Friday, 26 April 2013

Who Am I? The spiritual search continues

Wednesday was a busy day for me. In the morning I went to Billesdon in Leicester for some newly qualified minister (NAM) training arranged by the East Midlands Association. Then it was back home to put together a Bible study on Women in the Bible, vacuum the lounge (a must with two cats), eat tea, and lead the house-group. I think working a 13 hour day was a bit of a mistake but nevertheless an enjoyable one. 

The house-group is newly formed and has been, until now, an all female affair. It was perhaps ironic that we welcomed our first man to the group given our study topic. I shared some of my experience of what it was to be a female minister and the gender inequality that existed in the church as well as reflecting on why we don't hear so much about the women in the Bible. 

Who am I? is a good question to ask. I am no-one special really, just me, but I am a women with a call to ministry ingrained on my heart. Sometimes I would like to escape that, and indeed I have tried to deny the calling, run away from it (for over 10 years), given it back to God, fought it, and eventually given in and followed that calling. It has not been, and isn't easy but this is part of who I am.

Earlier in the day at the NAMs training we looked at the subject of spirituality, a topic close to my heart. The sessions were taken my Revd Dr Tim Mountain who has just been appointed as a tutor at Northern Baptist Community. His teaching was excellent and I am sure he will be a great blessing to the college.

After spending time in worship we looked at some definitions of spirituality, such as that from Alistair McGrath (Christian Spirituality, Blackwell, 1999).

Christian spirituality concerns the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith.

For me spirituality is about the way in which I connect and engage with the living God, be it in the still small voice that makes the hair on my arms stand on end, or the vastness of the Grand Canyon that reminds me of how awesome God is. God speaks to us in lots of different ways but we have to take time to listen to and experience God for ourselves. 

We looked at the criteria for Christian spirituality, such as, our core beliefs about who God is, and our 'rule of life' (our regular routines that maintain our relationship with God), and the different ways that we engage with God noting that whilst we may do that in many different ways we all have a preferred method. For me connecting with God comes most naturally through nature, normally pottering around in the garden. Even today's half an hour of pulling up weeds helped me to pray and to focus better on God and what really mattered. I think I might do this every Friday when I am trying to write my Sunday sermon!

After a little discussion on spiritual direction and whether we have a spiritual director (I do), we were invited to take part in several spiritual exercises. It was good to have some time to spend alone with God. For me the following exercise entitled 'Who am I?' was the highlight of the day, although the worship was pretty fantastic.

  • Choose an object that suggests something of who you are and the journey you are on.
  • Reflect on the reasons you have chosen it.
  • Do you think you would have chosen it a few years ago? Why?
  • Express your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer - perhaps silently or by writing them down.
           (The purpose of the exercise is to reflect on the person God is at work on.)

This is a picture of my choice of objects, well some of them. There were also an onion I was tempted by but here is my choice. I later found found Tim had chosen the same object when he had done the exercise a few years ago. 

So who am I? What are the similarities between what I chose and who I am and the spiritual journey I find myself? 
  • It is bright, cheerful, and fun. So am I, most of the time.
  • It has an empty space needing to be filled. I have a need to be constantly filled with the Holly Spirit.
  • It has a wiggly line around it. Life and my walk with God is full of highs and lows or as I like to refer to them as hills and valleys.
  • It has a bit of a chip. Like me it is not perfect.
  • There is a red line around it which reminds me of the blood of Christ and the healing that he brings me.
  • There is a green line around it - my mind turned to being sea sick for some reason. Life can be so hectic. It makes me dizzy and a little sea sick at times. I guess I am also a little green behind the ears as a NAM.
  • There is a brown colour at the bottom of the mug which reminds me of the earth. I am earthed and rooted in Christ who is my foundation. 
  • The cup reminded me of the women at the well (I preached on this last week). Jesus asked for a drink but he had no bucket or cup to put the water in. After meeting Jesus she went into the town and said, 'Jesus knew everything about me.' God knows everything about me.
  • As I selected the mug one of my friends laughed. I asked them why and they said because of the obvious. I wonder if people do think i am a mug sometimes, perhaps I am for following this calling. Others may think I am a mug but actually I am the carrier of the cup of the Lord, offering others a drink of living water.  

Would I have chosen this a few years ago? No, probably not. In my other life (pre-ministry training) I was a financial adviser so I would probably have chosen a calculator or something similar. Have a look at the photo above, or around your home, pick something to represent you and do the above exercise. There are no right or wrong answers just be open and engage with God. Feel free to post your comments and let me know how you get on.  

Who am I? The spiritual search continues. I like to think I am very self-aware but there is always something new to discover about what makes me the person I am and indeed who I am in Christ.