As I led worship one evening a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a conversation that I was involved in recently with the chaplain in Parliament. Her name is Rose and she is an inspiring, passionate and humble woman. She said this: “The church needs to stop apologising for being the church, and just be the church”. And as I stood in front of a room of people, a new song came into my mind: ‘Don’t say sorry for who I have made you to be, but just be who you are made to be’. I thought this had been something that a person or some people in the room needed to hear, but before I could say or sing it, the worship time was brought to an end. After what had otherwise been an encouraging night, I felt frustrated.
When I went home, all I wanted to do was tuck myself up in bed and dig into God’s word, to respond and to mull over the whole situation with him. It was quite late at this point so I grabbed my Bible (the Message version) and for no particular reason apart from a small thought coming to mind, I opened up to the first chapter of Philippians, and read verses 1 to 11.
I was amazed by the love that the early church really had for one another. Paul is so joyful in thinking about his family. They have stuck with him through all kinds of hardships; he is nothing but grateful and happy because of them. I still couldn’t shake off my frustration from the evening, and longed for the kind of love that Paul showed for the church in Philippi. But then I realised that the song I thought was for someone else was actually God’s heart for me:
‘Stop saying sorry for who I have made you to be, and just be who I made you to be. YOU HAVE PERMISSION.’
God gave me so much freedom in an instant… It was one of those moments where the way that you look at life and at yourself changes. And today I have permission to be my introverted self, not to have to chat to a thousand people, but to sit quietly and just think. This is helping me find the kind of freedom and life that Jesus intends for me to have.
If Paul hadn’t felt permission to love so profoundly, then his family who were being persecuted and killed would not have received such honest encouragement, but a watered-down thank you card. I love Paul’s honesty. He prays with such passion because he knows that God gives him permission.
It’s now a couple of weeks later and I’ve been reading through a few verses of Philippians each night before bed. I have been challenged in the love that I show for my family. God created us in unity and fellowship, and in a society that is so individualistic this has become hard. We were made for community and that’s exactly what the enemy steals from us. Yes, I was allowed to feel frustrated and upset, but I also learned another lesson through turning to my Bible after that situation: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Over the past couple of weeks, I have realised that to really live in the freedom of Christ — being who he made you to be — requires community. Surround yourself with people who are for you and call out what God loves about you. We are family. Let’s love each other in such a way as God intended.
Emily is a New Wine Discipleship Year student based at St Paul’s Ealing where she has the privilege of spending her week with some amazing young people as the youth intern. She is 18 years old and has lived in Ealing for her whole life. She hopes to embark on some new adventures in September, to study Theology in Bristol whilst reaching out to build relationships and bless the homeless in the community. She is passionate about seeing the church living in more bold and adventurous ways, unashamed of who we are in Christ.
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