It’s that time of year again. The time to eat Christmas leftovers, set about on the systematic consummation of Christmas chocolate, read one of three new theology books, watch films you’d never normally watch, fill in the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year and, of course, reflect on the last three hundred and sixty five days.
And what a year it’s been. The latest report has put it as one of the most exciting of my life. This may just be revealing of how boring my life is. I should probably say that the following is constrained both by my fallible memory and my ego. If you wanted a mention but didn’t get on please don’t take offense it’s just that my mind didn’t consider you important enough to remember.
So in the words of Charlie Brooker: we start as years often do with January.
The highlight of the first month of 2010 was in a certain book I got given as a present by a guy I hadn’t spoken to for two years. And I am forever indebted to him for sending it to me. It was called ‘The Disciplines of a Godly Man’ – there were seventeen disciplines and I was failing to some degree or other in all of them.
I learnt many lessons from the book but the main thing it did for me was to completely revolutionise my praying i.e. I actually started praying. The author recommended writing a prayer list and keeping it on the desk. I did so and to my surprise it worked. Since then, in the grace of God, I’ve never missed a single day going from a 10% success rate to a 100% one. Obviously this didn’t come from me. Instead, in the goodness of God he has made and kept me praying. This more than anything else has radically altered my life. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that everything else I record about the rest of my year can be traced back to this new desire to pray and putting the desire into action.
Oh yeah, and I started this blog in late January as well which was certainly a blessing in one way or another. Hmm, think I’ll do a reflection on a year of blogging on the exact anniversary.
The CU had their Events Week and I remember being encouraged by it. Or than that not the biggest fan of this month - it always seemed too long considering it was the shortest month of the year.
Another month, another book, this time in the form of ‘If you want to walk on water you have to get out the boat’ by John Ortberg. I read it on the train down to see my older sister in Nottingham. It was helpful and challenged me to think of my boat (comfort zone) and how to step out of it. It probably in part led to my decision to go to Russia.
Seeing my older sister was great as well. Travelling down to Nottingham and meeting her circle of Christian friends was a real encouragement. They were all open and friendly and it was nice to go on holiday.
My birthday and the Easter holidays. Nothing of note that I can remember.
It was in this month that I decided to go to Russia. It was a last minute(ish) decision made on the spur of the moment and most unlike me (I plan going to the bathroom in advance). And I thank God that I made it.
The university term ended with exams. They went well and I did as little work as I knew I would and was as little stressed by the whole affair as I figured I’d be. At the very end of May I went to Quinta on a weekend away for my Russia trip and lost my suitcase containing my Bible and a theology book in it. This was a vexing lesson in God’s providence made better by the thought than someone, somewhere, has a Bible and theology book. Hopefully, God used them for greater things than I wanted them for.
Summer holiday – I can’t remember much about this month.
Russia! I’ll try and keep this brief. I went to Russia expecting it to be difficult but I’d solider through and learn a lot of lessons about myself and God. Instead, wonderfully, my experience was just one of blessing after blessing. It was my first time in a foreign country for ten years, new alphabet, new language, new experiences and a constant feeling of God’s presence. I now have Russia branded in my mind as a time of great blessing. When I feel a bit glum I think back to Russia and marvel at the goodness of my God.
The thing that completely astounded me was that in order to teach me how good he is God was almost overly good to me. He drowned me in his goodness and in doing so corrected my terrible view of him. It was like God said: ‘You don’t believe I’m good? HERE is my goodness!’ And I was rendered speechless, rebuked and oh so thankful.
August was a bad month. I slipped back into old habits and old ways and grew bored and frustrated with God. After the spiritual high of Russia it was a spiritual low.
University started up and I became really busy! Partly because I was a small group leader and I was running Contact Point (both of these in direct answer to a prayer to be busier) But also because new friendships developed again in answer to prayer. I’ve found small group in particular to be a blessing and a joy.
The thing I remember most about October is an amazing answer to prayer. At a theology table talk (pub + theology = fantastic) the guy doing the talk encouraged me to seek someone to meet with and discuss theology and he asked me to pray about it. So I did, twice, then forgot about it. That next week I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen for ages and had only probably spoken to a few times before. Incredibly he asked to meet up for coffee. We did so and it has since become a weekly meeting and an incredible example of the providence of God and how quickly he can answer prayer.
My spiritual life seemed to be getting better and better. I felt like I was learning lesson after lesson and going from strength to strength. God was really working and everything I touched seem to turn to sold…boom!
The CU weekend came and went and left me with a new prayer for my list – that the Reformed church would grow and flourish and go from strength to strength.
And then December came! For various reasons it has been a month of realizing my brokenness and sin. A few things didn’t go my way and boy did I resent God for it. The last month has been a much needed lesson in trusting God and leaning not on my own understanding. A lesson in trusting in God and his goodness and love despite being confused and perplexed. I learnt as well of the idols of my heart, the things I put before God, the weakness of my faith and my utter dependency on God for everything.
And I know now of the grace of God given when we are at our weakest. As Paul writes ‘For when I am weak that is when I am strong’. I remember feeling particularly down and coming across a sermon by Driscoll on accepting the invitation of God to fear not because he loves us. I remember feeling down and coming across:
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Proverbs 3 v 11 – 12
And then a few days later feeling down again and stumbling across the exact same verse in Hebrews 11!
It’s been quite some year. And the standout feature of the last 8,766 hours has quite simply been the work of God in my life and his love for me. He has taken me out of a spiritual apathy and fired me up again. He has revealed to me a greater depth of my sin and weakness and a greater height of his exaltedness.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8 v 28
As I look back I can see this verse to be true. And as I look forward I do so with great expectation of what the future holds. As 2011 comes I enter it expecting to be astounded by God’s will for me. I go forth clinging to the truth that God loves me. I go forth with a new perception on my weakness, frailty and sinfulness. I go forth remembering the words in Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1 v 9
I venture into the New Year thanking God for what has past, praying for what is to come and hopeful of what will come to pass.