Making space for what will be…
A reflection on recent months based on Isaiah 43:18-19 from General Secretary Lynn Green
“I am doing a new thing…”
Ever since I became General Secretary, I have sensed that God was saying to us as a movement that he was doing a new thing in and through us. The verses from Isaiah 43:18-19 have particularly resonated with me and many others. I also sensed that in order for God to be able to do a new thing among us we needed to make space for him to speak and act and, over the years, we have created Beacons of Prayer as we have waited on the Lord together.
We believed that God was doing a new thing,
we prayed that God would do a new thing,
we were longing for God to do a new thing,
and here we are, most definitely thrust into the midst of a new thing!
So, what is the Lord continuing to say to us through these verses now?
“Do not dwell on the past…”
As the weeks and months have passed since the beginning of this global pandemic we have felt the loss of things that were precious and had largely been taken for granted. We experienced the shock of those first weeks in lockdown as nearly everything stopped, we stayed at home and our church buildings closed. As we approached the three month stage our hearts were crying out, “how long, Lord?” and we longed for an end to restrictions as we tried to get our heads around the fact that this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon. When “Independence Day” dawned, we quickly realised that our longing for greater freedom brought with it great responsibility as we ploughed through guidance notes and risk assessments, and we felt overwhelmed and out of our depth.
When we prayed for God to do a new thing, we didn’t imagine it would be like this…
Yet these verses from Isaiah remind us that while we give thanks for the past and celebrate all that was precious, the Lord is encouraging us to leave the past behind and be willing to step into a new future. “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past…” As Ruth Hayley Barton writes in her book, Silence and Solitude, we need to be, “…willing to say goodbye to life as we have known it because we long for something more.” Willing to say goodbye; willing to empty our hands and our hearts in order for the Lord to fill them in new ways.
Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?
I have been very aware, in myself and others, that one way to feel better in times of great uncertainty is to get busy! Activity is so good at making us feel like we are in control, even when we are not! As I have prayed and wrestled with the temptation to distract myself with busyness, I have become certain that this is a season for waiting and listening to the Lord. One things that I have continually had to remind myself is that just because I am not in control does mean that God is not in control.
Waiting. Attentiveness. Trust. Dependence.
This is what growing in Christ looks like right now. And the passage from Isaiah emphasises this; it talks about perceiving what God is doing. “See I am doing a new thing, now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” That suggests to me that what God is doing is not necessarily obvious or predictable.
Having an attitude of waiting does not mean that we will do nothing, though! As we wait and listen we are also poised for obedient action and ready to follow where the Lord leads us.
I am making a way…
Two things, in particular, have struck me about this season. Firstly, that we need to change our thinking away from a “we’ve got to get through this” mentality, as if this is just some sort of blip that we will get through and then revert to normal again. Things will never go back to how they were; the world has changed. I believe that the place we find ourselves in now is a transitional space, an in-between place where we have left behind the former things and are venturing towards the new that we cannot yet see. This is not a space to “get through” but a call from the Lord inviting us to dwell in the present moment with Him, embracing all that is at the moment and perceiving what he is doing in this season.
My sense is that as we dwell in the present moment, and as we perceive what the Lord is doing and join him in that, we will find ourselves venturing towards that future that we so long for. Not in one mighty, clearly defined, leap from a to b, but as an unfolding adventure that will take us beyond what we can know and lead us into a future that we cannot yet imagine.
An image that God has been laying on my heart since the end of last year is that of setting our sails to catch the wind of God’s Spirit. As individuals, as churches and as a movement. I believe that as we unfurl our sails and open ourselves in readiness for the wind of God’s Spirit to lead us, we can trust that we will be taken where ever God wants us to go.
God has promised, “See I am doing a new thing…” The Lord leads and we follow and in every season, that is enough.
Lynn Green is Baptists Together General Secretary
This reflection appears in the Autumn 2020 edition of Baptists Together magazine