I feel that this year has ended as soon as it started. I can not explain why I feel this way but I do. This is one year that I can remember the events of January clearly and for the most of the months in between. Things get a bit foggy after March, but most of the year feels very fresh to me. This has also been a year of many lessons. I will try and list down a few that easily come to mind.
We grow in our desire for God partly by choosing to desire God.
Many times Christians fall into a passive mode of existence. We go through the motions. We feel as though we have no zeal to pursue God. Prayer, Bible reading, going church seem like the most boring things on earth. I have been reminded that we are subjected to futility as long as we are on this earth. We will never be able to maintain a spiritual high for every moment of our existence. Times will come when we will feel that we do not want to do the things that we once loved to do. What then do we do when those things are the things that God has commanded us to do in order that we would grow close to him? First, confess that we are sinful and that our evil desires have once again pulled us away from God, then ask God to revive our hearts, then lastly, in faith move forward and still pursue the means God has provided to know him — reading and studying his word, prayer, fasting e.t.c.
Many times Christians wait for the desire to pray to overwhelm them so much that they then pray. But our sinful flesh will always fight to ensure we stay away from these means of personal devotion. Sometimes we want to learn what it means to pray properly before we can pray. Maybe because we want to do it right. I have seen that most Christian disciplines are learnt by doing. We learn to pray well by praying. A friend of mine once told me, “You only have a good prayer life by praying“. As you stay on God’s word and fellowship he will refine your prayers and teach you to pray as you ought. The same applies to fasting. You can read a book about fasting then go and fast. But engaging in a fast is the only way those truths will be established in your heart. For the longest time, I knew that as I fast, I should seek to focus my mind and heart on God, but I only knew this with my head. I needed to practise it and push this truth 12 inches down to my heart. Attempting to fast, multiple times, over the years helped me cultivate this discipline. I still wrestle with this. But the wrestling should not stop me from trying. The more I lean on God on this, the more I learn to fast as God would have me fast and the deeper the communion I have with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Fellowship requires opening up.
It is very easy to come to church, attend church meetings, youth groups and still go home as lonely as you came in. This was me for a long time. I would attend our youth group meetings, seemingly bond and laugh with people but keep everyone away from the deep struggles I wrestled with. By God’s mercy, He made a way out of this mess. God brought young men into my life who would be able to keep me accountable. I remember this happened very slowly but steadily. As with all friendships, we all start off as strangers. But slowly, as I came to know these young men, I could see God was answering that prayer I had been making, “God, provide people with whom I can do life with, with whom I can share openly, and keep accountable even as I am kept accountable.” But this prayer also meant that I had to grow in some areas. I had to step out and open up. I had to remind myself that there is no temptation that faces us that is not common to man and that God has not made a way of escape to those temptations. I had to remind myself that we are all broken and we all need Christ our Saviour.
I remember those moments I had to brace myself to share my deepest concerns and worries. It was not easy. It is never a walk in the park making oneself vulnerable to others. But since we know there is no shame before God, for Christ has taken all our shame, we can be open about our struggles. After all, we glory in our weakness for in them the strength and glory of God is made manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I learnt that friendships require initiative. Friendships need to be given priority. This means you have to set aside time for them. You have to reach out even then the other party is struggling to reach out. As we show love, we teach others what it means to love and care for others.
What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done.
At the beginning of the year, we find ourselves setting what we call resolutions. Running of the energy of the new year we set goals whose end is a better us. But a few months in, we most often than not fall away from those high pursuits. What went wrong? One explanation is that we did not set a plan of action for those resolutions.
I have always wanted to learn the keyboard. I even bought a fairly good one. But I never did make a plan for how I will grow in that skill. Practise sessions only happened when I was free. But usually, free time is snatched away by more appealing and less intensive tasks e.g. watching a movie. This year, I have failed in this. But the good thing is that I did not fail in everything. There are some things I did set a plan for and I did manage, with fairly good consistency, manage to do. I would not have done those things if I had not set aside time on my schedule to pursue those things. If I left them to chance, I would never have accomplished any of them. Our time easily gets snatched away, especially when we do not set a plan for it.
Do you want to grow a certain skill? Schedule it. Do you want to grow a friendship? Schedule it. But more so, stick to that decision as best you can. Your resolve to pursue those goals will be tested. We make plans but since we can not see the future, we often have to readjust our plans. Seek God’s wisdom even when such moments come about. Making plans is wisdom at work, readjusting plans also requires wisdom and God grants wisdom freely to those who ask for it (James 1:5).
Crawl, Walk, Jog then Run.
Over the past year, I have had big dreams of things I wanted to do. But one mistake I made was diving in the deep end before I could even swim in the shallow end. I remember one time, as a group of friends, we decided we are going to keep each other accountable. We were so psyched up about this new venture. We scheduled meetings where we would talk out our issues. It was very intense for the first few months. We met almost weekly. But soon after something happened the meetings became rare and we struggled to meet up. So what happened? I think what happened is that we dived into the deep end before we could manage ourselves well in the shallow end. Creation shows us that growth happens in stages. A baby learns to crawl first, then walk, then jog then they can run. We are not born running.
I have observed this “crawl, walk, jog then run” philosophy in other areas of life too. When seeking to invest in something, we often put one foot in. We would then observe how well we handle it. Then we would put the other foot in. When you want to start a consultancy, we start with small clients, friends even. Then we move to the neighbourhood, possibly our church or community. At each stage, we observe how well we are doing. When we see that we are ready for the next stage, we then dive into it. But sometimes the allure of money or fame blinds us from embracing these stages of growth. We want to dive in and do the big thing. We forget that growth ensures we have a solid foundation for what we are building. A baby can never walk without having grown their muscles to some extent in the crawling stage. Likewise when it comes to running. One can only run when they can walk.
Whenever I need to pursue something, I always remind myself that I should not despise growth. Growth is necessary. Some people say “Take things slow”, which is really the same thing. Since growth takes time, we need to learn to be patient. With a steady pace and more so God’s sovereign rule over creation, we can be sure we are at the right place at the right time. We need not worry.
So these have been my few lessons for this year. I hope you can pick something from this.