Wow. Sometimes it can be so hard when God starts pinpointing an area in your life that needs work can’t it? I’m exhausted, and the phrase ‘enough already’, which I used to talk about those things that crowd out God’s voice earlier this week, is something I’d like to shout back to God now! You see, I had a difficult conversation with a friend last weekend and was left out of sorts. I knew I had to talk to them again, but, when I did, even though I knew they were going to tell me I’d been harsh, I didn’t think I would hear the phrase ‘I certainly don’t expect to be talked to like that by anyone’. I knew I had some apologising to do, but it was such a shame – and such a lesson for me as a leader – because it clouded the real issues that were going on. I was trying to bring correction, and yet, in the end, in a way, it was me who was being corrected – at least in part. I of course fought it a little, saying things like ‘Well it only escalated like that because you fought back, saying you didn’t agree’ and, if I’m honest, I’ve come away pondering the phrase they used to describe me. I honestly and truthfully don’t think I was as bad as they made out, and I know we have certainly had those sorts of exchanges before because we are both fairly fiery and wear our hearts on our sleeves. But that isn’t really the point. And that riles me if I’m honest. Sometimes I think ‘why God?’ ‘Why pick on my faults and point out my wrongdoings when all I was trying to do was uphold your values in the first place?’ But then I have to realise, and accept (however begrudgingly!) that that isn’t the point, and the way I say things is just as important as what is said. And I also know that one of the things I found hardest about the whole affair actually showed up something lacking in myself.
Ever since that encounter I’ve had the scripture ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’ going through my head. And part of me is allowing it to resonate in my spirit – while the other part is still longing to burst out and shout ‘it’s not fair!’ But I know this is such an important lesson for me personally that if I don’t grab this as an opportunity to grow and change then I will really regret it. Because it affects every relationship – with my husband, children, parents, friends, worship team members, general church members – everyone. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve had words spoken over me about the sharpness of my tongue; about how I need to learn to use it for God’s glory to cut through to the heart of things, rather than using it to hurt people. And I’ve had so many prayers prayed over me that I would learn to be more gentle. But, I guess if I’m honest, I’ve always seen gentleness as a bit of a weakness and, over the years, have accepted that I have a more fiery, quick-witted character. While I don’t think it is wrong, and still feel it is as God made me, not learning to rein it in and not cultivating the gentleness that is a characteristic of walking in the Spirit is wrong. I was struck by something that I read this week on the Gospel Coalition blog, which was written by a woman who lives in Dubai:
I find Peter’s exhortation about inner beauty in 1 Peter 3:3-4 both wonderful and very challenging. When I first read this passage I was struck by how many years I had spent desiring more physical beauty without a thought to inner beauty. My struggle is further compounded by the fact that I live in the consumer center of Asia, where only your outer self matters. A quiet and gentle spirit is often misunderstood to mean weak and timid. While this is a challenge, I am surrounded in church by women who are truly beautiful on the inside and whose lives are a wonderful picture of the gospel, and that really motivates me to work hard at my inner beauty.
Inner beauty is something that I’ve started to be asked to write about – and now I have that sinking feeling that perhaps that opportunity is another way God is closing in on me, prompting to realise that this is an area I need to work hard on. As a woman who has struggled with self-esteem a lot in the past (and still has great bouts of self-doubt) I can often overlook the work I need to do on my inner being as I am doing what so many in our culture (and others) do; focusing on the outer. Someone who has really challenged and inspired me in this whole area – and in being even more honest in my blog writing – is Emma Scrivener, whose brilliant blog can be found here.
I’m glad that I’m part of a Christian community that supports but also challenges me. While I was struggling earlier in the week with the realisation of how lonely leadership can be, I know too that that is part of the character changing process for me. Life can be hard enough that going on these particular journeys of self-discovery and change can seem so so uncomfortable – and downright unnecessary when they coincide with another big challenge! I have to constantly remind myself that it is only because God loves me that He touches those parts of me I’d rather He didn’t. When I started intentionally trying to draw closer to Him, to hear His voice more, I certainly didn’t expect the first thing for Him to say was ‘You need to work on being more gentle’ – but hey, looking back, I guess that was pretty naive wasn’t it?!