None of us expected 2020 to turn out the way it has so far. Our current reality and day-to-day lives look nothing like anything we could ever have imagined! It’s been a really tough adjustment, and often, it’s still hard. Often, amidst these hard moments, life lessons are learnt and faith is strengthened.
My boyfriend is sitting halfway across the world in the UK, still struggling to find a flight to come home after many months away. My challenge is most likely very different to yours, but amidst everything else, the emotional and mental toll it takes on all of us to continue in this new normal is often draining and very taxing. And while I would not be able to completely understand what you’re going through, and vice versa, we can totally empathise and acknowledge that we’re all going through trials right now.
But, as with all things, challenges bring beautiful moments of victory. Life lessons are learnt, and wisdom is obtained that can only be achieved through these challenges. Some of the lessons I’ve learnt are listed below. They may seem like common sense, but we all know that some ‘common sense’ is just not that common!
Boundaries are SO important
There are books, sermons, podcasts, videos and so much other content available on this subject. Unfortunately, in my experience, it isn’t something you truly understand until you’ve put yourself into an unfortunate situation where you’ve had to learn it the hard way.
I said yes to every after-work project after lockdown started. In hindsight, it was a combination of wanting to assist in providing relief in whichever way I could using my skills during this time, as well as a way to not have to think or feel the frustration and sadness that came with the extended long distance relationship and close friends and family who have been hard hit by the pandemic. I’ve never enjoyed dealing with my own emotions and keeping busy has always been a coping mechanism. Yet despite my self-awareness, here I am, doing it again.
Being able to say ‘no’ feels like it should be a talent. I really struggle with it. A wise friend of mine told me a hard truth after I told her how tired I was. She said that even though what we’re busy with is often good, it may not be what God wants us to be doing, and ultimately, obedience to God is always the best outcome.
It’s okay to look after yourself
This was a hard lesson because of pop culture’s overuse of ‘self-love’, which has become an annoying buzz-phrase which I think focuses too much on individualism rather than healthy self-care. And so I’ve started to focus more on self-care rather than self-love. In a recent article published here on CBN Africa, Kate describes how showing grace and kindness to yourself (because of God’s grace and love) overflows and consequently you’re able to be kind and gracious to others. And that totally resonated. We’re called to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. How are we meant to love our neighbours if we’re tired, burnt out and don’t have the emotional capacity to show kindness and love?
So, self-care. Whether it’s setting stricter boundaries, eating healthier and exercising regularly, having more quiet time or reaching out to chat to someone, it’s so important that we do it. Setting pride and good intentions aside and listening to where God is leading us. Sometimes He’s leading us into a place or a season of rest.
I’m now reevaluating my priorities and commitments with God and seeing where He would like me to continue committing and where I need to let go and rest in Him. Isn’t it crazy how we have the head knowledge that God’s plans and ways are ultimately way better than ours, yet we still struggle to surrender?
Grace is Essential
Our theme here at CBN South Africa for May and June has been grace. Through the past month and a half, God has started revealing what grace truly is and how magnificent it is to me. I also watched The Chosen, a series about Jesus’ life (watch it here if you haven’t yet). In the last episode, Jesus is chatting to the Samaritan woman at the well. Rather than condemning her for her disobedient lifestyle, He offers her grace, truth and affection. It struck me. What is the point of breaking ourselves down or feeling ashamed of our sin and disobedience? Jesus doesn’t want us to encounter truth and feel ashamed, He wants us to read the truth and fall into His loving, forgiving embrace!
And it’s in that loving embrace where grace washes over you like a waterfall, strong yet beautifully gentle. Spending time with God keeps our hearts, minds and souls aligned with His. We’re constantly drinking from the living water, the very water He offered the Samaritan woman. And because of that, grace flows out of us and changes us. It touches the lives of those around us. It changes the way we think, the way we love people and the way we view justice. It’s truly a wonderful, life-changing embrace. And He wants all of us to fall into it.
One of the many great things offered to us through relationship with HIm is that even though we mess up again and again – we lose our temper with our family, we turn a blind eye to suffering, etc – His loving embrace is always there for us. He sees us, He sees our hearts, He sees who we truly are and He loves us despite our sin and weaknesses. That truth fills my heart with such hope!
Beautiful Moments of Victory
It’s these very life lessons and moments of revelation that are the moments of victory I mentioned earlier. It’s the calm reaction rather than a shouting match when your teenager disobeys you again. It’s the empathy and anguish you feel when you actually see the suffering around you. It’s the balance you enjoy when you find the courage to say ‘no.’ It’s learning to fall into His embrace when you feel like you can’t continue any longer.
These victory moments give us hope, give us the ability to love better and to make better decisions going forward. And it’s also these victory moments that allow us to share the beauty and truth of the Gospel as a natural overflow of an abundant life.
It doesn’t make our circumstances any less difficult, but it certainly makes them more bearable and gives us nuggets of joy, despite what’s happening around us.
I hope that these little life lessons I’ve recently learnt inspire and encourage you. If you would like to pray together or would like to share some of the life lessons you’ve learnt recently, please get in contact with me – I would love that!