What learnings did you take from your experiences of 2021? We asked Tammy Stewart from SeeChange church in Jannali, and Kodie Ninness from The Tops, to share their reflections as they head into 2022.
2021 – God seeking and soul keeping
By Tammy Stewart
You can buy fish that will help keep your fish tank clean. They love to eat algae, which can accumulate and make the water dirty, reducing the need to constantly clean your tank.
My son shared this during a devotional at a staff meeting last year, in which we had been invited to reflect on the health of our souls. He likened his own soul to a fish tank without the algae-eaters – cloudy and polluted. The ‘fish’ that helped maintain the health of his soul were missing.
This picture resonated deeply with me. Our normal soul care was again thrown into disarray during 2021 – the lack of contact with family and close friends with whom we laugh, cry and share our burdens. There was also the challenge of navigating faith online – Zoom meetings and online services replacing the blessing of journeying, encouraging and supporting each other in person.
My soul definitely felt cloudy and polluted as the stresses of 2021 accumulated. Along with the ‘normal’ pressures of lockdowns, we had some personal losses. There were so many times I felt completely empty.
For me, 2021 was a year of pressing into Jesus in ways I never have. He was my faithful, true, and constant companion in the isolation – the one who called me close, who was willing to hold each burden, each pain, each tear. He was the one who invited me to find rest for my weary soul in the gift of just being with Him.
The picture of that fish tank getting filthy without the algae-eating fish gave me a deeper understanding of the pressure my soul was under. It propelled me towards God and instilled a non-negotiable need for more of Him.
A year that demanded more than I was able to deliver required a deep dependence on God, greater intimacy, and deeper resting in His presence.
The words of John Ortberg rang truer than ever before: “For the soul to be well, it needs to be with God.”
God, the great soul keeper.
2021 – Another journey towards being the beloved
By Kodie Ninness
During a retreat last year, God brought to the surface something I knew in my heart – that I was a “tough lover”.
I kept people at arm’s length to protect myself, and I believed I was incapable of intimate relationships. The enemy had deeply sown this seed in me. As a young boy without a father, I searched for an ‘earthly dad’, only to find males that reflected a broken world.
At the retreat, I invited God into this place of my heart, asking him to help me see him as my heavenly father and me as his child.
Five days later, during prayer, he graciously gave me an image of his hand on my shoulder, letting me know ‘the father is standing by his son’.
Not long after the retreat, I was on a camp for kids at risk. There was an incident at the camp that affected me, and I felt that I had reverted to my childhood self. But by God’s provision, this time I had another man place his hand on my shoulder and stand by me, someone who reflected a closer image to God as father.
After the camp, I connected with my mentor, and he began to encourage me to read through the story of Joseph, which I have read numerous times since. Through this biblical story, I experienced God as a father, standing by his son, hand on shoulder. I connected with Joseph – his family orientations with his brothers, and the loss of his family for major parts of his life, but also God’s provision to put him ahead of his family in Egypt.
These are two of many pieces in the journey that led me by God’s love and spirit to now see myself more closely as his beloved.
Read more stories of Fresh Hope HERE.