I’m sorry I haven’t been around much over the last five days, either posting or reading other people’s blogs. If you were looking for my “Anything” post yesterday, I have to confess that I didn’t manage to complete the section of the book, so I plan to skip posting this week and continue the series next Monday. I think I have a good excuse, which I’ll share in a minute.
To be honest it has been a pretty crazy week- nothing disastrous, but lots of little stressful or unexpected events. My post at Deeper Waters this week talked about God allowing challenges so that we might grow, and I wrote about choosing to look for the lessons God is trying to teach us through them. I had written the post a while ago, but its publication came at the perfect moment when I really needed to take my own advice on board.
In many ways it was a difficult week, and it has been exhausting, both physically and emotionally. However, it was also one of those weeks when I look around and realise I am not the same person that I used to be, and I see how much God has done.
The main reason I have been so preoccupied over the last week is that I was leading a weekend away for 72 children, and the first area where I see that God has transformed me is simply in the fact that I agreed to do it.
When I was first given the opportunity to lead a weekend for young people about six years ago, I refused. The responsibility scared me, I doubted my ability, and although people believed I could do it and tried to encourage me, I would not be persuaded. There were too many factors that I couldn’t control, too many possible disaster scenarios running through my mind, and the thought of it terrified me. I never thought I would reach the stage of being able to lead a small camp, let alone one for 72 children.
The second area of transformation is in dealing with stress. I eventually began to lead some smaller camps but I always found it incredibly stressful. I would deal with this by over-preparing: planning everything down to the last detail and having a back-up plan for every eventuality. I would be anxious for the whole week beforehand and I would hardly sleep for at least the two or three nights before the event.
Last year I had been praying about this, as I wanted to handle it better. God answered by throwing me into a situation that was more difficult than I could ever have imagined, where the whole thing seemed so complicated and out of control that there was nothing else to do but surrender it to God and to give up trying to fix it myself. I realised that the only way it was going to work out was if God stepped in, and he did… at the very last minute, after I had tried literally everything else.
It was not an easy or pleasant experience at the time, but I was determined to learn the lessons God wanted to teach me through it and this week I actually saw evidence of that growth.
There were a lot of difficult things to deal with. My car broke down the day before the camp as I went to pick up equipment and a leader pulled out at the last minute, leaving us short. When we got there two children were extremely homesick, one struggled with anger issues, there were a couple of minor accidents and a leader had a panic attack. We had to spend hours clearing up sick after a boy vomited five times. There were times when it felt like twenty people were asking me different questions at the same time, I would just resolve one situation when something else would happen, and I had to make difficult decisions on the spot.
I did find it stressful at points but I also realised that I have finally learned to hand things over to God rather than worrying about them. Prayer has become my first response, and, even when things seemed chaotic at points, there was nothing like the same sense of panic I would have felt even last year, but instead an assurance that God had it covered. Events which were completely unexpected to me were not a surprise to him, and I realised that I could trust in him to help me. I’ve known that in theory for a long time but I’m finally learning to put it into practice and I’m grateful for all that God has done.
Sometimes it is good to pause and look back. Often we don’t feel like we’re making much progress, but God is at work and, if we keep focussed on him and continue moving in the right direction, even our shuffling little baby steps add up, and eventually lead to those beautiful moments when we look around and see how far he has brought us.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)