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Sustaining Joy

August 27, 2016

I like to talk. In fact it’s hard to shut me up at times. I get excited about so many things; God, my family, creation, bees, motorbikes, good food, and the list goes on. I get excited and animated as I talk. My arms wave about, more and more wildly as I get more passionate – even on the ‘phone. I have a theory that if my arms were tied to my side I’d be mute!

I love to talk, but I also love quiet and above all silence. Silence around me, but more importantly, in me. In public ministry this silence-loving part of me often takes a back seat. That’s why a week or two ago I went away for a four day silent retreat. I took a six hour drive right away from any distractions and arrived at Abbey House, the Bath and Wells Diocesan Retreat Centre in Glastonbury. A beautiful spiritually refreshing place for a time considering “Sustaining Joy” in ministry.

As I packed I had serious second thoughts. Did I really want that long drive? Surely, I could just be quiet here at home? My wife was coming with me, how was that going to work out? What if I didn’t like Paul, the person leading the retreat?.. But once I arrived I realised just how much I needed that retreat. I love the ministry God has given me but it can be tiring. There is certainly a temptation to get lost in the business and lose sight of God; or more accurately let the noise around drown out the voice of the Spirit. I realised that the joy of ministry can be leached away; almost imperceptibly. Joy and even hope can be drained completely, leaving a dry human husk vainly seeking to show the wonder of knowing Jesus.

When I left I was far from drained, but I was also far from full. I was indeed tired, mentally and spiritually. Then I felt like a failure for not being stronger in the Spirit. That’s such a destructive temptation for me: letting guilt goad me into pushing on in my strength alone.

Getting away to sit in silence with God allowed the Father to deliver me from that temptation, and many others. The Spirit moved in and I smiled, and I laughed (silently). Then I remembered that even Jesus, “would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

I smiled some more.

At the end of those few days I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to stay, surrounded by the beauty and silently resting in God’s presence. I didn’t want it to end. But then the Spirit sent me out, reminding me that he would always be with me and in me (Hebrews 13.5&6):

“The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us. That should make you feel like saying,

“The Lord helps me!
Why should I be afraid
    of what people
    can do to me?””

Now I’m back in the town I love, less distracted by the daily noise, and filled a little more with the joy of the Spirit.

It’s good to go away but it is also good to be home!

  1. Verona permalink

    Thank you Nigel such a helpful blog, in the busyness of everyday life I do so much in my own strength instead of allowing the spirit to guide me.
    Thank you also for helping us out with a speaker for next weekend, Sue will be made very welcome!
    Kindest regards, Verona

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