How did your 2018 begin?
I will be honest with you, normally I start the year with a bit of a bang. January is a month that I always look forward to. I like fresh starts – both psychologically and spiritually. But this January seemed to start fairly oddly. I had a four-week-long virus that clung to me like an energy-sapping limpet. I felt rough. I looked rough. I had little joy. Perhaps you know what that feels like?
Anyway, this was my start to the year. No Party. No fun. Just a kind of impenetrable, foggy cloud hanging over my spirit.
When I prayed for some clarity and revelation, the only word I had was a kind of picture that felt half-revealed and intangible.
All I could see in my heart was an image of a load of coats on the floor. That was it.
When I asked God what it meant or what it signified, I didn’t really feel I heard anything.
I went to a women’s conference at church and hoped that would fill in some blanks, but it didn’t.
Then a week or two ago, I went to a group for female preachers in our church, set up by one of our leaders. It was SUCH a beautiful evening! (Thank you Hannah Bettany!) At the end we were encouraged to share some prayer with one another. I was delighted to be sitting next to a close friend who often speaks life and hope into me. In fact, Emma Varnam is an extremely rare person in my life because she sees more in me than almost anyone else I know. She is a DEEP encourager of my heart, but always speaks her truth without any extra unnecessary fluff and flattery. Something in my tired and weary heart became expectant. Even hopeful and ready.
I told her about the nebulous ‘coats-on-floor-in-mess’ headline. I asked her to pray that God would reveal what the ‘coat hooks’ were; what I could start to ‘hang the coats on’ and what the coats themselves actually stood for. But as she started to speak, she totally went against that idea.
“There are no hooks,” she said, with firm authority.
This was not a pleasing beginning.
Life was feeling odd, bizarrely complicated and a tad chaotic for me. I wanted some order and some definition to it all. I was really desperate for some of those bad-boy hooks.
But Mrs V was adamant. There were no such beings revealing themselves to her. Not even a cheap IKEA one.
So what did the picture mean?
Emma talked lovingly and comfortingly about how whenever I host a party, there are always loads of coats everywhere. FACT.
People arrive and leave their keys, their wallets, their phones in their coats. They dump them somewhere in my house – normally on a bed or a sofa… but there is a sea of coats. This is what she could see.
Emma explained that she felt Jesus was calling me to a new season of gathering others together. The coats were all about party, joy, invitation, belonging, hospitality and welcome. They signified the power of getting people together to learn, share, grow, laugh and cry together. But there was a warning. With that responsibility of giving parties, comes certain and impending vulnerability – the opening of my heart and home, the inconvenience of loving others when one is tired or busy… and, of course the overflowing bins and mess.
As she started to speak, I felt my eyes well up. This made so much sense of my new, strange season. I felt the Holy Spirit begin to join some of the dots that had felt estranged. The tears flowed.
After she had prayed for me, I found myself thinking about another time, a time in the Bible when people laid their coats out on the floor. This was the time when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.
Luke 19:36-37 tells us that “as Jesus went along (on the donkey) people spread their cloaks on the road.”
“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.”
Suddenly I felt I understood more about the coats. They were about humility before the King. The coats were laid down so He could walk over them. But they were a pre-cursor to relationship, intimacy and praise!
I left that evening, incredibly grateful to Emma for helping me hear so clearly from God.
The following day I rang my friend Jane Sullivan to chat about a number of things. I mentioned the word Emma had shared with me. Jane spoke into it further by saying that she believed the coats were about different giftings that I needed to lay before the Lord. They were things I would be able to pick up and put down again, as He directed me to do.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have some direction and something to aim for personally in this year of prayer.
I am sharing this because I feel its for so many of you too.
We are being called to a season of open home, open heart, and full bins.
I may not have any coat hooks, but I know its ok to have a sea of coats on the floor. All I want now, is for Jesus to walk all over them!