So in a few weeks time I am going to a Christian holiday called Spring Harvest, and this year’s theme is called ‘Only the brave!’. So it seemed appropriate to use it for the title of my mini-series of blogs that I will be doing over the next few days. Sometimes God asks us to do something that means taking a massive leap out of our comfort zone and walking by faith and not by sight. Let’s say this sums up what I will be doing this next ten days.
At the beginning of the year a friend had a word for me that God was asking me to do something that was (in her words) ‘peeing my pants scary’ but he wanted me to do it. I laughed when I heard that but it summed up perfectly as I felt God was asking me to go to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the 10,000 Fathers Worship School on which I have been a student for the last 14 months. Not only is it a big deal because of the challenges of the journey but also because of the challenges I have in connecting with people.
I genuinely love spending time with people, but due to my ASD and sensory issues I sometimes find it very hard to read other people and process what they are saying. In the same way, what makes perfect sense in my head leaves others scratching theirs. With my sensory issues I sometimes find it hard to be in busy and noisy environments and end up battling with sensory overload and scuttling off to find quiet even if it means hiding in a cupboard! For many years I have felt lonely and alienated because of the challenges to connect and the challenges to be around lots of people in busy environments.
The last time I went to America I had a camera firmly fixed to my face for pretty much the entirety of the trip. I was safe behind the lens and taking photos meant it was a place to be able to hide in plain view.
This time I feel God is sending me there to learn more about truly connecting, learning more about community and how to work in harmony. Something I have been inspired by with the Worship School is their hospitality – welcome, friendships, relationships and their heart of discipleship. For someone who has always struggled with these it feels a bit like being on a mission: Mission Connection!
For some, flying to America by themselves, staying with people they have never met, not having a clear idea of the itinerary, and where your meals will be coming from would seem like a brilliant adventure and something to revel in, but for it seems a bit terrifying just to get through the flight. I will have to contend with the smells, the sounds, the mass of people, confined space, people brushing past me with their cases. Alongside all of that is the unpredictability of a nine-hour journey, what meal might I be served and will I be sitting next to someone nice?
I am someone who usually goes to the same places on holiday – I like the predictable and also to have a clear plan and know what is expected of me. There has been a part of me wanting to break out and see more, but I have been trapped by these fears and the many things that can overwhelm me. Why on earth would I put myself through something like this?
I have learnt that when God asks you to do something, it is best to do it! I believe He’s a kind and loving God and would not ask me to do something that was going to cause me harm. He wants to stretch me and bring me out of my comfort zone and He has been so patient and loving in the way He has been preparing me for this. It is not something that has just happened.
I can honestly say if this trip had been suggested last year I would have run screaming for the hills. Through this last year as I have had come to terms with being on the autistic spectrum and having sensory needs. This has shed light and understanding over the challenges I have had to face over the years. God has been bringing freedom and wholeness step by step. I now have noise reducers that help me hear things at a normal level and not my default setting which is thirty decibels too loud. Also, now that I wear light-sensitive glasses I am not getting the bombardment of light that causes such pain to my eyes.
With the understanding that I process the world very differently and need help processing certain things it has meant I have approached this trip with wisdom. I have had to swallow my pride and be open that I will need help. It means I have been contacting airlines and airports and asking for help. I have made sure I have a taxi all booked for when I arrive and someone to help me get to the right place. By being aware of my weaknesses I have been able to put in healthy boundaries and the right support – it means that something that seemed so impossible before is now not only possible but actually happening! Previously it would have left me crippled with anxiety and fear, but I now feel confident in through Gods strength.
Many years I lived in a state of fear dominated by two words – what if. This mentality limited so much of what I could do, but God has been challenging this. I could live in a state of ‘what if the plane is cancelled, or delayed? What if there is a terrible accident? What if they don’t accept my visa? What if I can’t cope and get sick? What if? What if? What if? Living in this constant negativity is not much fun – it’s debilitating and stops you from living and walking in the freedom that God has designed.
What would happen if I turned the what ifs around? What if I let go of my fear and let God take control? What if I trust that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me? What if I believe that he is bigger than it all? What if I believe He has gone ahead of me and prepared the way? Turning the what ifs around like this transforms an anxious, stressed mess on the floor to a person at peace and full of hope and expectation. I am not doing it in my strength or my understanding but trusting that God will lead and guide me.
I’m taking a leap of faith, knowing that if He asks me to leap he will catch me!
I’m inviting you to ‘come along’ with me as I take this leap of faith, and as I battle a plethora of hurdles and start to live not as limited but as an overcomer. I will be blogging daily and I pray these would encourage you and remind you that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”