Today, Rachel speaks to us about breaking chains of thought, her current struggles and what is helping her through.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I’m from England, have two brothers and am the somewhat wonky survivor of divorced parents, clinical Depression, and CSA. My childhood wasn’t idyllic, but it was sewn through by God’s presence and provision.
“My childhood wasn’t idyllic, but it was sewn through by God’s presence and provision.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: “Keep the baby in with the bathwater.”
Right now, my growth is happening via practical obstacle. As things pop up, and I’m having to confront old issues, and ongoing problems, I’m maturing the lessons God taught me in the past and making use of the things He said to me in an easier season.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I grew up in church and was part of a family where God was a fact of life and yet rarely talked about.
I encountered Him tangibly when I was 9 and really distressed (I forget what about, exactly). All I remember is breaking my heart in bed, praying because I was tired of crying, but couldn’t just fall asleep.
I had the classic, inexplicable, peace moment: a sudden end to my tears and an overwhelming sense of calm. I knew everything would be okay. I knew God was close.
That was the moment my family’s religion became my personal faith. When God became someone I knew, something I had experienced, for myself.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? God has been kind enough to encourage me through others, in the last few weeks. I’ve been grappling with some big life questions and feeling quite isolated, but He has prompted some people to message out of the blue with words I’ve found really helpful.
Things are still challenging, my problems haven’t just disappeared, but He’s shown how able He is to comfort and offer new perspective, even in the midst of trouble.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
1) Day to day? Shaking up my routine.
Besides active ‘threats’ to a person’s spiritual welfare, I think the biggest problem is atrophy. I’ve been a Christian for over two decades and, at this point, I’m not in danger of losing my faith so much as letting it sit in a glass case. Habits are great for sustaining behaviour, but I try to keep them under pretty regular review. Maybe God asked me to do [this thing], or I signed up to serve on [this rota], and I really grew from those decisions. A year later, five years later, that’s not always still the case.
I change; my interests broaden or narrow, my needs get complex, or I go from having a lack to having a surplus. Sometimes, God just wants me to move on to new pastures.
So, I have to let all things (even stuff God has blessed, previously), stay open to being shaken up or taken out of the equation, entirely.
2) In a crisis? Going back to the basics.
When I’ve been questioning my Faith, or God has felt distant, or I’m learning something difficult and wondering if it’s worth it… I go back to the start.
I ask myself what I’m certain about. I think about what I believe, or what I’ve seen God do in my life, what the Bible says about my kind of circumstance, or what I’m hoping to see change/what got me started on the road that turned so difficult. That’s where I find the solid ground I need to pick myself up and keep going.
At various times, I’ve had a notebook or card with things written on them for this specific purpose. An ‘if all else fails, remember…’ note to self.
3) When tempted? Prayer, in general.
My greatest challenges are always in the mind.
When a situation comes up and tempts me into committing whatever wrong choice seems most appealing for that season, I have to do something to break the chain of thought. I need to figure out what emotional switch is trying to get triggered, or what need is finally making demands, and find a better way to answer it.
I think my most chronic temptation, at the moment, is self-hate. It sounds strange, but it’s been a coping mechanism for a long time: when I’m overwhelmed, I’m not great at resting or catching my breath, and my brain starts hitting panic buttons. Rather than indulge enough encroaching thoughts until I lose hope and finally collapse, I talk out loud. I interrupt whatever personal evidence that I’m a failure comes to mind or just pray something out loud, and get myself off that track.
It’s worked for several flavours of temptation, because it does the same central thing: gets my thoughts off what is calling to me and points me, squarely, back to God.
Favorite person in scripture? Anybody who is a chronic moron. David is a good example (no offence to his once Majesty). Peter, too. These guys are the slow learners I can relate to, who God/Jesus continued to deal with, have mercy on, and generally enjoy despite their obvious foibles.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Everyone’s hurting. Whether they choose to acknowledge it or recover from it, varies, but I believe that the root of all unpleasantness, poor decision, and harmful action, is pain. It takes a lot to get to the point where you’re willing to recognize that in yourself or in someone who is actively hurting themselves/others. But, if you can, I think it changes everything.
Define Christianity in a sentence: I’m going to cheat and give two sentences…
An organization of people attempting to model themselves on the example, and teaching, set forth by Jesus Christ.
A continued outward expression of a personal experience of God.
For more Rachel:
She is part of the team at Print Collective https://printcollective.org/ (so check them out, too)!
Until next time, keep witnessing!