I woke up this morning thinking this. It probably has a lot to do with enjoying a bottle of ‘Supertuscan’ red wine with our comforting home-made lasagne on a dark, wet Tuesday evening – delicious and highly complementary at the time, but leaving me feeling less than 100% at 6.30am. It’s what used to be called a ‘hangover’ from the night before – a result of dehydration and strange dreams: a good night’s sleep makes the world of difference to a day. I wasn’t thinking about that when I opened the wine to cheer up my tired husband after a crazy day in clinic: often a choice is a non-choice, ill-considered if considered at all.
It’s OK, don’t worry – I’m not that ill! And I’m not beating myself up either, because the other thought I have been having this morning is that often I allow my feelings – physical or emotional, usually a mixture of both – to assess whether I am ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘doing well’ or not. But that is ridiculous – because feelings just ARE… and they are often a consequence of a choice. It wasn’t wrong to drink the wine with our dinner and feeling under-par today doesn’t make me a bad person: it just IS the consequence of drinking a little too much.
I have long-believed in the law of sowing and reaping – and that it is far more widely applicable than we realise. Through life I have made certain key choices – getting married, having 2 children, not engaging in my own career for instance – which have obviously resulted in our life-style and relationships now. Other people may choose not to marry or not to reproduce, to be a career-person – which opens up both positive and negative results for them: more independence, perhaps more money – maybe becoming more lonely and more selfish. Neither choice is wrong or right – it just has its own consequences, which we then have to live with – as does the choice so many working women make these days to try to have it all… and of course, some women have little choice in the matter and that too has its consequences.
It’s the same with less life-changing things, like choosing to pursue friendship with someone by making the effort to keep in touch, putting dates in the diary to meet, getting involved in their lives: if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. Or choosing what to eat and how much exercise to take, resulting in a certain body shape! A lot of the time we probably don’t make conscious choices about these things – life can just drift and you find yourself overweight or having lost a close friendship without realising why. We are not in control of everything that happens of course, but if we want to ‘reap’ certain things we have to ‘live life on purpose’. You won’t become a doctor unless you do 5 years training – but of course you might fail the exams anyway or change your mind… You won’t become a marathon runner unless you go into training, though an injury might stop you. It is as Paul wrote to Timothy:
‘No-one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs— he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this’ 2 Timothy 2v4-7
The ‘insight’ is to do with sowing and reaping: ‘give yourself fully to the life you have chosen and you will get the rewards of that life’. This will necessarily mean eschewing certain other things – ‘civilian life’ – keeping within the ‘rules’ and working hard at it! As followers of Jesus we have hopefully made that conscious choice – which He described as ‘denying yourself and daily taking up your cross’ (Luke 9v23)! But this law applies to everything and everyone: if you stop and consider someone’s life it will be full of consequences of choices that have been made.
We could look at the government’s economic choices and financial consequences in our nation. We could wonder what will be the consequence of today’s general strike, apart from picket-lines, clashes, voices raised and discontent aired, schools closed and hospitals understaffed. What will it achieve? We are all living with the uncomfortable consequences of years of greed and there are hard choices to be made all round.
Money is a really interesting one: money, like time, is very powerful ‘seed’. My friend Christine and I always laugh about the old teaching that ‘if you tithe you will prosper’. Having given a lot of money into church ministry for years, guess what? We are poorer! Sowing a tenth of your income into God’s work is not automatically going to multiply your money! It is a sacrifice to Him and He will surely see it and reward you… but every seed that goes into the ground comes up looking different (1 Corinthians 15v37-38) so why not this?! When we sow our seed into a person’s journey, we will benefit from that journey; when we sow into the poor we will know God’s provision in our own lives, when we are generous, God will give to us in all sorts of ways – but tithing is not a magic money-multiplier. Our experience of giving money, investing in something or someone we believe in, has resulted in some of the best connections, friendships and fruitfulness in our lives… but Martin never has been able to afford a yacht 😉
I know it is not simple… many other factors can interfere with our plans, not least other people’s choices, eg our parents or spouse. There are unforeseen circumstances and accidents that stop us in our tracks: this family certainly know about that! Then it becomes time to make another choice – in how to respond to the challenge, how to cope, what to do now… We have never been ones for 5 year plans and goals, but I’d like to think we are ‘living life on purpose’; we have followed a path through the valley of shadow which has led up and down, we have made a lot of noise, got a lot of people involved – and lately discovered the value of silence: a variety of choices at different times, coming out of the flow and demands of the journey.
Right now I have decided to pursue my version of ‘work’ – which is to write about the things I have learned over 10 years of being involved in prophetic prayer ministry. I want to pass on what I know about all this – do a course, produce a booklet… I don’t have to do it, but if I choose to put in the effort hopefully there will be a result, something solid as a legacy of all my work 😉 It’s the same with my decision to facilitate another ‘Mercy Cry’ prayer meeting in February – dovetailing with the book/teaching idea really – and starting to prepare for that with a dedicated blog: I am ‘sowing where I want to go’. Again – I don’t have to… but I am choosing to. I think a lot of the time God likes it when His adult children elect to take a certain path, in line with their gifts and calling. I think, rather than guidance being ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ often He is waiting for us to decide and then says, ‘That’s great! If that’s what you want to do I’ll come with you’. But unsurprisingly there is always a cost to be paid, and for me, with my particular personality and history, there are some other more personal consequences to what I have set myself to do.
First of all, obviously I have taken on a task and therefore a burden, so it is very easy to feel apprehensive and anxious: I have to keep choosing to put it down and trust the Lord. I have to keep choosing to discipline myself – to both rest and work, not to mention pray! I feel excited but also vulnerable – I have put my heart ‘out there’ and it is a risk. I have stood up to lead something… but am I on track? Will it be a success? Do I look stupid? Plus this prophetic prayer gathering is aiming high – national issues, big picture – which necessarily creates spiritual pressure too: I need support and advice, to build a team around me. With all that has been happening in our lives I could be forgiven for letting this go for once – but I am choosing to stretch, to invest, to make my life a prayer. The writing a course/book idea also adds pressure and I am not ‘getting round to it’ at the moment… Who put that pressure on? Me!
All these feelings are also ongoing consequences of my choices. But it is a relief to know that however I feel – proud of myself or an idiot, confused, guilty or happy – that doesn’t make me good or bad: it just IS part of what happens when you choose to do something.
Good: now I have said ALL that… I choose coffee!