Many years ago, I was on a Church ‘away day’ – literally that; a day when people from the church get together and go ‘away’ somewhere. For us, it meant a fleet of cars heading down the A45 to a retreat house half an hour away.
We spent the morning with coffee and song, we had bible readings and a talk, and then probably some buffet style lunch that almost certainly involved quiche and tired lettuce (staple diet of Christian gatherings, plus a cup cake, if you’re lucky). The afternoon was designated as ‘free time’, but the agenda ended with the terrifying phrase ‘feedback’.
Feedback is as fearful a word on an agenda as ROLE PLAY. Nobody likes giving feedback, let’s be honest. And this quiet day was during the reign of the scary vicar for whom every answer was wrong, and almost certainly pointed to a “deep routed spiritual issue”. So, feedback did not instil confidence in the heart.
We were given a list of things that we might choose to do during our free time; take a walk in the grounds and see what God might be saying through nature; walk the prayer labyrinth; write a poem, create a model out of plasticine demonstrating what God wants from you; spend time in church with these bible verses… Things like that.
By now I had been fully conditioned to work hard, do all the things, guess what the Creator of the Universe is saying, read the eyes of the listener when feeding back…and adjust your answer accordingly, so I knew I needed a whole lot of material in case my first answer was ‘wrong’ (how my heart actually breaks for that Gemma, she really was trying her best 🙁). As soon as free time began, I set off, notebook in hand, ready to capture the words spilling from the mouth of the Almighty.
I rushed around the grounds, found a pinecone, picked it up. Check – that could speak about how, I dunno, God creates the seasons (lame, but I was just warming up).
I spun around the labyrinth, until I was dizzy (there was a lot to get done before the time was up). I could probably say something about how sometimes we wander off the path and get lost, but we just have to keep going. Or how God helps us when we’re lost. Throw in the parable of the sheep or something, that’ll surely get a smile and a nod.
I tried a poem; it was awful – something about hearts like conkers being smashed in the autumn and leaves crunching. I was running out of time.
The plasticine table was busy so I thought I would come back to that (I would rather take role play over plasticine any day so… 🤷🏼♀️).
I found my way into church and there were handmade bookmarks lying around, with ‘suggested readings’ on them. I sat myself down and began at the top. I could tick these off pretty quick, maybe find something really deep to say about each one and win the game.
Top of the bookmark: Psalm 46:10
I opened my bible to read “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Be still and know that I am God.
And in that moment, God spoke into my very heart; my anxious, racing, fearful heart and gave me God’s own translation of that verse. God said, ‘I am God, not you. Be still and know that’.
I am God, not you. Be still and know that.
It wasn’t a telling off, it was a reassurance. Gemma, you don’t have to do all this dashing around, trying to get everything done, trying to get all the right answers and all the praise for them. Slow down my darling and breathe.
I am God, not you. Be still and know that.
And many times, over the years I have been reminded of that. I have it writ large on my notice board in my office. I think of it every time am I stressed, every time I don’t know the answer nor how things will work themselves out. I think of it when I am dashing around to get all the things done, and when I am holed up in quarantine with nothing much to do and nowhere to be. And in every situation, it always holds true.
God is God, not us. And we would do so so well to Be Still and know that.
So, this morning I decided to take a step back from social media; I don’t need to respond to every comment or answer every question or reply to every message or any of those things. This time in quarantine is a gift, a gift I’m hoping I never get given again, but I’m not going to waste it, because, through it, and at the end of it, I want to be closer to God and more like Jesus than when I entered this room. By the end of it, I want to know more about God and more about myself and I want to be as ready as I can ever be to step boldly into this next chapter, the one where I am Rector and Wife and part of the Baseley Team, and a resident of Australia. And to do that there is nothing I really need to do…I just need to place my hand in the hand of the One who so often and so gently reminds me that This One is God, not me. And I need to be still and know that.
How about you?
Good advice – amen!
Thanks Gemma. As ever, God and grounding together. Much needed. X
Sooo beautifully expressed! Love it♥️
Loving these blogs Gemma you should maybe right a book. Xx
Did the same yesterday. A culture of ‘Make the best if it’ ,’don’t waste time’ etc has been drilled into me. Wasting time with God was wonderful.
Some of my fave words from the Bible, the other one is I know the plans I have for you etc.
Oh wow, such wise text, stop racing and stressing, breathe, calm and relax knowing you are part of something so much greater. Thank you again (and again) Gemma.xx