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Flowing, just flowing

June 1, 2013

Recently, my mind went back to a special place for me, Highcliffe above Guisborough on the North York Moors. I served as a curate in Guisborough and the moors above the town were a sanctuary for me when life got too busy. There were so many special places up there, truly a picture postcard scenes: a remote hillside, a clear blue sky, a glorious view, and a tiny stream bubbling at my feet. There was a lot to draw me there. But one thought struck me in particular: 3o or 40 miles away that same little stream — a stream I could literally step over without the slightest effort —would be a river some hundreds of yards across, flowing through an industrial city.

I can so easily feel like a leaf on that very like that little mountain stream. But that is not the end of our story. I are called to flow, with the Spirit of God, where the Spirit of God wants us to go. On that stream I may be quite happy where I am but gravity is pulling me to be something far more. I am like a leaf on the surface of that little stream. Flowing down, with no control over the speed or direction of my travel.

There is a difference. I can perhaps work with the flow of the Spirit to steer our course a little. My task is to stay in the middle of the stream. My task is also to avoid the temptation to say, “here will do”, and paddle frantically for the shore. I must keep in the flow even though  I will never know what is round the next bend. It is a strange calling, and it can be an unsettling one. It can also be a path of perfect contentment and peace. Paradoxically, it can also be full of excitement and joy of life.

I now realise that the question that I should ask is not where should I go, but how do I stay in the Spirit? In the business of ministry it is so easy to forget this and to try and control everything. But I’ve found a way that helps – Prayer. Prayer on my own, with a friend, in my house group, or in church. It doesn’t necessarily matter where or how I pray, just that I do. I could of course pray on my own, with a friend, in my house group, and in church! Prayer is working with the Spirit. That is why Jesus tells us to pray always, everywhere and not to give up (Luke 18.1).

I pray to be given the strength to trust God fully: To trust enough to ask Jesus to send the Spirit to fill me, then to fill me some more, until I am overflowing with the essence, the pure essence of God. Then I can begin to flow where the Spirit flows.

It takes real humility and trust to let God do as he pleases. It is like that exercise where you have someone behind you to catch and you allow yourself to fall backwards. You must trust the other person. They are there and they will catch you but if they don’t you will fall to the ground. I need to same trust in God, the trust to let go of all else and fall back into his arms.

That trust and humility is what makes it possible for me to flow in the centre of the stream. The stream that starts as a trickle, widens and grows, widens still further, joins with other streams and becomes a river, which carves through the land, carrying everything with it out to the vastness of the sea.

I may only be flowing along on a small stream, but that stream will grow. It will flow with me, and I will become part of something huge, and powerful. But for now I need to focus on letting the Spirit flow in me. I need to pray on my own, with a friend, in my house group, and in church. I also need to pray when in the garden or when out shopping or driving. To change the metaphor, prayer is breathing the Spirit in and out. Prayer is how I let the Spirit work in me, and through me.

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