Control

I think the last few days I’m facing up to my desire for control. I mentioned it in my last post a few days ago; it’s refreshing to find that the local learning group I need to facilitate I can’t actually control. There have also been some recent things both at work and with my family, where my first reaction, particularly when I am feeling unsure about something is to try and control it. When I get into that mode, I also then start to get more anxious and feel more stressed; I also, rather arrogantly start to assume responsibility for more than is actually mine to be responsible for. Although I don’t like to hear it / face it / recognise it, my desire for control is also not necessarily great for other people. At times it can suppress others gifts / involvement / skills / talents, which is a real turn off for other people, and isn’t doing anything to spread love, faith or hope. When I get in that mode, it’s also not bringing out the best in me either.

I think I need to learn to recognise more quickly when I’ve made that switch; especially as it’s not great for me or anyone else! The danger for me, though, is if I decide that I’m not in control I can get quite black & white about it, and almost ping from ‘control’ to ‘apathy’ and totally switch off – a not particularly attractive streak in myself, and again, also not particularly helpful for anyone I’m around.

As I’m starting my studies, I can feel myself pinging between these two states of ‘control’ and ‘apathy’. I feel that I need to discover a new, greyer area somewhere in the middle, a healthy state of balance; where I can feel part of what’s going on, fully engaged, but without trying to unhealthily control or take over situations.

When I look at my family, things have been better recently when I have made a conscious decision not to overstep that mark and not to try and take responsibility for things /people / situations that are not ‘mine’ to do.

It reminds me of a phrase that Wanda Nash gave us at a retreat a few years ago ‘Do not feel totally, irrevocably responsible for everything, that’s my job, love God.’ How true it is, and how much I still need to take that in and let it take root in me.

The other aspect of this control for me is the area of self-control. As someone who has been seriously overweight for many years, this is an area that I have let get totally out of control. Since this time last year I have been dieting, and have made serious inroads into sorting out my weight problem (my bmi has now come down from 45 to 28); however, I still need to work through this issue of self-control. I have lost most of this weight through a very low calorie diet.  I feel fantastic when I am on it, and totally in control – but then I get this black and white thinking… either I’m on the diet, and sticking to 3 packs a day; or I’m off the diet and it’s fine to eat an entire packet of chocolate buttons and half a tub of ice cream… pinging from extreme control to a completely free license to indulge. Again, I know the route forward long term is finding a path of balance, of some degree of self-control, but not total control.

Having said that, I am opting to go the control route to lose the last two stone, to get me all the way to a healthy bmi. I know I feel good on the diet, and I believe I can actually achieve this weight loss if I follow the plan. (Part of me still believes some of my old ways of thinking where I didn’t believe it was even possible for me to be ‘overweight’, let alone to set my goal of being ‘healthy’)

Hmmm, anyway, enough waffling about control tonight. Time to exert my last bit of control and nearly meet my aim of going to bed by 10pm, to try and reduce the tiredness!

Week One

Well, I’m a week into it now. The first weekend at college was last weekend. It was great to meet the other students on the course; 28 of us in total, and only 5 chaps in the group. I feel happier having met the other students as well as the staff on the course, to start putting faces to names and to start getting more of a feel for the course. It also feels like a real time of transition. It’s taken me 10 years of pondering, prayer and faffing to get to this point; it’s been a potential future for such a long time, but now it’s time to actually get my head down and get stuck into the study.

It was good to sit down with my training minister this week, and to talk through expectations. I was also really relieved to meet my tutor this week. I will be having a 1:1 tutor, as there are no other tutees in this area. I was a little nervous going to meet her in the week, as 3 years 1:1, I really hoped that we would hit it off, and that the conversation would flow / we’d be able to work together. It was a good sign when I said that I was nervous and she said that she had been too. I hadn’t really thought of it from her side, but I guess equally unsure what I would be like and whether I would engage easily in conversation.

I’ve found this week quite hard, getting my head into the studies. It’s a long time since I’ve read books in an academic way; i.e. where I need to actually take in & digest what I’m reading, and potentially be able to do something with the information. I’m slowly finding my way back into taking notes, and that heavier concentration while reading to get my head round the concepts. We have our first assignment already; to pick a prayer, hymn or psalm and reflect on our response to it. I’m unsure at the moment which text to pick; I’m also feeling a little nervous about putting together my first assignment -particularly a reflective one. It will be good though, to try and work out my response to a text, and work through my affective response to it – I think I find it easier to hide behind the head type response rather than the heart.

The other part of the course that I’ve started to get my head round is the local learning group. I need to create / facilitate a small group of people as we go through the course. The aims are to help keep me grounded in reality! And to help me bring theology into conversation / discussion with others. In preparing /thinking about it, I’ve realised that my strong desire to control things is rearing its head again; especially as I’m feeling unsure about what the group will be like, and what we will discussing. Almost the more unsure / insecure I feel about something, the more I want to contain it, control it and direct it. I’ve deliberately invited some people to join the group that will challenge me on that; and will pick up when I’m doing it too! However, I’m still feeling that need / want to control. So for me, at the moment, I know when in the next year the groups will happen, but other than the first group, I don’t have any idea what we will be asked to do within the group. I like to get my head around things, to plan; and also I feel like I want to be able to share that plan with the group… now part of that, I think, is that I want to be in control of what we will be discussing, and where that discussion might go… I’m feeling the need to control what God might do with the group, and direct it…. eeek, how arrogant is that?! So I need to continue to learn to let go, to trust God and to trust the other people. To use this group as an opportunity to let the group develop its own way; for me to truly facilitate it, to listen to those within the group, and be guided by them. (I have a lot of learning to do.)

Getting Started

(I actually wrote this last week, but it’s taken me a week to get started in actually setting up a blog!)

I’ve decided it’s time to start a blog. For the last year or so I’ve been using an online diary within a weight loss support forum, and it’s been really helpful for me to capture what I’m thinking, and to see trends in how my thoughts are changing / how I’m working things through.

Several times people have suggested spiritual journalling to me, and I have a shelf with many notebooks on it, with the first 3, 4 or 5 pages written in, and then I’ve given up / forgotten about it / abandoned it. Having realised I’ve almost started this process with the online weight diary, I think a blog may be the next step for me.

Particularly I want to start it today, as I step out on the next step on my journey. This evening I go to STETs for the first time, so officially I think I am now an ordinand, in training for ministry in the church. It’s been a long journey to get to here. I feel really humbled to look back over the last ten years of my journey and see how God’s hand has been in so much, how he has supported me, guided me, been gentle with me, and helped me to discover who I am and the dream that he has given me.

Yesterday, the following thought was on Sacred Space:

God is not foreign to my freedom.
Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires,
gently nudging me towards all that is good.
I ask for the grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.

When I think back it is amazing how gently God does work with us, the patience he has as we slowly come to understand things, and to reach for what is good.

Haggai 1:1-8
Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.’

  • Human endeavour and toil are brought into perspective in my prayer. All my busyness and all my concerns are distractions if I lose sight of what really matters.
  • What would it be like for me to be satisfied with less? What difference would it make to me? To others? I ask God to help me to let go a little more, to trust.

This really spoke to me, when I look back, how do I let the Spirit in, to let the Spirit really breathe life into my most intimate desires, instead of trying to control them myself. On more than one occasion in the past, I understand this desire from God, this way I need to go; but then I try and seize control of it, make myself really busy trying to implement my version of it, and get distracted in the process from God at the centre of it. Somehow I end up thinking I know better and want to control it, take responsibility for it, and generally own it, rather than letting God breathe his life into it, and trusting God to actually know best.

I also know there is a danger zone for me… to get lured by other things, by having, by doing…. and not on being… on focusing on what really matters.

A quote I came across today
‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’ (Stephen Covey)

God, I think I need you to help me to realise what the main thing is for me right now. To understand what happens when I live, breathe and focus on the main thing… what I can achieve (beyond my wildest dreams)  and what happens when I try and control it, take total responsibility for it…. anxiety, hardened relationships, non-delivery, distraction, stress.

I think back on the last year. This time last year I dared to set the goal of getting to ‘overweight’… which then became a goal of getting to a healthy weight. Subsequently I then set the goal of cycling the 45 mile Palace to Palace cycle ride. I have now lost 8 stone, and have successfully completed the cycle in 5 hours. I am so proud of these achievements, of listening to the Spirit and becoming aware of what I needed to do. I’m so glad that I’ve persevered with these goals, even though some days / weeks I really felt like I couldn’t do it, didn’t want to do it, wanted to give up and questioned whether it was worth it.

I want to remember these feelings, and the decisions I made, to persevere through the days when I really didn’t fancy it; to focus on what the main thing was, what was really important to me (rather than the tempting bowl of chocolate ice cream in the freezer)

Everything has the potential to draw forth from me a fuller love and life.
Yet my desires are often fixed, caught, on illusions of fulfillment.
I ask that God, through my freedom
may orchestrate
my desires in a vibrant loving melody rich in harmony.

How true, I so easily get caught up on ‘my illusions of fulfillment’ and put a cap on what that would be, or focus too clearly on a very specific, small thing or a particular way of how I think something should be. Help me to be open to what God desires, that his Spirit can work through me and that I will be open to those possibilities, to see the opportunities and the next steps to take in my journey.

In my conversations with Maggie (my spiritual director) she has helped me to see the amazing two years I have had, since the birth of our daughter (well, probably the 8 months leading up to that too) – these have been an incredible few years of happiness, consolation, joy; a real gift from God. Part of this has been because I have been prepared to listen to God and to live in the present, to actually appreciate the gifts as they come, rather than miss them because I was focused on a different future.

As I embark on this next step, I want to write a note to myself (to capture my learnings at the moment)

  • Live in the present, take the time to look at the sky, to notice the sunshine, to splash in puddles
  • Enjoy the time that I have with dh and little one, take the time to really enjoy them, to nourish those relationships and to play (don’t let study become an excuse not to be fully a part of my family)
  • Take things one at a time; even when there is a lot to do, work out what needs to be done today, tomorrow and this week.
  • Stick to my commitment to do this study; enjoy the time I have to study and do the work each week that I need to do.
  • Remember that this journey is what God has called me to; that he has given me the skills and gifts that I need to accomplish this, and that the future is in his hands – I need to be faithful to this next step and not be worried about what might come next.
  • Enjoy it :)

I am really excited, and slightly nervous as I set out on this next step. I am curious to see how this journey will change me, what I will learn through the studies, through the people I meet and the situations I find myself in. I ask for God’s help to stay true to him, and to always remember his love for me, and that his love always wins; and to let that carry me through the difficult times, the challenging times, the tired times, the exciting times, the interesting times that lay ahead.