with Him. Some people prophesy, have regular visions, speak in tongues or heal, but I don’t appear to fall into any of these categories. God seems to speak to me through my sensitivity. I can be emotionally overcome by a thought He places in my head, and in this way He identifies Himself, and guides my actions. Temptation comes without the same emotion, and thus I can discern the likely source of thoughts. Uncharitable, or worldly thoughts, are also now more readily identified, and consigned to the back of my mind.

So my new life is much less stressful. If I think I can see problems ahead, I pray about it, and somehow things work out. I still have problems, but now I have new responses to those problems, in fact I have a whole new way of being, and looking at the world.

Of course the lure of the world is still there, and the pace of life is still much as before. In this everyday setting, my rational mind tries to return to its old inherited thinking - that pre-packaged set of aims and expectations with which we all moved out into the world as young adults. Indeed, I have to periodically check myself for signs of ‘slippage’, just to make sure I haven’t wandered too far from the pathway. Yes, the age-old struggle is the same. Science, the mystical, money and other material considerations all vie for our attention, while God tries to draw us away from the clamour of the world, and back to Him.

Of course, there are ‘not so good’ days, when I seem to notice more the things, which are wrong with my life; when stress begins to get the better of me, and when people or situations begin to annoy me, or don’t go as planned. Sometimes I pick up on the wrongness of my attitude right away, and correct it. Sometimes it can take me all day to notice I’m missing something, then I realise. I have some quiet time away from the world, and bring my focus back to Jesus. I read somewhere that if you keep your focus on Jesus, then it’s just not possible to lose your way; conversely, if you’re having a bad day, then your focus has slipped, and you just need to bring it back to Him.

I’m not fully there yet. I still question, and try to rationalise my belief. However, as the months go by, I can see how my perceptions are changing, as I begin to trust more, and grow in faith.

Sometimes in the lesson on a Sunday, something in particular will ‘speak’ to me. A ‘light’ will come on in my understanding, and I take another small step forward in my belief. When I say ‘understanding’, I don’t mean straightforward comprehension, but more a case of my spiritual growth winning yet another point over the remnants of my world –view outlook, as the reality of God comes closer to the point where I am totally overwhelmed. At times such as these, I am transfixed by, I don’t know what, and you will see tears once more coursing down my cheeks.

This is an amazing journey.


Joyce Kirkup
14/05/06

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