After much thought, I have decided to not write a post about the challenges I encountered during our last holiday. To be frank, it was one of those times in life which was extreme in its nature and because of that, before I can talk about it, I need to work out why God allowed my family and I to go through such an experience. We prayed before, during and after our week of sailing, and yet the conditions could not have been more challenging. In the space of a few hours the idyllic setting of the Ionian Sea turned to hell on earth.
I have found that often God will take us through rough times as preparation for something that is ahead but which we cannot see just yet. I am therefore going to cherish that experience, as scary as it was, as a message from my Heavenly Father which is yet to be unfolded and I need to ponder on. There are certain things that need to remain between one and God and I feel this is one of them.
Instead, I want to write today about what a blessing blogging is turning out to be for me.
When I was a teenager I had a great passion for being in touch with people from all round the world. I was fascinated by other cultures, other languages, other countries, but above all, I was amazed at how much in common we all have despite our differences, and how easy it can be to get over those differences and make a connection with people that on the outside seem a million miles away from one’s own world.
I used to have lots of pen-pals and regularly sent and received letters from various countries in the world. I used to absolutely love receiving those letters with little souvenirs from that person’s country or their personal effects such as photographs, postcards, etc. It was such an awesome feeling for a young girl to realise the world was so huge but so small at the same time. I used to fantasize about getting to meet a particular individual called Matt who lived in Philadelphia and to whom one day hopefully I would get married. Little did I know that although I would not end up in the States, there was some truth to that longing in me, as I ended up marrying someone from a different nationality and language to mine. Funny that!
One day, when my parents deemed that I was old enough, I started travelling a bit every summer and the writing kind of died down as I was too busy either studying or actually meeting the people that as a young teenager I dreamt I would meet one day. I never actually met those people with whom I used to correspond, but ended up meeting many more diverse nationalities and cultures than I ever thought I would.
Many years have gone by since that, and I now find myself back to where I started. I am older, hopefully wiser but my longing to overcome prejudices and preconceived ideas of what people are like just because of the colour of their skin, religion, language or country of origin, has not gone away. I believe that strong relationships can be forged despite massive differences in people’s beliefs, up-bringing and ways of life. Many would brand me as way too idealistic and naive and maybe rightly so, but I am not prepared to give up on the possibility of a more harmonious world where we all learn to respect each other and co-habit in this old and vulnerable planet. I am not talking here about doing nothing when we see situations where there is injustice and abuse. I am talking about building on what we have in common as opposed to tearing each other down because of our differences.
When I first started writing this blog, I had no idea of the type of audience that I would encounter. I did not even know whether I would end up just talking (writing) to myself, which by the way I do a lot of the time. First sign of madness, according to many, but personally, I think that is what keeps me sane. Anyway, over these last few months I have got in touch with people all over the world. I think the only area I have not cracked yet is South America, but there is time yet. Maybe I should start writing in my mother tongue to enlarge my audience….
The thing is that ever since I was a kid, I absolutely detested my shyness and introverted character which made of any kind of socialising environment an up hill struggle. I have often wondered why God created me this way to then in the latter part of my life, call me to share the love of Jesus and His message of repentance, forgiveness and salvation. My gifting has always been task-orientated and not people-orientated, so I always suspected I would be no good at carrying out Jesus’ commission. For a long time, I would come back home from church every Sunday with a feeling of complete defeat, beating myself up, as I realised I would never make a good disciple or draw anyone to Jesus, because I was incapable of serving in any area which involved even a minimum of public exposure or a leadership role of any kind which in many churches are the only areas where one is recognised as a servant or considered one. You have to be seen to be doing something or else it won’t count. When did we become so foolish? The word of God tells us to do all things as onto the Lord, but man however insists on making examples of those who make the loudest noise, whose name appears more often on a list.
And then one day it suddenly dawned on me that I was living out my faith according to what others thought I should or should not be doing, instead of responding to the natural make up that God had already blessed me with. It is amazing how sometimes, even with the best of intentions, ideas can be preached from a pulpit, which can put one into bondage instead of bringing the freedom that the gospel clearly proclaims. Those closest to me and who have been following my blogging days regularly will be able to confirm this: I have never been able to bring the love of Christ to so many people as I have been doing since I started blogging. I have no idea who I am writing to, particularly when I am writing a comment in another person’s blog, but I know in my spirit that there is a need and that I am called by the Holy Spirit who lives in me to offer that stranger some guidance, empathy, compassion, prayer, love, a way out.
But the joy does not end there. The other side of the blogging coin is that by the same token, many complete strangers have reached into my life and become a source of blessing through encouragement, compassion, wisdom, guidance, rebuke and constructive criticism. I think I have learnt more about evangelism in these last few months than I have done in the past 7 years. It is all very well to have head knowledge when it comes to Christian theology but it is only when you are put on the spot, that you begin to realise how wrong you can be or how empty your words can sound. I have been challenged to the core, ashamed of myself at times for patronising readers with beautiful words about things I knew nothing about. The irony is that in the midst of that adversity, in the call to rise to that challenge to answer difficult questions, I have had to do a lot of growing up and a lot of soul-searching, a lot of back-tracking.
I know that to many of you this may sound ridiculous as the Internet world seems to be so intangible and elusive, but I can see God so clearly in all of this. I can see how the enemy meant the Internet for harm, for feeding the fleshly side of man with all kinds of evil and darkness, but I can see how God is turning this around and using thousands of voices like mine which are trying to bring light into the darkness. The wonderful thing about blogging is that one remains nameless and faceless and this in turn, allows one to give of himself/herself without expecting a big standing ovation at the end, or a big clap for a job well done. It is done in secret and there are no rewards other than the wonderful feeling when you realise that something you may have shared or said, has improved the life of the person at the other end of the keyboard, if only for a few minutes, but maybe, just maybe for a lot longer. God surely knows.
Another wonderful thing about the blogging world is that I have found so many kindred spirits out there. One person in particular who shares a similar message God has put into his heart, is planning on starting up a Christian forum where a few of us can share stuff, pray for each other, etc: a virtual house group. Fantastic! I can’t wait! I am already a member of a house group which incidentally takes place at my house, and I think it is a great thing to be a part of, but sometimes knowing so much about each other can become more of a hindrance than a help, because you have your own preconceived ideas about that person and why they act the way they do, and any advice you give or you are given is biased by what you already know. When you communicate with someone you don’t personally know you are totally relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you in the way that you go and in the words that you exchange. It is a purer form of touching somebody’s soul, if that makes sense.
But the thing is I am actually engaging with people whom years ago I would have probably not even given 5 seconds, because of my fear to step into the unknown, into areas and ways of thinking I know not much about. At last the door to reach others with the love of Christ seems to have miraculously opened and I have a voice that does not need to be on a stage to be heard or labelled with some leadership title to give me credibility or permission to do what Christ has freely allowed me to do. At last I am able to “do church” outside the church walls. It is easy and pleasant to discuss faith issues with people in your church who think alike. The courage lies in stepping out to the challenge when questioned by people whom you know nothing about other than the fact that they do not think like you, live like you, believe like you.
I am excited by what may lie ahead!