I am a goal setter. I'm one of those people who write a list including things already completed, just so I can have the satisfaction of ticking it off. So yes, I have a list a mile long of all the things I want to do in 2015!
So far, I am accomplishing number two, and perhaps in some people's eyes, failing number one. You see, number one on my list for 2015 is to draw closer to God. And I haven't been to church this year. In fact I haven't been to any Christian gatherings at all this year: no life group, no events, nothing.
I haven't been intentionally avoiding fellowship with like-minded people, but I've been posted in Waiouru with the army for the last seven weeks ticking off number two on my list: becoming a commissioned officer. It's gone so quickly that it's taken me a while to realise that I haven't done anything remotely Christian for 2015. In fact quite the opposite: I've heard a lot more swear words lately than there are minutes in a day!
Working on goal number one
My upbringing involved family devotions every morning and church every Sunday – no exceptions. I am very grateful for the discipline my parents instilled in me through this, but as I got older it took me awhile to overcome the guilt I felt if I missed church. Somehow it felt God was just a little disappointed in me that week for not making time to fellowship with other believers.
God knows it's easier for us as easily led humans to grow in Him in a community atmosphere. I love the feeling of being surrounded with likeminded people seeking God. By myself, it's easy to be side tracked and let days slip past without making time for Him. Almost two months of being alone has definitely had its ups and downs.
On one hand, I've had the amazing chance to fellowship with God one on one, to exercise my faith as an individual without others around me to help prop me up. In barrack life, the routine helps this. On the other hand, I've gone days where God has just been a fleeting thought in the busy-ness and uncertainty surrounding me.
Looking back, I'm disappointed with myself for the times I've drifted over the past few weeks; the times I've decided that there wasn't room for God in my timetable, so left Him aside.
Putting God in a box
I put God in a box and left Him back in barracks when I headed out of camp for a ten day field exercise in January. On day three, after "assaulting an enemy position", I was tasked with clearing the "bodies" (other soldiers lying around pretending to be dead). While searching through someone's vest for "intelligence information", I pulled out a Word for Today publication. The enemy soldier came alive suddenly and grabbed it from me and said, "That's just personal stuff, not part of the scenario". I gave it back to him, and felt convicted. I had left everything in barracks, even my waterproof Bible, to try and decrease the weight of my pack for the exercise. And here's a guy who not only brought his Word for Today out into the field, but was carrying it on his person!
My goals, God's way
At the beginning of 2015, I thought the first two months would be about achieving the number two goal on my list: becoming a commissioned officer in the NZ Army. But in God's perfect way, He has made it about achieving number one: drawing closer to Him. He's teaching me that he wants my attention ALL the time, not just when I'm in the routine of daily life. He wants my attention when I'm cold and hungry and my priorities are focused on physical survival rather than spiritual nourishment!
He's laid it on my heart that this is an important lesson I need to learn quickly, and not to let it slip past. He knows what the future holds and I know He wants me to take Him everywhere with me, not just when He fits the scenario.
So I've revised my number one goal a little bit for 2015. Rather than just focusing on drawing closer to God throughout daily life, I want to focus on drawing closer to Him at the times when I'm by myself with no other support, at the times when I assume he doesn't fit and when it's not cool to be a Christian.
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." - Hosea chapter 6 verse 6
Claire Debrois grew up in Feilding, NZ, and holds a communications degree in public relations from Massey University. She lives with her husband in Wellington and works in digital communications for the Bible Society. She enjoys keeping fit and active, and is a field engineer in the Army Reserves.
Claire Debrois' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/claire-debrois.html