23rd January 2014

Coal for the Soul

Burning coalsI have a confession to make about something that has recently been bothering me: New Year’s resolutions – I don’t like them! It is around this time each year that we see debut runners pass by, drenched in an alarming amount of sweat and cursing the very existence of mince pies.

These resolutions rarely last a whole 12 months and, as a result, leave you feeling lousy for the remainder of the year. You desperately try to stay on a track you’ve already veered off as you go for a pilates class after feeling guilty for having that kebab or you drink the whole bottle of Baileys because your week’s been awful. They just don’t stick.

I’ve had a recurring New Year’s resolution, which, no matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to keep for longer than a few months… reading the Bible in a year. I’ve never got close to achieving what I set out to do, and it’s annoyed me increasingly. I’ll do well in the first week or two, as I get used to waking up early, with my coffee in one hand and optimism in the other, but after a bad week, I’ll lie in bed at 7.30am on a Saturday morning and chuckle at the notion of even opening my eyelids, let alone at the idea of opening up Leviticus 3 to find what to do with the fat and kidneys of a goat when at a peace offering!

I’ve tried to instead aim for something more achievable, less daunting and more suited to the type of person I am. First thing to consider: I’m slow at reading, so trying to read five chapters a day doesn’t work for me. I forget what I just read by the time I’m halfway down a page, let alone two chapters ago. But I do have a desire for the Word, so one thing I’m having a go at again is a prayer journal. I’ve tried it in the past, and after getting over it feeling a little alien, it’s very rewarding. Also, I’m forgetful, so I need that constant reminder of where God’s taking me and how He’s shaped me, so I can ask myself if I am acting on what He spoke to me about back then.

Here’s a look at what I’ve been thinking about in my journal lately:
“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.”
Psalm 119:2

This psalm fits in really well with what’s been on my heart recently. Last year I had a real longing to know the Word, but I never quite satisfied that hunger. This meant I put a ton of pressure on myself to know Him and His Word more. While at Impact training the other week, a lady pointed out this unhelpful amount of pressure I’d never realised I’d adopted and she reminded me that I don’t need to know and understand the entire Bible to have a better relationship with the Father. He doesn’t sit there with score-sheet, tutting away at my lack of understanding; He embraces my desire to learn and know Him and celebrates our first steps, our basic sentences and our eagerness for more even when we haven’t finished what’s already on our plate. I don’t have to earn His favour or love, because it’s already given to me by grace!

This psalm is helpful as it reminds me that His Word is of utmost importance, but I now know I need to fuel my desire in healthy, realistic-sized coals, and not just swamp a heap on myself and strive to get them all burning, only to find it’s put out what little flame was there. I need to meditate on Scripture, let it catch alight, and as I increase in understanding and adoration, the temperature rises. This way, I know each coal will be of a part of a sustainable, unhindered fire in my soul that will burn for years to come. I don’t want to bombard and over-gorge myself, trying to align to everything at once. I want to enjoy and appreciate the goodness of each verse, as I allow the truth to sink in and, by doing so, the rest of my heart, mind and soul catches on and rejoices in its warmth and truths.

Image: 'Coals' by jpstanley

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