So I’ve been taking part in a ‘lent series’, that our divisional youth specialist promoted on Facebook. Each day you get a notification with a bible verse or a few verses, then at different points in the day you get up to maybe three other notifications. These either include points to reflect on, or react to.
I initially signed up to it because I’d been looking for some sort of devotional thing, and the notifications seemed like as good a chance as any that I might stick to it. The idea behind it is to help you introduce some daily rhythm into your life and create intentional moments of focusing on God throughout the day, and thus getting to know God and Jesus more by the end of the series. Or that’s what I’m taking it as anyway.
Since I’ve been using my bullet journal to plan out my weeks, record gratitude and purposefully pray for people, I thought it might be helpful to write down the daily bible verses and thought points every day in the journal. I always take things in more if I write them down so I hoped it would help me connect deeper to the scripture and the points for reflection.
And it has. I was determined not to do what I usually do with things like this and last a few days, forget about it and move on. I’ve managed to write out every day’s reading and reflections so far, even if I had fallen a week or so behind and had to write out a lot yesterday! I’ve included pictures of the pages in my journal throughout this post, although have blurred out a few bits where I’ve responded and it’s more personal than I’d like to share on here.
When I was catching up last night, I got to one that was based on Jonah 2:5-7, when basically Jonah is drowning and then he looks to God for help. (Clearly that’s the shortened, edited version) The messages along with the verse first asked if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed (yes!!), then secondly told you to react by telling someone how you honestly feel right now – be it good or bad – and ask them to pray with you/for you. I haven’t done many of the ‘react’ tasks, however as soon as I read this I knew I wanted to do it. I wasn’t really sure who to do it with, but I picked two people I trusted and went from there.
I don’t like asking people to pray for me. I find it really odd, and find that it feels even more vulnerable than asking for ‘normal’ help. I’m not really sure why this is – maybe it’s because I’m not good about talking about my faith in God in general, or because I don’t fully understand how the whole praying thing really works, or because I’m not used to doing it, or possibly just because I don’t like admitting when I need help. I have however just finished another month of consciously choosing somebody specific every day to pray for, and I figured that if I can manage to pray for people, then I could be brave enough to ask someone to do the same for me.
Anyway, once I got over the initial cringing of asking someone to pray for me, I cringed some more by admitting how I honestly feel at the minute. It sounds really straightforward, but in order to make the process worthwhile I wanted to be brutally honest, and that’s not always so easy or so pretty. Anyway, I wrote out a paragraph about how I feel about life at the minute (and rewrote it about 10 times, no exaggeration), and moved on.
The next notification for that day was another instruction, which was to check in on your friends, ask how they are doing, really listen, and pray for them too. Another thing I don’t find easy to do, but that I was keen to do . Partly because it provided a way of having proper chat – it’s not always easy to have conversations like these with friends about how things are or how either of you are really getting on or feeling. Often we’re ‘too busy’ to get together to catch up, or we see each other briefly, or it can be awkward to bring up, particularly in relationships where you don’t see each other often and communication is mostly done by text. The two friends I (initially..I kind of intend to do it with more) sent the message to are close friends of mine, but ones that I have quite different relationships with. One i tend to go to for help a lot, and the other often comes to me. With the friend I turn to a lot, I’m often concerned that I don’t get the chance to be there for her or reciprocate the support. And with the other, I was conscious to show that I trust her just as she does me. So I was keen in both cases to try and strengthen the relationship and make it stronger in both directions.
Anyway, after rewriting the entire message at least a dozen times, I finally sent it and went to sleep, nervous in anticipation to see how they would respond to my randomness. (I did apologise twice in the message – once for the length of it, and also for if it seemed odd or random…. why so much fear of being judged?!)
And I’m really glad I sent them. I’ve had some good, real conversations today as a result – something I hugely value. I’ve been prayed for twice (there’s a double sided comfort in that – knowing you’re supported by friends, and by God), and I’ve heard what is going on in my friends’ lives and prayed for them in return.
I preached in devotions at youth band recently about how we often talk to our friends about all kinds of stuff, but rarely about God, and that it shouldn’t be that way. Only, until yesterday I hadn’t really taken my own advice. I cringed at having conversations about praying for each other, yet there was a huge comfort and also a closeness that came from doing so. (For me, at least. Maybe those friends are reading this now thinking I’m a nutter!) I’ve always raised my eyebrows (surprise surprise) when it gets preached that relationships need to be built around God, but maybe I’m beginning to see how much stronger they can be when that is actually the case.
So, I’d preach the same thing as I did at youth band – “It’s important that we talk to each other about our faith and how we’re doing spiritually, just as we would have a conversation about how we’re feeling physically. I know it can feel awkward, but it really shouldn’t.” It can feel awkward and i was even afraid of being judged for being ‘too holy’, despite knowing that both of the friends I text are just as invested (and inquisitive!) about their faith as I am. My advice – go for it. Talk to God, (I still struggle with this concept, but if you do too, bear with me!) and talk to your friends about talking to God.
I might share some more posts about what else has come up in the lent series, but that’s all for now. (Thank goodness I hear you say!) I’m really glad I signed up to it, because between that, the conscious effort to pray, and writing down 3 things I’m grateful for every day, I’m noticing a positive difference in my outlook on things, and that can’t be a bad thing!!