CONVERSATIONS WITH ONE – RE-LEARNING TO HOPE

You have always thought of yourself as a hope filled person – someone who always believes and encourages others to do the same. That’s why you disagree when One points out the emptiness of your Hope jar. You don’t believe it, it doesn’t sound like you.

But the post phone call autopsy shows different. In that uncomfortable but increasingly familiar sequence of events, One shows you your body language through a phone call that is pretty much the biggest possible deal ever. Even as you share and pace and plan, your spirit stands, separate and disengaged, hands folded, heart determinedly closed. You still don’t agree… you’re being cautious, realistic, planning and waiting.

So One asks you to pray… and you see Spirit…struggling to put faith to words, struggling even to find the words. You realise that you do not want to pray. And One asks, “Why?”

You look at yourself more closely, at the hunched shoulders. You think of the storms, not fiery raging ones that force fight and fire from you, but steady slow drizzles that soak and soak until all you can do is hunch your shoulders…and wait

The answers are compelled out of you…You have asked too many things and watched them go unanswered…you have been hurt and denied too many times…you do not have the testimonies you asked for…you are scared to ask because you don’t want to become resentful when the answer is no…you don’t want the hurt of asking and investing in an answer that doesn’t come…you don’t want the pain of refusal.

With your response comes a painful sort of freedom, but One isn’t done. Again the nudge “Pray”

As you go to pray, you note your posture, not a child asking a loving Father, but a supplicant beseeching a distant ruler. This is not the King you have come to know, how has this become the King that you see?

One pauses your prayer, and gently rearranges you. Your rigidly held out hands soften as they clutch the arms of the Father who is always ready to hold you. Your pleas for mercy become an assurance that you have been heard. You find yourself asking “Restore me to hope…remind me of hope”

You still didn’t pray like you expected to…for this thing that is so big that you are scared to hold on to it, lest like a bubble in the heat, it vanishes, leaving you with a memory…and sticky empty fingers.

But you pray for hope to believe, for the hope that will both anchor this thing to your soil and raise it, waving, in the skies of your spirit.

You pray for the ability to open your heart…yes, to pain, but also to possibility.

You realise that the lesson is not asking for the thing, but the ability to believe that all things are possible.

You raise your Hope jar; this tarnished, bruised thing, this barely burning flame. With hands that have almost forgotten the motions, you begin to polish…with lips that have almost forgotten how, you reach into you…and begin to blow

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TRUE LIBERTY

I was chatting with a new friend recently and she was sharing her journey to marriage. She is in her early 30s and has been married only about 2 years. One of the things she said struck me deeply – she said “I don’t feel like I am married, my life is the same, I still do the things I used to do”. And then as she went on, I realised that what she was describing was a life of freedom, spent with a man who had learnt his wife’s personality and who had committed himself to making and keeping her happy; and for her, happiness was the ability to go and come, do the things she needed to do without being tied down by expectations of what a wife should be.

I contrasted it to a disturbing discussion I once had with an ex. We had been together a fair bit and even though I loved him deeply, I had started to feel constrained by his expectations of me. But it seemed that I could not be me and be what he was looking for in a partner at the same time; and the more I tried to “pretzelise” myself for him, the more miserable I became. One day, in a discussion, I tried to share how much it felt I was losing myself, his answer was – a relationship is about sacrifice, you will always have to lose something for it to work”

I rarely talk about marriage on this blog – my views, at their kindest, are unconventional. I believe that too many people have a distorted view of marriage and that we make it more important – especially for women, than it really is. It seems that no matter how hard a woman works, her achievements will always be rounded up with a question on her marital status, making everything prior moot.

However I have deep deep down joy when I encounter a couple that seems to have unlocked the magic combination for a successful home – 2 people who put the other’s happiness above theirs and who live a life of honest, flawed yet wholehearted commitment to each other.

I’m not going to sit down here and give marriage advice. But this I believe strongly…marriage should be a next phase…a step forward from where you are to where you are headed. So if you feel like you have to lose something or give it up for it to work…well…

I remember speaking to an older friend once about a young man who was interested in me. My impression was that I could probably bend the guy in 2 without thinking. My friend’s answer was – “Then you should tamper your strength down so you are not stronger than him”. My spirit didn’t know why it rejected this thought – but now I know – God made me as strong as I am for a reason, and anyone for whom I have to be less in order to be satisfactory, is probably not meant to be in my life.

I’m not disputing that there will be sacrifices. I’m not disputing that you will not always feel in love. I’m not disputing that sometimes you might ask yourself if this was really the right choice. Sometimes it will be more work than pleasure.

I don’t mean those times. I mean you giving up your laughter, your spirit, your confidence. I mean the wife whose entire dress sense has changed because “Oga” doesn’t like – short/tight/coloured/straight clothes. The woman who is struggling at a job that gave her pleasure because she needs to be home in time to cook a fresh dinner. The woman who has morphed into someone no one recognises, least of all, her very own self. The woman who has given up her laugh, her zest, her spirit because in her Bible, this is what submission means.

Men I’m not talking so much to you, because the cards are already somewhat stacked in your favour. I’m talking to the woman who wants to be a wife but has no clue who she is. The one who doesn’t know that her ‘Yes” is as important as his question. The one who doesn’t realise that there is more to her purpose than the Mrs before her name.

I was speaking to a friend once and I said to her that strangely, the older I become, the more careful I am in meeting people, Her answer will probably stay in my psyche the rest of my life. She said “But of course, one has not waited this long only to get it wrong”.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. Freedom to be you. Every flawed inch of you. Freedom to dream and dream big. Freedom to soar. Freedom to be unapologetic in your identity.

The person God has designed for you will not diminish your “youness”, s/he will add to it, will enhance it, will make you more than you could ever be.

And to those of you thinking – “She isn’t married, what does she know”, I will say – I may not be married, but I understand losing yourself for someone else, and the emptiness of lacking an identity. I understand fear and insecurity. I understand these things. I will say that I understand finding yourself and discovering that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, loved beyond measure, a treasure. I understand being loved for myself, warts, bad habits and all.

I will say I understand freedom, and to be honest, whether you are married or single, those feelings are pretty much the same.