Sunday, 31 January 2016

Battle-Scarred Warriors - Remember to Rest

In recent weeks I've been overwhelmed with the number of articles about the US election race and this has affected my writing and the direction of this blog.

I'm not apologising for the recent posts. I hope I would have written the same thing about any potential world-changing event that has the potential to change the face of perceived Christian values by a major power in the World. I make no claim to know the state of the soul of any of the candidates - that is simply a matter between them and our Lord as it is for all of us. We are not called to judge others, but we can look at the fruit of their words and consider the source.

Enough of politics. I'm not a politician and have no desire to be.

I'm a fighter. When you're involved in ministry for any length of time you need to be. We are fighting a war that makes all human wars combined look like throwing stones on a playground by pre-school children.

I tried to take a break from the battle. I had moved not only towns, but continents and decided I wanted a break from church involvement to rest a while.

I made a mistake. A big one.

There's a reason we're told not to forsake the company of the believers. We provide support to one another in times of trial and hardship.

After too long away my brother-in-law and his wife invited me to join them at their church not far from my home last year. I'd visited other churches closer in the previous years - I note that of the many I had visited only one is still in existence - and found the majority teaching a twisted version of the "prosperity" gospel, "give for personal gain" was the basic message. The majority of the members were on subsistence incomes (if that) and yet their pastor arrived in a brand new BMW. It felt wrong so I didn't return.

The church my family invited me to (and the one other that is still running) didn't do that. Don't do that. They seek to provide a refuge for the battle weary and scarred members who have been fighting Spiritual battles for many years.

I chose the church I now attend, not because my family go there, but because I felt God tell me "You're safe here David. Take some time and heal".

So that's what I'm doing. A kind of sabbatical break from direct Spiritual Warfare, engaging in battle only when absolutely necessary.

Of course we face daily battles, and opposition to writing this blog alone is extreme. I tend to write and post in the small hours of the morning when normal people are asleep because it's a time I can use to stop and sit with Jesus. The fruit of those meetings sometimes ends up as an entry here. Sometimes it's too personal and it doesn't.

I'm 43 now. I'll be 44 in April. Christian for 30 years and on the battle lines for most of that. I made mistakes when I was a kid of 19 that prevented me from going to study to be an Anglican minister. The biggest was having a fight with the vicar who had been supportive until then when he learned that when I left home I would be sharing a home with the girl I was dating. With hindsight we both could have handled the conversation better. I was an angry teen and always looking for a reason to vent that anger but was afraid because of my physical size to do so physically in case I injured someone. I stuck to being alone and away from teams as a result.

Things changed when I left home. I moved to Devon and got involved with the Christian Union at my girlfriend's university. We did some crazy things. All night prayer meetings then driving up into the middle of Dartmoor to watch the sunrise. We produced an audio version of several magazines for a member of the group born blind who had asked us not to pray for him to be given sight. The years went by and the group changed as some folk left and new ones joined. I was single again and not looking - but that's another story - and after a short time I realised I was quickly going to be far older than the other members. I was involved in a local church that suffered a deep-felt loss when the parish church was destroyed by arsonists. It uncovered some deep felt anger in the town over "outsiders" like myself who despite being from a West-country family were not from the town itself and had been elected to the church council that had to make the hard decisions regarding how to proceed. It was eventually the "outsiders" who were forced to make the choices as we were the ones sitting in the majority at the time to build a new church and not rebuild the old one.

The vicar, a dear friend who has since passed on to be with Jesus, made the choice and set the wheels in motion. Then with resentment building towards him and his "allies" (of which I was one) he elected to resign and move to another parish. His last Sunday at the church was also mine.

I moved to a vibrant church in the next town with a group growing around my own age. We formed tight friendships, some of which have survived me moving hemispheres to marry, and which I know will endure as long as we live. We lived and worked and played together, not just on a Sunday but dinner at each others homes, crazy night-time drives to go and pray in the middle of nowhere on the spur of the moment and packing 7 or 8 people into my Peugeot 205 to do it. We Prayed and played together, sharing our lives in a real community I believe Peter and Paul would have been proud of. We knew what was going on in each others lives and we could provide rest for the battle-scarred among us as a result.

Time moved on and so did I to a new church in Torquay. And when I say "new" I mean about 30 regulars. We knew what was going on to an extent, but it was harder. I became hardened emotionally when my engagement ended and my dad died just before I moved church. I was told it was over a year at that church before anyone saw me smile, but despite that I was invited to help with the welcoming and the youth and children's work - something that threw newcomers as I was going through an outwardly rebellious time: I bought a Harley-Davidson, grew my hair and beard so I looked like a refugee from ZZ Top and made a point of not caring what people thought of how I looked. Amazingly, after a few minutes chatting to me none of them seemed to care how I looked either. I lost track of how many babies tried to pull my beard out and how many little girls plaited my hair during that year. It was a time I was able to be ministered to by God through the children and my scars could close if not fully heal.

All the time I was itching for a good Spiritual fight, and I often got what I was looking for. I'd come away battered and bleeding but victorious. I didn't realise how much I needed to rest though.

So when I moved to Cape Town to get married I saw it as a time to rest from the fight.

Of course, kicking away the ladder that put you where you are while you're still standing on it is not a smart thing to do. It is, however, exactly what I did. It would be almost a decade before I became a regular attendee of a local church again - and that's still a work in progress as there's a difference between "attendee" and "member". I realised I've become distrustful and wary of people because I've spent too much time away from the family that is the Church.

I've been fighting life-or-death battles for over five years and have felt completely alone for much of that time. There have been bright moments when God has put just the right person into my life to help me focus on what I should be looking at, reminding me of who I am. Those people have been God's instruments to save my life (you know who you are!).

In all that time I didn't rest. I forgot to.

Then it hit me. Jesus needed to rest.

Jesus needed rest

I realised I needed to rest in Him before I could fight effectively the way I need to to battle for my family and the growing number of men and women who have written to me voicing support for this blog. I feel your prayers and support Spiritually and I hope you are aware of mine for you in return.

Rest. It's such a simple concept in theory. But we resist it in this busy world.

We resist it because the World says it's a sign of weakness.

But God needed it.

We listen to the media.

Jesus didn't.

Remember to rest. To all my fellow warriors - everyone reading this - take time each day to rest and recharge your Spirit. I didn't for a long time and it nearly cost me everything.

Now I'm scarred, but I'm rested and I'm ready for battle again.

Make sure you are too. 

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