Monday, 3 March 2014

He calls me out into the water, the great unknown

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ― Mary Oliver
The past 12 months turned my world upside down. Having found myself suffering from depression again, I can honestly look back and see that it was a gift. As I leaned into the darkness, instead of fighting it, a lot of things came clear. Two things in particular, became clear to me in the darkness:
1. I felt closer to God away from church
2. Going to church was bad for my mental health
And having been to church most Sundays for the past 20 years, these 2 things caught me by surprise! I know a lot of people that thrive in church, and I am in no shape or form saying that church is bad. I am just saying that for me, on my journey, it was doing more harm then good. Religion was killing my spirituality. 

As I started to step away from traditional church, I realised that I was entangled by religion. Each stroke I made into the new uncharted water was daunting, but at the same time liberating. It felt very much like going out into oceans deep, the great unknown, where feet may fail. I was trusting Holy Spirit to guide me. It is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Sometimes fear overtakes me and I feel like I might drown. Other times I swim freely, free from any entanglement of nets of religion to hold me back. It has taken a lot of courage to swim out into the unknown. Some days the old feeling of guilt, and "I should be doing this" thoughts consume me. I try to swim back to shore where it is safe. But I can't go back. Not now that I have had this taste of freedom. Is this what it is like to live life abundantly? To live daily listening to His whispers and promptings. To see God in everything, if only I would just open my eyes? Is this living in the unforced rhythms of grace?

The more I swim in the ocean the bolder I become. Instead of playing it safe, I start to do things that I have been told that I should never do. On the recommendation of the psychologist I was seeing, I start yoga. There is talk of chakras and prana, but I focus on Him. I become aware of my breathing, I settle my mind and I feel each muscle moving in the pose that I am in. I am in the moment and I feel the stress melting away. And then something wonderful happens. During relaxation at the end of a class one particular night, I am still and I know that He is God. I have a vision. Jesus is there, surrounded by birds. He has one bird perched on His hand. He is smiling. There is love in His eyes. Jesus says, "She's going to love this one." And He releases the bird, sending it my garden. Jesus is delighting in delighting me! He knows that I love the birds He sends to my garden. I know that the birds are a gift from Him to me. And then I discover there are others using yoga to connect with Christ too.

There are no boundaries in this ocean. No rules. No scriptures I have to memorize. No volunteering I have to do. There are no people to please. There is just Him to please. And all He wants from me is for me to love Him, love myself and love people. After a while, I feel isolated and alone. I am craving connection. I wonder, "Are there others in this ocean?" And He shows me that they are everywhere. I start seeing them online. And I discover a group locally that are swimming in the great unknown too. I ask if I can swim with them too. "Yes!", they answer. "Please, swim with us." And I discover as I swim with them that it is OK to ask questions and not have the answers. They love Jesus too and and are led by His Spirit. "You are responsible for your own spirituality, but we are here to encourage you. We gather once a week, or not.", they tell me. They call this group, "organic church", and everyone is encouraged to discuss things and share. They don't just listen to one leader who has all the answers. The group prays for each other if needed, and asks if anyone needs anything. The group swim off during the week and swim together when they can. I like this group. I think I will swim with them again.

As I swim, Spirit shows me how to be His hands and feet. Someone sends me an SMS saying that she is drowning. She needs help. I ring her. We talk. I go to yoga class. During yoga, I hear Him say, "She needs your physical presence. Buy her some ice cream and go to her." So after yoga, I ring her doorbell with ice cream in hand. We sit on her bed and eat ice cream and talk some more. I was Jesus to her in that moment - His hands and feet. When she sent me that SMS, I could have just SMSed her back with, "I am praying for you." But that would have been a cop out. Loving people requires a sacrifice. Love is a verb. Love does.

I attend a Pregnancy Loss Australia support meeting as a volunteer. I sit and listen to stories of giving birth to babies that would never take a breath in this world, and of grief and of learning how to live with their new normal. There was no mention of Jesus or God that night. But it was Holy Ground. It was sacred. God was in it.That night as I listened and was present, I was Jesus's hands and feet. Love is a verb. Love does.

I purchased this exquisite original art by Beth Morey. I love seeing it daily in my home.
The ocean is a wondrous and dangerous place. Not everyone understands why I swim in it. Some try and convince me to come back to shore where it is safe. But there is no going back to the shore for me now. I have become a mermaid and this is where I belong. I see an online course on Facebook. It is 'an online course designed for women who have left the mainstream Christian church and who wish to re-orientate their faith and Christian practice to be both self-determining, and Holy Spirit led.' The course is called 'Brave'. And because my word for 2014 is 'brave', my heart leaps and I enroll in the course, looking forward to swimming with other sister mermaids in the great unknown.

Still taking lessons from the King,

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  1. "The ocean is a wondrous and dangerous place."

    Wondrous AND dangerous. Oh yes. Love this, all this.

  2. I love it when you post on your blog! I get excited reading this Jo.. Seeing how He is leading you through all of this is just... awesome. And so encouraging. So fantastic that there are courses out there about this you can tap into too.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on my lessons!

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Jo Princess Warrior xo