Top of the morning to you all!
Today’s little blog entry is about something very simple and yet something where many people feel blocked in their spiritual lives and ministries. Growth! How to move forward.
As a child I often found myself out in the fields chasing after cows. Every now and then they’d all have to be tested for diseases and given certain medications against diseases such as fluke.
As we’d be rounding them up some areas of the fields were literally knee deep in mud and getting from one place to another was like negotiating an obstacle course.
Now my dad, a silent type of a man did have a few catch phrases and although simple, when repeated over time were effective and wise!
“Go slowly and pick your steps”.
You see you had to concentrate, look about, look ahead, look for a safe place for your foot and then move.
Think too much and the cows were lost, think too little and you were lost!
It was like real life chess.
As life progressed I noticed that the “pick your steps” principle still held true and 25 years later when I had to visit a psychiatrist for a little bit of support he repeated almost the same thing.
“Festina Lente” he said which translated from Latin means “Hurry slowly”.
Now judging by his physical weight one could argue that he should hurry a bit more quickly but judging from the big smile on his face and his warm, loving and caring approach, Dr. O’Mahony has definitely got something. How he loved and cared about his patients and remained so positive even when some like me were in despair was in itself a gift.
So without further ado, let’s examine this ‘hurry slowly’ principle.
You have a target, like assembling a piece of furniture from IKEA all the pieces of the puzzle are there, just somehow to put them together.
Applying this to your life, you have gifts and talents, you have friends and aquantices, you have church and ministry……how does it all come together?
Unlike the wardrobe from IKEA which I assembled a few days ago with some help from housemates there is often one thing missing when it comes to assembling our lives, a step by step instruction pack!
However this doesn’t have to be a roadblock. Just because you don’t have the instruction book doesn’t mean that there isn’t an instruction book so you simply need to befriend the guy with the book!
The other day that guy was me! I had the book and we all worked together as a team and we assembled the wardrobe quite easily.
However I don’t have the book to my own life and while I may have been giving instructions the other day, usually I’m the one receiving instructions when it comes to my own life and Jesus is the guy with the book!
If we try to do life without consulting the guy with the instructions, we are likely to finish up like this wardrobe, an utter mess.
And so this is why if you really want to grow your gifts you need 2 very fundamental things.
1. A good prayer life grounded in humility and honesty with both yourself and with God.
2. A spiritual coach, spiritual director, mentor, teacher…..whatever word you put on it but someone who knows what they are talking about and will be the visible presence of God so to speak as you grow.
Next you will need a lot of focus. You must stay focused on your calling and on the end result while not losing courage by seeing how far away it seems now.
You must believe in yourself that you can and will make it with God’s help and that giving up is not an option.
Next criterion is patience. Like following any set of instructions from baking a cake to assembling a wardrobe, there are many small steps that need to be done with care and attention if all is to work out.
As the Holy Spirit has so often reminded me in prayer:
“Small steps are big steps”.
They seem small to us because we are perhaps too focused on seeing the end result and yet these little and invisible steps are exactly what will give the end result its flavour and functionality.
What good is a wardrobe if inside there are no shelves or indeed what good is a beautiful cake if upon tasting it we find that it has no flavour?
And similarly, what good will your ministry be if all it is is an outward shell lacking love and depth and so anointing?!
Here is where you will get tested the most.
“You are going too slow”
“Life is passing you by”
“You are too old”
“People half your age are streets ahead of you”.
Ignore them all and continue to hurry slowly.
Next important step is obedience. Your gifts and ministry will grow over time.
I’ve met many people over the years who have given me a very hard time because I’m in ministry and I’m not fully healed. Mant of them too have had spiritual gifts but gave up somewhere along the way believing that it was the humble thing to do.
No! God can and will use you on a small scale at the start and as He grows you, He will use you on a larger scale. Don’t listen to those who tell you otherwise. Yes you will make mistakes, at times your mistakes will even hurt others but that’s all part of the journey. Learn from them and keep on going.
Surround yourself with a small group of similar minded people. Think of a music band, you don’t want too many as otherwise it’ll get too complicated but you want a few so that you can encourage one another and share ideas.
Even if you see yourself more as a solo artist, it’s still important to have a few good and like minded friends. You’ll need them for the hard days and also to help you celebrate when you pass important milestones!
Now the most important ingredient of all is one that I have already mentioned. Prayer.
If you really want to grow your future, you will have to keep one eye on the past too.
Inner wounds and hurts from the past are the main things that the evil spirit uses to try to stop us. God does not heal these in one go, He does it progressively.
Ongoing inner emotional and spiritual healing is not an option if you really want to grow, it is a must!
Every now and then like a car that needs servicing, the Holy Spirit will send you for yet another retreat and you’ll be surprised at what gets uprooted! He’s doing this to strengthen you so that you will have the inner strength to stand strong when you get abused and criticised for what you are doing by those who hate both God and the church.
Again this one is a stumbling block for many! Why work so hard and then to be hated for it?!!!
Well this my friends is the true seal of authenticity. Jesus was not loved by people, He was crucified but because He did everything for the love of God rather than the love of people, He died happily.
Are we looking for the approval of people or is God’s approval enough? Do we have what it takes? Are we willing to go that extra mile or are we like the rich young man who walks away when he learns what following Jesus is really all about?
Finally, before I finish I will mention one last thing and this is for Catholics only I’m afraid (for the rest of you, you are always welcome to convert!).
There is enormous spiritual power and strength available in the sacraments. Daily mass and regular confession provide more strength and power to rise above the most difficult of trials and there is no creature in the universe more willing and more equipped to help us come to these sacraments with maximum fervour, understanding and surrender than Our Lady, Jesus’ first act most successful missionary!
And so with all that said and written, you can do it! You are not alone, God is with you, the sacraments are there, many other Christians are there too to help and they too had to start off somewhere.
So chins up, there are souls to inspire, there are people to love and there is Jesus to please!
“You can do it, hurry slowly and pick your steps!”
P.S. Feel free to get in contact if you would like some advice, mentoring or just to chat!