Tag Archives: God

When “If” becomes “When” again

Just over 3 years ago I started this blog. Various friends were encouraging me to try blogging as they knew I enjoyed writing, but the final trigger was me writing a piece called ‘When “When” becomes “If”’.  Click the link to read the full piece but in summary it was about me attempting to come to terms with the idea I might never get married.

Two years ago I wrote about my foray into online dating with ‘Choosing a balloon’. Well, much to my surprise, it went very well. (Letting you into a secret, my chosen ‘balloon’ helped edit that piece, though we hadn’t quite started dating at that time). Now I find myself no longer considering ‘if’ I will get married, but ‘when’.

In fact, the ‘when’ is imminent. In 8 days I will be standing next to the man I love, making my marriage vows in front of God, a vicar and a whole crowd of friends and family. And I am SO EXCITED!

I can’t wait till I get to legally commit my life to this wonderful man, can’t wait till we get to live together, till our daily patterns and routines are tied up and intermingled with each others. I am excited about getting to know him ever better, and being known by him more deeply every day (and yes, I’m looking forward to sex too). I’m also looking forward to seeing where God takes us and gets us doing in ministry together.

Married friends tell me it’s the little things that are the biggest things in a way. I know I am looking forward to being able to come home to a hug after a hard day, to having a sounding board for my concerns, ideas and visions (maybe that’s not a small thing), being able to curl up next to a human radiator on cold days, and having someone who will keep the DVDs and bookshelves ordered. I know he is looking forward to me making crumble (probably some other things too, my crumble isn’t that outstanding!). I’m enjoying the excitement in anticipating the wonderful ordinariness of doing life together.

 But I am also  terrified. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m about to make some of the biggest promises I will ever make. I mean, what if it’s all a terrible mistake? What if I am not enough for him? What if I hurt him? What if things go wrong? What if I am a rubbish wife?

Deep breath: it isn’t; I’m not; I will; they will; I will be sometimes; but that’s ok.

Let me unpack that a bit more. It is a lifetime commitment, and a lifetime is (God willing) a long time to be with someone if it’s all a terrible mistake. Except, if I had even the inkling that this was the wrong move, I wouldn’t be making it. I’ve had plenty of time to consider what I’d want in a husband, and God has provided it, and more. Husband-to-be and I have now had a couple of years of getting to know each other, and while that might seem fast for some people, we’ve approached this with prayer and openness and the support of friends and family (who would tell us if they thought it was an error of judgement on our part).

I won’t be enough for him. I never will, I never should be. Well not in the sense of being able to satisfy all his needs. He won’t be enough for me either. For both of us, our first priority is our faith and our relationship with God. God is the only one that would ever be enough for either of us. We will need other friends as well. If we only have each other our relationship will get claustrophobic and inward looking. We want to be generous in our marriage- and that includes hospitality, time, and love for others. Having said all that, Husband-to-be is more than enough for me in terms of a romantic partner- I won’t be looking anywhere else for romance.

I will hurt him. I have already, I will again. Because I am human, and flawed and will be selfish and misjudge situations. We have quite different points of view on some things, and I am convinced that one of the reasons God has brought us together is that we can show each other the world from a different viewpoint. My prayer is that I don’t him hurt deliberately. But when we hurt each other, I will work to forgive and restore anything we have lost in our relationship. That’s the same when things go wrong, which they will. We have already faced a number of fairly stressful situations in the past year alone, so I know that though they are hard work, we will work hard to keep communicating, keep loving, keep growing closer together. Sometimes the things that go wrong won’t be our fault, and then we will need to hold each other tight and support each other through it. When it is our fault we will still need to hold each other tight and support each other through it.

I am certain there will be times when I am not the wife that I think he deserves. Sometimes that might be because I am setting my expectations unrealistically high, and in fact am trying to be ‘super-wife’. I know then that he will remind me that I can’t do everything and remind me I am loved anyway. At other times I will get my priorities wrong, or let him down in some way and then I will need to apologise.

It is daunting, and I think that is right. After all I am about to step into the greatest adventure of my life. The adventure that all my other life adventures will be contained and framed by. It is also thrilling. I know that in amongst all the unknowns, all the highs and lows that the future brings, God will be with us. However much we fail each other, or hurt each other, or have reason to celebrate and rejoice, and however much we love; God loves us more, and He is faithful and will not leave us without support.

Learning to Pray or On Not Giving A Monkey’s

Prayer is an art that only the Holy Spirit can teach us. Pray for prayer. Pray until you know how to pray   C H Spurgeon

I’ve always struggled to pray. I mean, I have always prayed. I’ve known it’s the ‘right thing to do’ since I was a little girl and I’ve believed it makes a difference. I remember some clear answers to prayer over the years, and I’m sure there have been thousands more, but I can’t remember them because I wasn’t really paying attention (to the answers or my prayers). But I have this sneaking suspicion that a lot of the time I’ve just been going through the motions.

It took a long time for me to learn to pray out loud in a group. I still don’t find it particularly easy. I’m naturally reserved, and was even more so when I was younger. Prayer is a very personal, deeply intimate activity. Or it can be if you’re honest with it. If you are praying with others and they pray honestly you can learn a huge amount about them; about their passions, desires, their hurts and interests, where they’re at with their faith. I think I understood this long before I could articulate it, and because I’m quite private as well as reserved I spent/d many times of prayer achingly self-conscious. I was constantly wondering what people were thinking of me. If I remained quiet then I wondered if people thought I wasn’t praying (often I wasn’t, because I was too busy worrying what people thought) or if I was a ‘bad Christian’. If I dared to pray out loud I would wonder ‘Do they think these prayers are too trivial? Or too sombre? Do my sentences make sense? Will they wonder why this matters so much to me? Should this matter so much to me?”.

And so my prayers become censored. Filtered through my perception of people’s expectations, only the appropriate topics, the suitably spiritual requests, well-worded and thought through were allowed to escape my lips.

Don’t get me wrong, I still meant these prayers. But if prayer is meant to be about communicating with God and I am focussed more on projecting a certain image of me to others then I must have lost something.

The real danger in this approach is that I think over time we end up censoring our prayers even when it’s just us and God; only allowing ourselves to pray those prayers we think He will approve of. As if He doesn’t already know what we’re thinking or what is on our hearts!

Friends are interested in the minutiae of our lives, the things that today made us happy or sad, the profound and the apparently superficial. If I believe in a God who is personally interested in me (which I do), why would He not want to hear about the silly things that actually both me quite a lot? Why would He expect us to have eloquent phrases when we are talking to Him about our friends who have been knocked sideways, had the rug pulled from underneath them, or whatever sugar-coated euphemism we choose to explain the terrible variety of garbage that life throws at us and those we love? When everything in us is weeping for them- God expects us to have sensible sentences to offer to him? I don’t think so. I think he takes our choking sobs or our childish requests and understands.

A parent doesn’t refuse to understand their child because they don’t yet have the vocabulary to express what they mean properly. And if someone you love tells you they love you, it doesn’t matter how ineloquent the sentence is, it matters they said it.

But if I fret about what others might think of what or how I’m praying then prayer becomes a fearful thing, a test to pass. So I remain silent, because that is safer.

However, recently there has been a shift in my praying. God has been very gracious in pointing out and breaking down my self-consciousness. For me that has been a hard fought and a continuing battle over a long time with some recent sudden shifts courtesy of the Holy Spirit at work. I am certainly no ‘prayer warrior’ still, but there is certainly a new enthusiasm for prayer and honesty in it. Perhaps this will just be for a short season. Dear God, I hope not. It will help, I think, that I am constantly challenged and inspired by being prayed for by, and praying with people far more passionate about prayer than I am. I know these guys are far more concerned about if I am praying than if my sentences are grammatically sound.

How often do we not really pray because we are far too concerned with what other people think of us? And worse, how often do we censor our prayers because we somehow think they are not valid or valued by our Heavenly Father? I feel that I’ve been learning to pray by learning how not to give a monkeys about what others think. Prayer is between me and God. If others happen to be listening in on the conversation, they’ll learn about who I really am. If it’s just me and God, what have I got to hide anyway?