I’ve been living in Stockholm five weeks & within that one of those weeks was spent back on my green emerald isle – so I guess you could say it’s still very early days here. I expected (or hoped) it would come like a lightning bolt – that as soon as I stepped off the plane it would be so clear what I was ‘to do’ here. To be honest – it’s still quite unclear. The first four or five weeks have been spent following the last clear thing I felt God say about coming here – “no safety nets Colleen” & trying hard not to run ahead with my own plans out of fear – gulp! But God don’t you know it’s been weeks of no clarity, no income, no church community, no doors flinging wide open & no automatic Swedish tongue 😉 I think He’s calling my bluff – am I willing to surrender without agenda – to be faithful and follow even if I can’t see the favour.
As believers I think sometimes we skip past the ‘costly’ parts that come with the Kingdom call, let’s be honest that doesn’t get us the insta likes or make people rush into our church buildings. Our salvation comes from a moment that looked like the most painful loss – when Jesus took his last breath on the cross. John the baptist was beheaded, in fact all but one of the disciples were killed for their radical faith – their sacrifice was their lives. I pray to be more like Jesus and his disciples but find myself often unprepared for the cost and unaware of just how radical a call. Just like with the cross – earthly eyes might struggle to see it – but it’s our job to see it as it is in heaven.
So, for the last couple of weeks my prayer has been – okay God if this is what the rest of my earthly days look like i’m still all-in.. it’s often been through tears when the only words I could mumble out were ‘your will be done’. Like I said in a previous blog post – I have nothing & I have everything. The sign up isn’t be faithful and you’ll get everything you want – the sign up is i’m faithful because He’s been faithful.
Then this week- came the little whisper (maybe He was whispering the whole time & I couldn’t hear him over the noise of my expectations) – “you thought I was bringing you here to do something through you – don’t miss that i’m doing something in you”.
Coming here was part of a bigger journey God has been working in me that actually started a year ago to this very month – when God started to ask me would I lay down ministry for Him. It’s been a painful and long journey where I can really say the call on my life to ministry isn’t who I am – I gave it all over. However, I felt the surprising whisper of the Father this week saying – i’m handing it back to you because it’s what you bring. My heart skipped a beat.
I was having a conversation yesterday with a guy who moved to Sweden 3 years ago from Syria. We were discussing how quiet it is here and how little people interact with each other, he was reassuring me that I am in fact not going crazy – that he also finds people here in his words “are cold like robots” (no offence to you warm Swedes – although finding them is like finding unicorns). He then mentioned something really interesting from the research he’s been doing with Stockholm University. Sweden is the second most secular country on the globe – after China! 76% of Sweden list as non-religious or atheist.
I find myself in a country where the church has been banished to the corners and replaced with intellect as an even greater God. What – it was like a penny drop moment – i’m not going crazy – the atmosphere here is hostile to God & because He’s living in me it’s hostile to me. I can live without slick coffee shops & good welfare systems, I can live without a lot of things but I can’t live without the presence of God. The nights I’ve curled up on my bed holding my bible in desperate pursuit of His presence all makes sense now. I’m in a country that isn’t just missing God but is proud that they don’t need him.
“In February 1972 a group of Swedish politicians gathered together to define a new idea of the future – to create a society of autonomous individuals. Cut to 2013, forty years later, Scandinavia is the loneliest region in the world. Sweden statistically has the highest number of people dying alone” – The Swedish Theory of Love.
He hasn’t told me what’s next – He’s first reminding me of who I am and then reminding me of what I bring. He’s reminding me of what I bring & showing me even greater insight into its significance. Living in secular Sweden I have never been more convinced that society without Him leaves isolated hearts. If it was even possible I believe in a greater measure that the Hope of the world rests in the hands of the local church – the scattered and equipped priests understanding that God wants to bring life & healing to every sphere of culture and to our communities. He is invested in our politics, business, medicine, He’s the best at family & He is the source of never failing Joy!
So, the story so far.. I still have no idea what life here looks like or for how long i’ll be here – but I know who I am & what I bring – in every conversation, every prayer and everywhere my feet tread. So, i’ll continue to press in & most importantly invite His presence!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:15-17
Finally – to the handful of Swedes I’ve met refusing to live secular with our saviour – thank you! You are a hero!