“He led me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because he delights in me.”
(Psalm 18:19 NLT)
As I look at my blog title, it seems ironic – because, if I’m honest, right now this place doesn’t feel so spacious!
Today marks day 40 of spending most of every day in a one-bedroom flat, venturing out only to walk in the local area or to buy food. I think in that time I’ve only once been more than two miles from home.
It feels small and restricted, and sometimes it gets frustrating, thinking of the things I long to do and the freedom I used to enjoy.
I know I’m not alone, and I’m grateful. I’ve had Zoom chats and phone calls and social media messages every day, and there are several people I could turn to if I needed anything, but since the lockdown began I think I’ve had four short face-to-face conversations (from a two metre distance of course!) and, while I’m so grateful for Zoom, its not the same!
Yet I don’t write any of this looking for pity. While I wish things were different, I’m absolutely fine. As Jeremiah put it in the midst of his own time of disruption and separation:
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV)
The restrictions and the time alone have brought up memories of the time I spent in the past in a not-so-spacious place, but, more importantly, they have brought up memories of how God got me through.
I remember a time when, though I was not alone physically, I felt alone. I remember the utter loneliness of feeling there wasn’t a single person who understood, but I also remember how it drove me to God, recognising that he was with me and he was the only one who could help me. I remember that, even through the darkest times, he was always there.
And as I remember, I am reassured that God is enough.
I remember the frustration, the feeling that it would never end. I wondered what I had to do, and if I would ever be free. I remember looking at others, wondering how they had reached a place of freedom I could only dream of, wondering if I would ever make it. I remember growing weary with the seemingly-endless prayers, but I also remember that in the end God answered and it was worth the wait.
And as I remember, I am reassured that God’s power is great, his plan is good, and his timing is perfect.
I remember the tears and the anger and the endless journaling as I tried to process my pain, but I also remember how God used that time to grow me and to help me learn to trust.
And as I remember, I am reassured that God can use even unfavourable outward circumstances to work good in our characters – that often those times that are the hardest are when our faith has the potential to grow.
I remember the joy of finally reaching the spacious place, and the ongoing transformation it brought.
And as I remember, I am reassured that this too will pass.
As Queen Elizabeth encouraged us in her address to the nation a few weeks ago:
“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
These words have power when they come from a 94 year-old who has lived through a World War and experienced countless other challenges throughout her long life, but who still clings to God’s faithfulness and testifies of her hope in him!
And it reminds me that that is where our hope must be placed – not in other people or in our circumstances, but in God alone. And he is enough!
The day I made it into the spacious place, an image came to mind immediately. It was from the start of “The Sound Of Music” where Maria is out in the hills. Arms out, spinning joyfully, surrounded by space and beauty – to me, it was the picture of perfect freedom.
Three weeks today, I was meant to be there – in Austria, on those hills, maybe even doing a bit of spinning myself 🙂 Now I’ll just be grateful if I get to drive an hour to visit family!
But today I’m choosing to be grateful – that I have a family to visit, that I have good friends and a wonderful church, that I have a job I enjoy and the best colleagues, that I am, so far, safe and healthy, and, above all, that no matter what freedoms I may lack right now, I do live in a spacious place.
I love how the Message version of Romans 5:1-2 describes it:
“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”
That is true freedom!