In January, I had a very clear picture of what this year would look like. I began a two year METRO traineeship at Bundy. I knew it would give me opportunities to meet with many women one-to-one to read the Bible. It would provide me with opportunities and training in speaking in front of a large audience. I would have time to pastorally care for women in my growth group by taking them out for a coffee and a chat on a regular basis. This year was the perfect time to begin since my kids were established at school, which meant I was completely free during school hours. And I felt I was well connected with many people at church, and therefore would have no problem raising my financial support.
"I had good plans for this year, but
God has said ‘no’ to many of them."
Well, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21). I had good plans for this year, but God has said ‘no’ to many of them. I am now a third of the way through my traineeship, but with the exception of the first couple of months, it has looked very different from what I envisioned. Instead of doing most of my work while the kids were at school, we’ve had to juggle my work hours around the demands of remote schooling. While I still consider myself well connected, the impact of COVID on people’s employment has meant that I have struggled to raise financial support, and am still well short of my fundraising goal. In January and February, I had begun meeting with a few women to read the Bible, but lockdown meant I no longer had any direct contact with two women I had been meeting with who lived in nursing homes. Other women were overwhelmed with the demands on their time with children at home full time, and were unable to meet with me . And gone were any opportunities to speak in front of an audience, or take women out for coffee and conversation.
"To many people, it might look like my year has been a failure . However, God has been powerfully at work!"
To many people, it might look like my year has been a failure . However, God has been powerfully at work, teaching me many things. Firstly, I have learnt that I am not, nor have I ever been, in control of my circumstances! Although I have had a fairly steady life where things have mostly gone to plan, this year has shown me that the idea of me being in control is an illusion. Our family created a cheesy little jingle early in the year as the pandemic began to grip the world;
“I don’t know what life’s gonna look like! La la la la la! Trust God!”
It has become our regular refrain throughout the various stages of lockdown as our normal routines and rhythms have undergone one upheaval after another. I have very clearly seen the wisdom in saying “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15) since we “do not even know what will happen tomorrow” will bring (James 4:14). It is a comfort to reflect on the fact that God does know what tomorrow will bring. He is at work and in control over all things. Even over COVID.
"It is a comfort to reflect on the fact that God does know
what tomorrow will bring. He is at work and in control
over all things. Even over COVID."
I’ve also seen a glimpse of how God is using the same situation of the pandemic to accomplish different things in different people. I’ve seen how God has used this time to draw people to Himself who were far off. I’ve seen Him use this time to convict people of their sin. To encourage people to reach out to their neighbours and build community. To rely and depend on Him more. To persevere through suffering. To deepen prayer lives. To strengthen faith. To cling to Him when life is overwhelming. To make people more like Jesus.
Although I may not have had much opportunity to build the skills I thought I would, I have had many opportunities to grow in other areas. I have learnt how to speak to camera, even if not to a live audience. I’ve learnt how to run online events. I’ve developed video editing skills. I’ve learnt to quickly adapt and change plans to fit changing circumstances. I’ve learnt how to engage people in studying the Bible over Zoom and on phone calls and with cards. I’ve had opportunities to take part in children’s ministry like Kids Talks and Sunday School catch ups. I’ve been able to take part in ministry training remotely that would have been challenging or impossible to do if meeting physically . Significantly, I’ve learnt to rely on God to provide for my needs, and not on my own strength.
So yes, this year has been different from my mental picture of what I thought it would look like, and it has probably looked been different from yours. But I am so thankful to God for the ways in which He has used it for our good and His glory.