Saturday, 20 June 2015

My Pacemaker

I'm not much of a sportswoman, in fact exercise is something I don't go out of my way to partake in. 

But a friend of mine, he enjoys it. He decides he's going to run a marathon, he's tried {and tried HARD} before but this time, he says, he's going to do it. 

So, for three months he trained. I voted myself his self-appointed personal trainer. Which actually just looked like me dropping him off to start his route, figuring out those training routes on google maps, picking him up on the days it just didn't work out, having my phone on loud whilst he was out and waiting up to make sure all was well. 

When I try I can make it sound like I did a lot. But really, when the day came, it was all on him and how fit he was. 

All this is to say: I went to a marathon. I drove round a city and did a terrible job of watching it, but {thankfully!!!} I didn't miss him crossing that finishing line. It was a bloomin' awesome moment. To me, it was utterly remarkable. 

I learnt a lot watching him train for that marathon. But I was just thinking about my closest friend - she's been away for a while and I've been trying to work out how everything fits together. 

She's not my soul mate, whatever that is. She's not my number one cheerleader. And she's not my partner in crime.  Though she is a bit of all those things, too. 

When I watched that marathon, my brother and I - we stood right by the finishing line and we hollered our voices hoarse, we clapped our hands until they stung. And we did not stop. Each person had just did something that we saw as remarkable. We did the cheerleading. 

If my life was that marathon - she wouldn't be those cheerleaders, not even the loudest, most enduring ones. What if she could be a cheer leader who ran along with me?

I've always had a problem with comparing life to a race. Does that mean we've all got to want to win? Because if I was in a race, no matter how much I pretended otherwise, I would definitely want to win. 

Being as I'd never seen a marathon before or any sort of similar sporting event I hadn't really heard of pace makers. But as we stood on that finishing line every half hour or so a runner would cross carrying a banner with a time on his back - and that was the time he would finish at. 

You know what my friend is? She's my pacemaker. And no not so I can finish life first. Not so that I win. Or to beat a personal best {ha!}.

Her banner says "life done well and life done full". And that's what we do for each other. Pacemakers are like an agreement - "this is how I want to finish, will you do that with me?" 

We lay out all of ourselves. We do the best things and the worst things alongside one another and then somehow we figure out how together we can finish this thing well and full. 

Sometimes that looks like slowing down - we don't stop, we don't give up, but we do slow. 

Sometimes that looks like celebrating the milestone - the finishing line isn't really the goal, the Kingdom here and now is where we celebrate.

And sometimes that looks like running and running hard - with everything we have and all the strength we can collectively muster. 

It's hard to pace yourself, especially when you're not really sure where you are up to - but in the most beautifully miraculous way having a friend looking in means you can figure it out together. And you can pacemake for one another. 

Her going away has forced me to keep track of my own pace, to try and work out where I'm going wrong from the insider perspective and its jolly hard. Sometimes I have pushed too hard and needed someone to call for a BREAK {Isachar style!}, other times needed someone to give me a kick up the bum and get a move on. 

The thing that matters is that you choose the right pacemaker. If your pacemaker is aiming to finish with financial success, fame or a highflying career path then funnily enough that could well be where you end out.

Check their agenda.

And then run. Together. Drop back and wait for a different pacemaker or run harder. Sometimes no pacemaker would be better than one with the wrong agenda. 

Run, and run well.

Honestly dude I miss you. For a while I thought it might be because you make me, me - and that wouldn't really be a good thing. Then I got it! You tell me when to slow and listen when I say it's time for a different pace and you remind me when it is time to get out there and run with all our might. The most amazing thing about pacemakers is that they're in it for the long haul. They remember the beginning and they dream of the end. Somehow we do that with each other.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Let's put God in a box...or two, or infinity.

I have this picture of God. And maybe it came from a sermon I heard long ago, but, to be honest, I don't remember. 

You know those boxes that you open up and right inside is another box, just ever so slightly smaller,  inside that one is another smaller box and then another and another and so on?

My faith - my understanding of God - started in the centre box, the smallest one. And you know what - being as it was all I knew - it was pretty comfortable. 

One day something came along and that box crumbled away, and I found myself in a slightly different box. 

And then a while later that new box got hammered down and this time I was in another box, a little bigger and a strangely different sort of shape. 

It sure felt different. 

I can only understand God to the point my experience really allows. And each time I break out of my current box I find a different sort of face to God. What I knew before is still there but somehow it's different, it's more. And sometimes it's harder. 

That breaking out of my current box sometimes looks more like me being shoved out, falling out: or even the box simply disintegrating before my eyes. 

Sometimes it is scary and it is shaking. 

Each time I find myself faced with a slightly bigger and maybe different shaped box it's that first box that keeps me grounded. In that first box is my belief that God exists and that God loves me.

So, whilst I can find myself drifting around in these bigger boxes not really sure what to make of this God: how to reconcile this God with the God I previously thought that He was, I rest on that first box and go from there. 

This picture allows me to be okay with my understanding of God right now, to be okay with the fact that other people understand God entirely different to how I do and it reminds me not to fall into the trap of thinking I know all there is to know about God. 

It also forces me to push for more. To refuse to let my faith become stagnant. It means that whilst some boxes are ripped from around me by situations and events, other ones I tear down with my bare hands: desperately seeking out more of who God is and what He is doing. 

What it also means is that whilst this picture helps me to understand God, I realise it in no way defines Him, because one day I might break down my box to find God doesn't fit this picture at all anymore. And that's okay. 

It's pretty ironic considering I really do not think we should put God in a box. But somehow these limitless boxes show me how God limits Himself, so that I may know Him, whilst still functioning in my life outside of the constraints my human-ness puts on Him. 

So that even as all that I am feeling and experiencing and going through is crumbling away and I don't see how the God I know can make that good. I, somehow, know that He sits with me here in the hurt and confusion as well as going beyond my understanding: fulfilling His promises to us in a cosmos-changing, intergallatically inspiring, pretty bloomin' awesome, most miraculous way. 

He always wins. Especially when I can't quite see beyond my little box. 

You will get all the glory.

I don't really have words to speak of what it feels like. 

Life stopping but not. In fact that is entirely the problem: it doesn't stop, instead it changes never to be the same again leaving fear, pain, hurt, exhaustion and a desire to give up in its wake. 

I just go around and around and around - circling the problem. Pulling it this way, tugging it that way trying to figure out how to get to the other side, ripping it to shreds desperately pleading for there to be another side. 

It would almost be easier if all my faith had deserted me, at least then this wouldn't be on God's head. Instead I know His hand is in this and yet there is not an overnight resolution: I really, really struggle confined in darkness. 

What do I do when the answers escape me? Escape my understanding of God? I turn to those with more or, at least, different answers. And they sit there blankly. There is no explanation for this one. Life goes on and all they can do is try to walk it with me. 

Emotions implode on themselves. Anger turning to frustration and despair. Worry turning to breathless, life halting fear. Even the laughter that used to frequent itself comes as a surprise, and not always a good one. 

I disrepute this "crisis mode". Oh no it is not something that comes painfully yet fleetingly! It brings the pain and it keeps showing up again, and again, and again. 

and again. 

And then life keeps revolving. And how do I reconcile the two. Because I know that marching forward won't make it all go away and yet it marches on anyway. 

Oh God. I believe in Your Light. I really do believe in Your plans. I absolutely do believe that You will get all the glory. 

But I wish you'd hurry ** up. 

And that is the ugliness of it. 

Bare-faced and raw. 

I know that His Kingdom comes. I know that He reigns. I know that He is I AM. 

And yet the tough *rubbish* still remains. 

I knew that already. I'd seen that already. I'd lived that already. 

But I've never had it as bad as this. 

The tears don't really stop flowing. They leave for a while only to make their unannounced return a couple of days, a week, or two later. They brim beneath the surface ready to take every ounce of your SELF and splurge it across your pillow with no ounce of grace and little utterance of relief. 

The dark tunnel stretches out in great length ahead. How do you even imagine there to be the light there is at the end?

And so I sit in the darkness. Oh both metaphorically and not. And I know God is here too. There's no smiley, clappy, one-line answer. There's a long, drawn-out, bramble-filled path ahead. We head for God's beautiful, somewhere.

*previously contained less PC words*