Looking back at this blog after a year of silence, I realized that it is time to start writing again. While I never made the conscious decision to stop, this was the inevitable result of a schedule that eliminated almost all time for quiet reflection. Through my experience serving in the Czech Republic this past month, however, I have re-realized the importance of “empty space” in my schedule for that kind of reflection–for quiet, for prayer and listening, and sometimes, for reflective writing.
Sometimes it is necessary to escape from one’s typical schedule in order to recognize aspects of one’s life that need to change or areas that need greater attention. This is one of the many lessons I learned through my past weeks in the Czech Republic and the primary topic of this particular post. The titles of the two Business English camps we taught/served at this year were “Ignite”–thus, I will follow that theme in these posts, beginning with this initial post about “rekindling”. Fitting, as it also represents the rekindling or revival of this blog.
Over the past year, God has provided many opportunities and called me to a variety of different communities and activities. I won’t go into detail about the fullness of my schedule here (I do maintain that there is a difference between fullness and busyness, the former of which I greatly prefer of the two), but I will say that it was truly just that: very full. While I did not feel “busy” per se, there was not much room for empty space in my schedule. And, while I loved each element of my life ministry, this lack of empty space did affect me in negative ways. It wasn’t until this trip, when I had much more time for reflection and quiet, that I realized exactly how the “nonstop-ness” had prevented me from fully living into all that God has for me. On this trip, it was initially even a challenge to adapt to a more free schedule. I was so used to continually “doing” that it was difficult for me to simply “be”. This is something I continued to reflect on quite a bit during the following weeks–and, I will share some of those thoughts here.
I am a person who tends to want to do big things for Christ. I recognize that He has given me everything–literally everything–and that even though His everything is much bigger than my own, I feel that the only response I can have is to give it all back to Him (my time, my talents, my energy–all that I have). I still believe this. However, I realized on this trip that despite my desire to give Him everything this past year, I actually failed in doing so–because what I do matters little if I am not continually abiding in Him. It is the empty, quiet time with Him that matters most, and which enables and empowers me to pursue the other callings and opportunities He has given me–and, when I do not have room in my schedule for this time of prayer and abiding in His presence, it impacts not just what I do, but also who I am. He is the source of joy, of strength, of love, and of wonder.
On my own, I am not enough. This is also something I continually realized during this trip in the Czech Republic. Our team faced a variety of challenges–such as (some extreme) health issues, spiritual warfare and discouragement, and a profound lack of sleep. In some ways, I had a similar experience to my experience at least year’s camp, in that I was able to really recognize my own weaknesses and inadequacy and thus refocus on my need for Christ to work through me. I found myself continually “escaping” during free times to just listen to music, pray, and “be” with God. As an extrovert with a few introvert tendencies, I have realized that time with my Creator is the only time that satisfies all parts of me–time with Him is both solitary and communal, in the best of ways. It is a time of rest, but also a time of recharging. As much as I enjoy being around people, that social energy does not compare to the spiritual rekindling I receive when I spend quality time alone (but also together) with Christ.
Now that I am back home, I am eager to rekindle my focus on Christ first. While I still have a number of opportunities and callings–including some new ones–I recognize that in order to serve Him best in all that I do, I must live into the fullness of joy and love that only exists in Him. Who I am matters more than what I do; and I can only be who I am when I am in Him. For me, this is also one of the main themes of my favorite novel, Till We Have Faces–that only Christ can strip us of our masks and tear down the unnecessary walls we build up in our life, in order for us to actually be who we were made to be.
Practically, this lesson has manifested itself in a number of ways for me. First of all, I have learned that it is sometimes important to say “no” even to good opportunities. There is an infinite amount of good work to do in the world; but, actually following God in those opportunities requires putting Him first, and thus sometimes saying no if an opportunity–even a good one–gets in the way of relationship with Him. I have learned that he is the faithful Sower who not only is continually removing in me the branches that bear no fruit, but also the branches that bear withered fruit. A good opportunity is no longer good if it prevents me from fully abiding in Him. Without Him, my work is futile and my attempts to love others will always be in vain. My experiences at camp demonstrated this to me–when I tried to serve on my own, I always failed; when I sought Him, He always worked through my weaknesses.
Also, this lesson has reminded me of the importance of making room for little but beautiful things in my life. For instance, God gave me a love for music and the opportunity to play a really cool instrument–thus, I should let myself sometimes just dwell with Christ in making something beautiful through song. There is meaning in that. Reviving this blog is also a part of this lesson, as I have realized that periodic reflective writing is important for my spiritual growth–and, this in turn impacts how I fulfill my callings and treat others. I also am going to strive to allow more time in my life to seek God through stories, through recognizing the wonder of His creation, and through growing in the relationships He has blessed me with. These joys–some seemingly insignificant–are, I believe, actually some of the most important and most holy. Jesus cares about the little things.
Finally, this lesson has also helped me to refocus on what ultimately matters most–on what God has really called me to do. While the specific activities and opportunities God has given me are important–my ministry is wherever He has placed me–they mean nothing if I am not 1) loving Him with all that I am and 2) loving others through all that He is. This is the ultimate command that Jesus gave us, which sums up everything He would have us do. So simple, and yet so easy to fall away from. Thus, this summer and in the year to come, I want my focus to primarily be on rekindling my love–which will only happen when I refocus on my need for Christ.
Empty space does not need to be wasted time. Rather, when spent seeking Christ (whether in prayer, through music, through writing, through simple silence), it is the most important time of all. I am finding that since camp especially, I am craving more and more time alone with Him–and, I fully intend to keep making that a priority. Because, ultimately, HE is my rekindling; He is the spark that will enable my life–and my love–to truly ignite.