A few weeks ago, I spoke at a women’s event on the topic of hope.
What is your favourite childhood story?
I love stories but one of my favourite from my childhood was The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I also love chocolate, baking, singing, psychology, working with young people, my church Faversham Community and my home! Which is a first because of this year, I bought my first flat!
Buying a home
I don’t know if anyone else did this but when I first got the keys I had this overwhelming excitement – straight away I just wanted to go up and see it! My new life as a homeowner was before me! I walked into the empty rooms, so much potential and all mine! (and the banks- I’ve not made my millions yet!). But those of you that have experience and those of you with more reality than me, know it takes a lot longer to make a house ‘mine’. Some things were easy to change! but I couldn’t make a decision about:
In my bedroom, taking up one who side of the room was a semi built in wardrobe that having moved in and unpacked almost immediately, had managed to become the centrepiece of my room. I built my life around it, even fitted my bed to its dimensions. Why not just leave it and make it part of my new house? it was ok, it was purposeful. But one hand this wardrobe wasn’t mine and it wasn’t me and I wasn’t sure what was lying behind it! On the other hand, I was scared to remove the wardrobe, I didn’t know what I would find, my clothes would have nowhere to live for a while, I had to spend money on carpet and a new wardrobe and paint
ONE MORNING IN JULY
It wasn’t until July that I made my decision. I was going to somehow get rid of the wardrobe! Around the same time that I made this decision, God had begun to speak to me about HOPE. He was rather annoying questioning me about what I was placing my hope in – and he wouldn’t relent on my ignoring him!
I began a journey of conversation with him looking at some of the hopes I had been building my life around, rather like this wardrobe in my room.
SHAPED MY VIEW
As I allowed him in he showed me that I was placing my hope in things which were seemingly good, but were not him! These hopes I had for my life, church the world, some were formed on misinformed beliefs about how life works.
I was letting my view of life be shaped by the world again and not by God. They were the main feature, they were taking up room, they had a strong hold on me, they were from the ‘old me’, and something behind them was seriously off!
A physical stronghold is a place that an army would run to during warfare. It was a place to make them strong again, a fortress. A hiding place of safety.
When I speak of a stronghold I am speaking of just that. A place we run to for comfort, but not the physical ones of this world.
Where do you run?
LET IT GO
These hopes had a strong hold on me, I ran to them believing I was safe there, and my behaviour was being built around securing them.
Then God asked me this… “what if I asked you to let go of those hopes”… and I panicked! The idea of letting go tenses me up! In that panic, I realised that some of my behaviour over the years has not been shaped by Gods kingdom, but by desperately clinging to these hopes.
Why was I clinging so hard to these this? I think because these hopes actually revealed my fears, my core beliefs. We don’t talk about these things because we feel ashamed. I don’t believe in shame having a hold on me. I am going to voice these.
I have placed my hope in knowledge, because I believed failure is shameful, humiliating and weak. I am fearful of appearing this way and will cling onto knowledge or avoidance so I won’t fail. Avoiding situations, I can fail in have become my safety or my strong hold.
I have placed my hope in my physical body, I believe that I should be better at keeping off the weight because maybe I will be attractive, I spent unnecessary money on clothes and make up for the same reason I believe if I am attractive then I might be poplar or might not be single. I am fearful of being alone. I am scared people won’t like me, which will leave me lonely, and therefore one of the things I place my hope in appearance. Where I placed money, time, thoughts was showing me my strongholds
I have placed my hope in ways of doing church, church leaders and prophetic words over our church. Part of this is because I believe if this happens we will be a ‘good church’ and people will want to come and join us if we’re great! I don’t want to be a failure or humiliated. I want to be noticed as a great church.
and my fear: that I am not seen, loved, wanted, right
HOPE IN NOTHING LESS
As I processed this with God I realised. I had become to hope in nothing less than Jesus blood and; a beautiful house, money, dress size, makeup, popularity, gifting, prophetic words, a comfortable western life, a husband…
These hopes aren’t all in themselves bad. Hoping for the promises of God to come to fruition in my life: that’s good! But when we put our full hope in the prophetic promises and not in the one who made those promises, we will feel the pull of disappointment.
It is not wrong to hope for them, but place your full assurance in the promise maker. Trust wholly on God rather than solely on the promise.
We are not the same
Your hopes will be different to mine, this isn’t a condemning word! No! I believe God wants to give us freedom today to be fully ourselves, freedom and space for the new.
Maybe we are the same here: I am petulant when hopes are attempted to be taken away from me – I am disappointed when they don’t work out, I am not fulfilled when they do. when I wasn’t achieving, or gaining them I was anxious, petulant, manipulative and withdrawn. These strongholds were letting me down.
And this wasn’t the new life, Jesus has won for me… Or you
Psalm 20 talks about those who trust in chariots and horses, the things of this world – that was exactly what I was doing! BUT God has created me to fully trust him.
Trust in the Lord, and renew our mind, and that is what he wants to do today
Part of my job is to create and deliver self-esteem courses with girls. One of the games we play is called “MARSHMALLOW TOWERS”
WHY WE PLAY IT
The reason we play this game is to start them thinking about times when they feel a little bit wobbly, insecure. When we feel insecure or what the brain can perceive as a threat; we look for a way to “survive” this can happen physically but also emotionally and socially – and that’s what we help them discuss. As they share their thoughts I begin to hear the strongholds that form their hope and belief system. Instead of keeping them alive, I see that it is withholding them from a full and free life. What I also see, is it at work in the rest of us too. Often they say something that I have to take back to God and place before him again and again “Lord renew my mind not to believe this”
These beliefs the girls have about how to be happy, successful, accepted, safe are like the Turkish Delight and promise of power that the Witch in Narnia lures Edmund in with. Lies that are sweet to hear (but have a bitter after taste)
I see these girls lured in by lies about where to place their hope; and we all see the destruction caused by these lies: broken friendships, self-harm, body image, eating disorders, risky behaviour… in a desperation to achieve what they hope for or a comfort for the disappointment. But it’s not just in teenage girls.
GOAL BASED THREATS
We all have goals and ambitions, hopes and dreams. When our brain perceives these goals under threat, this survival mode kicks in!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
We start getting anxious, disappointed, we act out, try and cling to our hope, dig our nails in! We can be scared to let go, what does it mean for us if this hope isn’t achieved. Even now thinking about some of the strongholds God highlighted in me over this season, the idea of letting go tenses me up! But Christ is better and I am learning to trust my hopes to Him. Now, when I get tense. Then I remind myself, I place my hope in Him who will never fail me, who has perfect timing and is good.
Christ reveals to us these things so that we can see them destroyed, be better equipped when they taunt us! because he has not created us to live by fear but by his power, grace and love!
Today our Lion – Christ wants to come and free you from fear and lies. He is our HOPE and he never fails
It has to go!
One morning I woke up I just knew the wardrobe had to go. I tried to do it myself and realised I could only go so far and then I couldn’t carry the weight of the structure. I had to let go of pride and ask people to come and help: an expert and a friend. Don’t try to carry this alone – God has given us an expert, and a community.
It took work, a lot of cleaning but finally I had a blank canvas to work with and had even moved my bed to a new place no longer trapped by the old framework. Taking out the wardrobe, opened a space to be free to express who I was!
Removing old frameworks, strongholds from our lives opens space for freedom for the new life Christ won for you! – Tweet This
Today our Lion – Christ wants to come and breathe life into you
A stronghold as I have told you is a place that armies run to in times or warfare. It is also, however, a used to solidify rule during peace.
The Lion has come to solidify peace and for it to rule and be extended to others through you!
If we hope in what is not Christ and achieve it, no matter how good that thing is, we will be disappointed or unfulfilled by it, we will not have peace or fullness of joy. If we hope in what is not Christ and do not attain it, we will believe he is withholding or not good. If we hope in Christ we will have life and life in all its fullness.
As I prepared this morning, God reminded me of the story of Jericho, so I read it again. He showed me that as Israel walked around the city walls, they walked with the presence of God, the walked in worship. I believe we are not to go searching for our ‘strongholds’ if nothing has come to mind, but I do believe that we are to worship and wait in his presence and we will see walls come crashing down.