At the outset of Colour Conference, our host Bobbie asked herself “if my journey over the past 12 months could teach you anything, what would it be?”
The question struck a chord with me. This year has been, to echo Bobbie’s choice of words, hellish. I’d even go so far as to say one of the most difficult seasons I’ve experienced – which for those of you who know some of my life’s journey, is quite the statement. I wondered, did I learn anything this year? Was this season since leaving Australia and travelling, the emotional roller coaster that it has been, somehow worthwhile in what it has taught me?
I’ve not handled this season well. I’m sad that I didn’t make more of this freedom, that my travels and adventures have been so fraught with anxiety and heavy thoughts that I haven’t truly allowed myself to enjoy what I know a lot of friends feel envious of me for.
So here are the main lessons that I have learned over the last year or so, written with many tears and internally dragging my feet like a grumpy toddler – but hopefully have helped me to grow up into maturity.
1. A longer lie-in isn’t always the solution
I’ve spent much of this year feeling tired. So tired. I thought sleep was the answer, but it turns out, that was just my “avoiding life” tactic. I wasn’t physically tired, I was spiritually and emotionally tired. Tired of life. Until I began to ask myself the hard questions and face my reality, Nothing would change.
2. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away
I’m an excellent procrastinator. Especially with tasks or problems that seem huge or I don’t know how to tackle. But avoiding an obstacle doesn’t make it go away and it doesn’t get any smaller – in fact it just gets bigger, because of the added stress that you put on yourself, missing deadlines or knowing you still have to do it. A friend once said to me as I told her of how I put difficult tasks off, how she tells herself “now is good”. Having that little phrase in my hand and heart helps me to face life head on and do things as and when I need to. It’s such a positive feeling and a weight off my mind when I’ve completed something I wasn’t looking forward to.
3. I am responsible for my emotional health
I’ve spent too much time this year blaming other people. How can people or family not know how difficult it is to change careers and countries and be away from all your friends and social support network and the only adult life you’ve known? How can friends not think it would be worthwhile to ask how I’m doing once in a while? Why don’t people write back, when I’m hurting and don’t know where to turn and feel like I’m drowning? My expectations of what I want and need right now have been unrealistic and led to me feeling disappointed and unloved. The real problem though is that I’ve expected others to fulfil a role that was never theirs to fill; noone can give me the unconditional love and ever faithful support to me except God, and to expect them to is damaging to us both. If I am sick, I should see a doctor. If I need support, I should ask friends, instead of expecting them to work it out. If they don’t help me when I ask, I should understand that people are not perfect and will let you down, but learn from it about what kind of friend I want to be.
4. Never develop a wounded spirit
One of Pastor Brian Houston’s sayings, I never fully understood it until this year. Tying in closely with not putting unrealistic expectations onto other people, and looking after my own health and wellbeing, don’t take offence when people don’t meet those expectations you have for them. Don’t give them that power over you; take back the key. If people let you down, be the bigger person, and love them anyway. It’s through showing a better example that others can grow and learn. And a bitter or wounded spirit is toxic – to you and those around you. Rise above it, and be the leader you were born to be.
5. Only you can take the steps
I’ve realised something that is at once both incredibly scary yet liberating. This is my journey, and it is me who takes the steps on this road home. No-one else can make the hard choices for me, and I can’t just close my eyes and wish God would magically carry me along, while I remain passive and apathetic. If I don’t like where I’m headed, I must move in a different direction. I can seek advice from friends and mentors, I can pray, and I spend countless hours googling options. But it is me who must, with all wisdom and consideration on board, make the decisions and carry out the daily choices that move me towards where I want my journey to take me.