DISCLAIMER: As I sat down to pray and think about what to write, the first emotion I felt was guilt. I felt I could be doing more, that I should be doing more, that I could be more “missional” in this time (I’ve not even said hi to my neighbours!).
God, in His kindness, gently moved me away from a feeling of guilt, and reminded me that I don’t HAVE to do anything to earn His love or acceptance, whilst also guiding me towards a few ideas that, if I really want to be more proactive, I can begin to grow in; and it’s a few of those ideas that I want to share with you…
I want to precursor a few of these thoughts by acknowledging what a difficult season this is for many. With quarantine in full swing, isolation can create a feeling of separation from our friends, our community, and also separation from God. What Abi shared last week in her devotional series (if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it) is so important as everything we “do” as a follower of Jesus has to start from our relationship with Him. Devotion is central, and growing in our understanding of His love for us, helps to bring clarity where we’ve been lacking understanding in our own identity and our own purpose.
Moving on from there, the second thing God put on our heart at Campus Awakening in this season was ‘mission’ (a fancy word for the love we experience inwardly, being pointed outwards). Whatever your experience of ‘mission’, whether positive or negative, there are definitely new obstacles, and new opportunities in extending His love, which require a new way of thinking. To encourage you on this journey, I wanted to briefly explore three ideas:
- Living With Integrity
- Walking With The Spirit
- Open Invitations
1. Living With Integrity
The quarantine has put a new emphasis on social media, and do you know what, I don’t think that’s all bad. It’s offered us a way to stay connected and stay entertained, which is great (albeit making it easier to sit and stare at my phone for hours). More importantly, I also think the quarantine has reduced some of the pretence around our social presence. Nobody is going to the best parties, the coolest shops, the most exciting gigs, hanging with the most friends. Almost all of us are sat on the sofa, wearing our basics, and trying (and failing) to be productive. I honestly think we’re showing off less, and finding comfort in a shared “realness”. I also think the quarantine is making us think more about our lifestyle choices, what we miss, why we miss it, and making us think about where our identity comes from. So now I get to integrity.
My boss likes to describe integrity as “every part of you moving in the same direction”. That would mean that, if I have integrity, as I begin growing in my private devotion to God, all areas of my life would move in the same direction. What I chat to my friends about, how I treat the people in my house, how I use my social media, what I say, what I don’t say, how I spend my money, and how I spend my time for example.
Integrity is “every part of you moving in the same direction”. That means that, if I have integrity, as I begin growing in my private devotion to God, all areas of my life would move in the same direction.
If we really begin to use this time to grow in our intimacy with God, and we choose to live with integrity, then a natural overflow will be that the way we interact with the world around us will change. And in this season I think this affects two areas in particular; the way we treat people in our house, and the way we interact with social media.
I think this is the perfect time to share how we really feel, be honest about what we’re going through, and be honest about where we’re finding God in all of this, with the people around us. As people are looking to our socials to find a sense of solidarity, as we all begin to ask deeper questions about life, what would it be like if we let people see more of our honest journey with God? Where we find His comfort, how we find it. To let people into our journeys of doubt, and also show them where we find hope. What would it look like if we used some of our social media to let people into our relationship with God, to open up the conversation about hope, about security, about identity, about peace? Because we’re all scrolling for something.
Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
2. Walking With The Spirit
The quarantine has given us a shared experience, but each of our positions within that are going to look different, which means we all have unique opportunities, and unique hurdles. The next few months are going to look different for all of us, so I think that there are going to be unique ways for each of us to engage in following Jesus to the fullest, and I think this will require us walking closely in step with His Spirit. This could sound pretty complex, but I think there’s a biblical precedence for Jesus actually wanting to speak to us, to help guide us, and doing it in a way that is accessible to each of us uniquely.
The next few months are going to look different for all of us, so I think that there are going to be unique ways for each of us to engage in following Jesus to the fullest, and I think this will require us walking closely in step with His Spirit.
Some really simple ways I think we can hear His voice are through reading the bible and through those little nudges in our heart. So I might read “love your neighbour as yourself” and feel really convicted. Ok, but what do I do now? It will look different for each of us, and I believe our spirit will be nudged in different ways. Maybe I feel nudged to cook for my housemates, or to write and post letters of encouragement to my neighbours, or to clean up for once, or to pick up litter, text a friend, call my mum, or buy food for someone on my street. It’s easy to brush off these little nudges, these little ideas, but I believe if we press into them it will become more and more clear the way in which Jesus is working in our lives, and in the lives around us. Like the loaves and the fish, our little offerings can be made to go a long way.
John 10:27 “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Galatians 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
3. Open Invitations
I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time on the phone, FaceTime, Zoom, and Houseparty. And when I think about it, I didn’t even know what Zoom and Houseparty were until last week. Obviously “lets hang out” doesn’t really hit the same when you’re in quarantine, but there are still ways in which we can press into community. And I think one of the ways in which people, who don’t know God, find Him, is through community. We’re searching for excuses to chat on the phone for hours about anything and everything, and like when we explored integrity, it’s a perfect time to invite people into all aspects of our life.
Remember all those friends that you invited to church, your bible study, or small group, and at the last minute “something came up” so they couldn’t make it? Well, now I’m that I’m sat at home staring at my phone and laptop all day, I could probably make it to a few of those. The beauty of technology in quarantine is that it is now incredibly easy to instantaneously gather people. That bible study your friend wanted to come to but couldn’t make? Now they can join from the comfort of their own bedroom. That small group where you all just hang out, laugh, talk about God, life, and all things in-between; well now we can just jump on Houseparty and anyone is welcome for however long they choose!
The beauty of technology in quarantine is that it is now incredibly easy to instantaneously gather people.
I think we forget how much real community is lacking for many in our society, and the quarantine has just highlighted our need for more of it! So rather than complain, become confused, and isolate, we can press into these alternative forms, and we can open the invite to anyone and everyone. In this season, we’re not inviting people into a new, unfamiliar physical space for a “event”. Instead, it’s face time with some friends, and some friends of friends. It’s building connection. And as always, if people really don’t want to join in, that’s cool, but now more than ever we have an opportunity to bring a form of community to people who are searching for it, and I think that’s an opportunity worth taking.
“Heavenly Father, may your Kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Would you help me to see where you are moving in this season, and where I can partner with you. Grant that I may be bold enough to let my light shine before others. Make me receptive to your voice, and lead me in creative ways to extend your love to those both far, and near. Amen.”
Words by Karim Stoddart.
Karim recently graduated in Economics from the University of Manchester. He is now our Media Co-ordinator & Campus Activator.