Twenty-five years ago – what were you doing? I was in my twenties and living in Virginia with two wonderful women as I faced a turning point in my life, although I didn’t know it at the time. Having just broken off an engagement to be married, I felt the shattering of my hopes for marriage and a family.
The pain of the broken dreams opened up a bigger question: Who am I? Why was I trying to find my identity in things outside of God, such as romantic relationships, my work, friendships, or even my involvement in church? The question propelled me on an adventure with God as I started to hear the still, small voice of the Lord and the words of the Bible came alive. God the Trinity was awakening me through his word; the Word in me was coming alive.
Those were amazing years of growth as each morning I was eager to awaken early to read the Bible and pray. I was taking the Scriptures and eating them, as in Jeremiah 15:16. And the words – the Word – tasted sweet, as sweet as honey. The words were my food and sustenance; the power of the Word to sustain me.
Those years provided a necessary foundation to my life with God, but of course the story doesn’t end there. The Word continues to work in my life, as I found myself in Britain.
In 1991, I never would have dreamed that I’d make a home in Britain. That’d I’d be a vicar’s wife – I probably didn’t even know what a vicar was! Or that my two amazing children would speak with English accents and a regular part of my day would involve beseeching them not to drop their t’s. That I’d learn about cricket and what the majority of people in the world call football. And how to make a proper cup of tea.
In 1991, I was working for the deep thinker and also deeply humorous man, Os Guinness. Later when I was engaged to Nicholas, Os warned me that in my move to England the little things might all add up to a big thing – such as with language and words. And he was right. At first I would flail around in my conversations, knowing that it wasn’t a “parking lot” but not remembering that it’s a “car park,” or not knowing what nappies were. For a person who worked with words, I was humbled to feel misunderstood and to misunderstand.
But God the Word was with me through Jesus dwelling within and the Holy Spirit’s gentle comfort, and I got through those early days of feeling numb and silenced. What were challenges, such as not communicating easily, became the means of relying more intensely on God. As he met me, my faith grew.
I started to understand a theme of the kingdom of God – that in losing ourselves, we find ourselves. Just as I’ve found myself in Britain. And I mean that in both senses of the word – finding myself here geographically and also finding who I am in terms of my identity in Christ.
For here I’ve found myself as a citizen of heaven and a citizen of the world. I’ve deepened in my vocation as a writer and editor – one who loves words and the Word and who shares them with others.
Life with God is an adventure. His Word in us calms us, showers us with love, and calls forth in us our buried dreams. May we share his words with those whom we meet.
In closing, some questions to ponder.
- Are you willing to lose your life to find it?
- When in your life did times of sacrifice bring great gifts and growth?
- How have the power of words – those written, those spoken, and ultimately the Word – shaped your life and your faith?
This is part of a talk I gave at the 25th anniversary celebrations for the Books Alive bookshop in Hove on 17 June. The theme of losing yourself to find it is a major one in my book Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity, which you can find here.