The week before Julian and i got married, his mum became very ill. She was admitted into hospital and every day the report from the doctors got worse and worse leading to a call the night before the wedding telling us that she wasn’t going to make it through the night. In that moment, i felt like we were going to be swallowed up in grief and loss, just at the moment where we should have been caught up in great celebration. Amazingly, what the doctors predicted didn’t happen – mum pulled through, the wedding went ahead, and though she wasn’t there to witness the day, she’s alive and well today to witness our marriage. In the weeks after our wedding, Julian and i spent some time processing what had happened – we felt like we’d got caught up in a whirlwind that threatened to destroy our joy and peace and though we were thrilled at the turn-around in mum’s health and the wonder of being married, we needed to process some of the disappointment of his mum’s illness and her absence on the wedding day.
Shortly after this, we were in Redding, California for a conference at Bethel Church and i had an encounter with God that has completely transformed my understanding of battling in the whirlwind. God burst in on me in such a way that i spent about an hour and a half crying with laughter – i could not control it and every time i tried to stop it, another wave of pure, overwhelming joy would wash over me. What was unusual about this encounter is that it started as i was having my dinner in the hotel. You can just imagine what kind of scene i was making! Poor Julian had to half carry me out into the car, and again had to help me into the evening meeting of the conference. As i lay on the floor completely undone by this laughter i started asking God what on earth was going on. I had not asked Him for this hysterical manifestation so i knew He must be up to something!
He began to tell me that He was teaching me about warfare. That He was showing me how to be an effective intercessor – His joy is strength (Nehemiah 8), and in a battle, God knows we need strength. He spoke to me about how He wanted me to pursue this kind of happy warfare next time i was caught in a whirlwind that threatened to destroy. This is warfare Jesus style – get super happy in God, tap into the rivers of joy in His heart and laugh at the enemy’s plans, laugh at his lies and start declaring the exact opposite into being. After all, our Father laughs at the enemy (Psalm 37) and prepares for us feasts in the presence of ours (Psalm 23). It’s time for us to stop living an anaemic version of christianity because we’ve overlooked the importance of joy in the battle. When was the last time we accepted God’s invitation to feast in the presence of our enemies? To fill up on His joy and goodness and kindness and stand our ground and laugh at the absurdity of the enemy’s tactics.
Joy is not a frivolity. Joy = Strength. Live a life devoid of joy and i’ll bet there’ll be a great shortage of strength too. But accept the invitation to dive into God’s joy and you’ll find all the strength needed for the battlefield. Laughter is powerful and intercession can be fun. Who knew?
A few years ago i had a picture during a time of worship that has been going through my mind in recent days. What i saw in that moment changed how i lived life subsequently and now as its memory has been floating around in my mind, i’m feeling afresh its provocation to step out just a little bit further than my predictable, safe normality and allow myself to be stretched again. In the vision i saw myself jumping into ocean waters and swimming as deep as i could go and then returning to the surface to catch my breath. I had this feeling of needing to go deeper still, so i would jump back into the water again and try to get to new depths, before inevitably having to come back up to catch my breath. The vision continued like this a number of times – repeated cycles of me plunging into the waters, trying to stretch to greater depths but always, disappointingly returning to the surface to catch my breath. As i tried to make sense of what i was seeing, i felt the Father gently but firmly pinpointing my problem – i was struggling to reach the depths i longed for because i was always saving enough breath to return to the surface. His invitation to me, though simple, was completely radical to the sensibilities of my ‘rational’ thinking – He was inviting me into adventure with Him where i would not save enough breath to return to where i’d started but i’d invest it all in exploring new depths of His heart. No more safety net. No more sensible reserves incase my God adventure didn’t come off. No going back. His invitation was full-blown, abandoned, head-long plunging into the unknown with no intention of ever coming back to the surface. Of choosing to make my home in the depths of His heart and His adventures for me. To take the hand i’ve been dealt with today and go ‘all in’ on it. I don’t know about you, but i don’t want to reach the end of today knowing that i still have breath in me for returning to the surface. I want to live today recklessly spending all my reserves, trusting that the One who calls me to Himself has more than enough to sustain me on this crazy wonderful journey of following Him.
I think i may be too hard on myself. In my attempts to live a ‘supernatural lifestyle’ (whatever that looks like), i often beat myself up if i don’t get something right first time round or assume that i must have made a mistake if whatever i’ve stepped out to do doesn’t come off as i had hoped or planned. I remember going out onto the streets of London a few years ago with my wonderful friend Toni and praying for the sick (or anybody we could find who would let us pray for them!) and wondering what i was doing wrong as we didn’t seem to be seeing any miracles happening as we prayed. I remember walking away disappointed as time and again we weren’t seeing any ‘success’, wondering if i was really built for supernatural life after all. Maybe the promise of the miraculous was meant for ‘special’ christians who were more anointed than i was? More recently though, i’ve started wondering if my only mistake at that time was to underestimate the beauty and the nature of process. When a child learns to walk or talk no one with any sense is assuming that they’ll be able to do it successfully on the first attempt. In fact, no one with any sense assumes that they’ll be able to do it successfully on the hundredth attempt either! It takes countless attempts for a child to step out until eventually their stumbles look more like walking rather than falling, and their words become intelligible instead of baby babble. But if you look at their parents during this process, they never once punish the child for falling instead of taking a successful step, or for mispronouncing a word for the hundredth time even though dad has taken great pains to sound the word out correctly for the child to follow. As we see stumbles and hear nonsensical sounds from the child, no one comes to the conclusion that the child wasn’t actually created to walk or talk. That somehow those are gifts reserved for ‘special’ or ‘super’ children – which as evidenced by their failed attempts, our children do not possess. In the natural, we understand the beauty and nature of process well. Why then, do we not apply this same principle to our attempts at stepping out in supernatural life? Why do we set up such impossibly high standards for ourselves as if our heavenly Papa is growing impatient with us as He watches us stumble, wondering if we’ll ever get it right. He has grace for the process, and so must we. Every time we fall instead of walk, our heavenly Papa is there to pick us up, dust us off and say, ‘That’s ok, we’ll try again tomorrow, you’ll get it eventually – i made you to!’ No amount of stumbling and failure is proof that we were not made for the miraculous or that signs and wonders are reserved for someone other than us. Each and every one of us carries DNA aglow with supernatural life, which means we were created with the miraculous in mind. If you’re someone like me, who still often finds herself stumbling – resembling more a fall than a walk in the supernatural, take heart. Your heavenly Papa is right there with you with a big smile on His face – attracted much more to your faith than your performance – and is saying, ‘That’s ok my love. We’ll try again tomorrow’.