Hello SUM family, Ann here!
It’s a beautiful spring day here in New Zealand and I have a testimony of God’s grace that I want to share. Some fun shifts have happened in my life, so with a bounce in my step let me tell you a fun story.
I’ve written previously about my struggles with churchgoing. This, for me, has been one of the hardest parts of this walk: Churchgoing without our spouses can be so complex. You know, a few years ago if you’d been to my church and gone ‘where’s Ann?’ you’d have looked and found me contorted in a crying shape in the back row. That was if I got there at all.
Well, it’s changed. No, I’m not about to announce that my hubby goes with me; but these days we have a peaceful routine. On a Sunday we share a nice coffee together before I squeeze him goodbye. My two teenagers murmur "bye Mum" as I walk past them to the door. I drive through quiet streets, cheerful, and turn up just as church starts. Once it's over, I drive home via a bakery and burst through the door with lunch.
“Hi Babe, how was church?” Hug. Missed you. Love you.
Phew. What a difference.
Granted, there are things I don't do. The idea of me going to a ‘small group’ is, to Bryce, the epitome of weirdness. Therefore, that one I just leave well alone. It's ok. There is abundant life beyond a small group.
I'm so happy that this peaceful routine is what our Sundays look like. But as believers it seems we’re often stretched beyond comfort, and no sooner had church become ok than it became slightly challenging again. Here’s what happened:
In April, I seemed to hear God say that I was going to do some public speaking. Okay.. Right. My response was something like, "I'm up for it, Lord, but um... Tell me more?"
More clues came. For example, not one but two strangers said to me out of the blue: “You look like a teacher.” The first was a shopkeeper, to whom I smiled in response. The second stranger was a passenger I sat next to on the flight home from our SUM conference. "You look like a teacher." At that point I took notice. It made me wonder if this public speaking involved some kind of teaching.
Then it happened. Speaking invites came. My head spun as it came unexpectedly. I spoke at an apologetics conference. Next, I got an invite to speak at a local church after meeting their pastor at that conference. Then one Sunday at my own church the leader who runs our preaching schedule caught me: “How would you like to speak a little bit?” It was all so random. And because it seemed a God thing I said yes.
I did have a concern: How would Bryce feel? He doesn’t like the idea of church. What was I to do? Step forward or not? It’s a long story but I kept stepping forward. It felt risky and wobbly, but our peace as a couple came out intact. Now, having gone through this stretching time here's my reflection:
Like all of us in this community I've had to rigorously question my faith. Looking back, it’s been resistance training. I liken it to a grueling military exercise. I'm not joking, that's how it's felt. Every time my belief in Jesus has been challenged I've re-examined it. Pushing against the resistance my muscles got stronger. I guess now that means I can stand up behind a microphone and say with certainty that Jesus is the Truth, and that is a certainty that might well help others. I never thought I had the gift of faith, but I’ve recently come to believe that perhaps I do; it's just been forged progressively.
I know that gift of faith is active among the rest of us here. Or, if you’re just beginning your faith journey, it will be. It's a strength of faith which we can then share with others.
So, that’s my testimony. Bryce is now teasing me about ‘sermonizing’. That brings a smile: I'm somewhat relieved we can laugh together about what was previously so difficult.
How about you, how is your involvement in church going? I’d love to pray for you.
Share your voice, heart and love in the comments.
Marching Around Jericho is a spiritual guide. As you read through the pages, powerful and transformative instruction and equipping takes place. We follow Jesus as he leads us around the walls, imparting kingdom truths with each passing, finally arriving at the gates of the walled-off city, our spouse’s unbelieving heart. After the circles in prayer are complete, we arrive fully prepared to command the walls to crumble and be removed, making a way for our spouse to step from the rubble of lies and captivity, into faith and freedom!
Available January 2020