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Monday, 7 March 2016

God can get tiny if we’re not careful

I have been wanted to write this blog for a long time. The title is another quote from Boyle's memoir. When recounting tales of life in amongst Los Angeles' Projects he reminds us that God can, all too quickly, become tiny; made in our own small image instead of being allowed to be Himself. 

I think I have been guilty of this in recent weeks. I have made God tiny.

In part, this is due to the massive upheaval of all things since Sarah's arrival. She is beautiful, joyful and I am totally besotted, but she is also exhausting.The first two weeks of her life lulled me into a false sense of security as she mainly slept through them, but now that she is the world's most wide awake newborn, I am struggling to make sense of what motherhood is supposed to look like. Especially motherhood with Jesus. All of the normal ways in which I connect with God - writing, reading scripture, silence, guitar playing, blogging - have been stripped away (mostly by the fact that breastfeeding teaches you the art of onehandedness and most of the above cannot really be done well with only one hand) and I find that my relationship with God feels dry and empty. I ache to spend time with Him in the ways that I am accustomed, trying desperately to squeeze in some space in the fleeting moments of each day (like this one) in which I might determine what I do with my time, but, those elusive moments are usually interrupted, or else never quite recognised as possibilities because I decide that I need to do the washing up instead.   

And then I start to feel resentful. Cross at Sarah because she won't nap and I am tired of ceaseless rocking. Cross with myself for not being able to multi-task. Cross with God because He feels distant. Cross at the fact that I have no idea how to share the love of Jesus with others when my energy is completely spent. I have perfected the art of making God tiny: squeezing him into the cracks and crevices of my day and then wondering why it is that He doesn't seem to fit.

A few days ago, I listened to a sermon by Danielle Strickland in which she talks about much the same thing as Boyle: the miniaturising of God. In putting so much emphasis on our own personal relationship with Jesus, she says that we run the risk of forgetting just how big and wonderful and wild his redemptive purposes are for all of creation. We make much of accepting Jesus into our hearts instead of recognising that, by saying Yes to Him, we are drawn into his heart. We are united with Him (Colossians 3:1) and invited to work alongside Him in changing the world. This is not to make little of the wonder and glory of a personal relationship with the King of the World - that in itself is pretty spectacular - but simply to say that although salvation might start with us it is not intended to remain so: we are saved that we might share the joy of salvation; we are welcomed in that others might also come in to join the party. (1 John 1:4) 

In the past few weeks, I have despaired that my own personal relationship with God seems somewhat of a shambles. Seems being the operative word because, of course, it isn't. God is no smaller, or further away. He has not changed. He is faithful and constant and always working. (John 5:17) He is at work restoring all things. In recent weeks I have lost sight of this big-ness. In the darkness and loneliness of the early hours feeding Sarah, I have lost sight of the hugeness of God's plan. So intent have I become on bemoaning the shift in my relationship with Him, and the failure for Him to fit into my agenda, that I have stopped asking Him what His agenda is. 

I have made him tiny.

This came to a head last week. A friend cancelled on me so I suddenly found myself with a spare hour in which to do my mad cramming-squeezing God routine. I could go on a prayer walk. I could go out for a coffee with my bible. I could hang out with Sarah and listen to some worship music. The possibilities were endless! I determined that it was prime blog-writing time and started to ponder how I was going to communicate this truth of making God tiny. And then, ironically, and somewhat annoyingly, God interrupted my pondering: You're making me tiny right now. You're trying to fit me in to your ever-changing, tightly structured agenda instead of being part of my plan. Instead of asking me what you should do with this time, and how you might join in with my world-changing, you're trying to make me conform to what you want to do. 

Oh dear. 

And so, slightly belligerently, I stopped my plan-making and prayed: well, what do you want me to? 

Of course, it isn't always possible to scrap our plans and commitments. We have jobs, meetings, responsibilities that need our attention and our time management. But I think God's gentle nudge to me, as Strickland's sermon had been, was to say Don't make me tiny. Don't be so intent on creating the times and spaces where you want me to do something that you forget that I am always the one doing, all the time. I am working when you are exhausted and barely able to keep your eyes open as you calm you child; I am working when you don't have time to see a particular person; I am working in the hearts and lives of all around you, and in the whole of the created order. And what's more, if you would only stop and pay attention, you could join in!

And so, this week, I am trying to be alert to the purposes of God. I am trying to do what Jesus did in only doing what the Father is doing - which presumably meant he had to keep asking the Father what he was doing (John 5:19).

I am trying not to make God tiny. 

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