Every morning, before the kids go to school, I walk our lab Breagha in the same forest, on the same circuit, meeting the same squirrels, rabbits, humans and dogs along the way. In every season of the year this has become a new rhythm of grace for me – rain, hail or shine, I walk together in faithful friendship with Breagha, reminded of the constant goodness of God following me through life.
However, this morning, on arrival at the forest, I was forced to walk our normal, everyday circuit in reverse (let’s just say it was canine related!).
I have never once, in over 1,000 walks, travelled our familiar route anti-clockwise (I’m sure you psychologists can tell me why). Today I was re-routed. And something strange happened….
I was in the same place, at the same time, on the same route. And yet everything was different.
The views were different, so I had to pay much closer attention to my chosen path, and the alternative (now confusing) crosspaths, to ensure I was heading in the right direction.
I also had to pause more often, to go slower. To not just walk briskly along on autopilot, numbing my early morning senses with apps on my phone
A forced re-routing made me more attentive and alert, it also raised thankfulness in my spirit for a fresh revelation of beauty in familiar surroundings. This wasn’t a warm summer’s day – my surroundings were cold, wet and muddy, yet something good was stirring inside me….
Our Christian lives have become so familiar to us. Our church gatherings are so familiar to us. Our bibles are so familiar to us. Our Christian brothers and sisters are so familiar to us. We’ve walked this way a thousand times. We are used to walking the same ground, worshipping in the same place, familiar with the same holy book, the same church challenges, and ways of being christian.
Yet this forced re-routing of our lives over the last 2 years has opened an invitation to walk on familiar ground more attentively, to listen more closely, to pause more prayerfully. Crisis always precedes renewal (thanks to Mark Sayers for this truth!).
If this feels like a strange time for you, slow down enough to notice why. If this feels like a discontented, restless time, pay attention to the Spirit who has allowed restlnessness to be your experience.
Every so often (some church experts would say every 500 years) God calls a holy remnant of people to Himself in fresh devotion, in total surrender. This spiritual renewal doesn’t usually happen by tweaking ‘the way we do things’ in church. It begins with a ‘holy overhaul’ of who we are, an incisive work of the Spirit in our hearts. The outcome of this transformation throughout history has always resulted in a consuming love for God and a fierce love for His church. These are the true signs of renewal. This call is not the call of warm, sunny days, but of mystery, suffering, patience and obedience – all grace.
Pay attention to ‘small beginnings’ in your marriage, your parenting, your workplace, your neighbourhood, your devotional life, your hobbies and habits. God delights to see small movements of your heart towards Him. Keep the plumb line in your hand (Zechariah 4) as you rebuild your life, so that what you are building will last. He hass not called you to save the world, He has chosen and called you to love Him wholeheartedly and love others in the same way. You can start now, today, wherever you are.
Even if the surroundings of your life are familiar, cold and muddy today, pay attention. Slow down. Experience beauty in your familiar places. Choose wisely which way you walk today….