Today I climbed a mountain. Not a literal one. But definitely a spiritual one.
I climbed a stage for the first time in a year (nearly to the day) to preach.
I’m aware those words carry more weight for me than for many of you.
It’s like a marathon runner who breaks his leg… then after a year of intense therapy runs his first race.
Or the patient’s first day at home after months of hospitalization.
Or the barren woman looking at the plus sign on her pregnancy test.
Maybe not quite that monumental, but still…
The last “normal”
One year ago was the last time I was on a stage, and the last time I remember feeling “normal.”
I stepped off the stage and went to bed with what I thought was the flu. Instead of a few days of rest and recovery, it has taken a year of hard work: grieving, resting, hoping, trusting, working, fighting, failing and getting back up again to get where I am today.
But this month, this one year mark, has been a month of affirmations that while the work is not yet done, I am no longer the same person I once was. I may not be whole, but I’m not in pieces anymore.
Marks of Progress
This month I started a part time job. We didn’t even realize we were holding our breaths until, three weeks in my husband looked at me and said, “You’re really going to be okay, aren’t you?”
We hadn’t been sure.
This month, with spring in the air, I took my running back outside and realized I kind of liked it. I actually want to keep doing this. I even signed myself up for a half marathon. This is good for me.
It’s been one month since we started attending a small group again. One we never would have found on our own but have fallen in love with. It’s full of leaders in every manner of the word, so for once I don’t have to hold back my intensity. They’re just as intense and I just love it.
And this weekend, I climbed those stairs to the stage and preached my first sermon.
I felt the weight of the moment during the worship beforehand, and I felt God showing me the different ways this could go. Spiritual warfare is real, and in that moment the enemy would have loved nothing better than to trigger old wounds, old fears and old anxieties by bringing me back to that place one year ago.
My own hangups are real, and I became aware of how “armoured up” I was – glad for the opportunity but very much in self-protection mode, willing to step forward but cautious at the same time.
Jesus invited me to a different way: to trust him. He had gone before me, and would be my fortress on that stage. I didn’t need the armour with His protection. I didn’t need to fear. He invited me to connect with the congregation – something that can’t be done through the heavy visor of metal-plated helmets. He asked me to hand him my protection and trust that He would see me through. He asked me to come with Him on stage, hold His hand and be willing to be truly seen.
And I could say yes because while the stage was new, the invitation was not. Jesus was not. I could trust Him because I’d been here before. That walk up the stairs to the stage felt like a climbing a mountain. But it also felt like victory.
The work is not yet done, I know this. But today I got to preach to our congregation from Ezra and Nehemiah about having the honesty to admit the ruins in our own lives, the courage to hope for a different future and the submission to take the next step of obedience, even if the journey seems too long to even begin. Nehemiah finished that wall around Jerusalem, and I am confident Jesus will finish his work in me as well.
Here’s the sermon I was talking about…