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Finding Grace in the Purpose – Mari Swanepoel

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 2.37.03 PMThe word ‘process’ has been making a habit of relevantly, and at times provokingly, appearing in my daily walk and thoughts. I am in awe of how God finds great value in this word.

In his book, Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God, CS Lewis referred to ‘process’ as: “The Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self, and that this process goes on very far inside. One’s most private wishes, one’s point of view, are the things that have to be changed.”

The seasons of my life display the evidence of God’s golden thread of grace and the value He places on process. During my childhood, I attended a conservative Reformed Church with my family. My religious views, roots, and culture were predominantly formed in this setting. I remember asking confronting questions as a child, trying to fit the joyful, loving Jesus who spoke to me and showed me pictures, into the setting of Sunday services.

One specific Sunday when I was about fifteen years old, a missionary from Lesotho came to share with us what Jesus was doing in his area. I can still recall him reading out of Isaiah 61, and as I read through that chapter with him, Jesus gave me a very clear vision of what He has called me to do… I was to be a “medical missionary worker” serving people in rural areas. I tried my best to silently hide my tears during that service, not daring to share my strange experience with anybody.

Holding onto this vision, I decided to study Physiotherapy after school. I also went on every mission trip my church had to offer, continuously stirred a passion for my secret vision. Unfortunately, due to severe church politics and the absence of spiritual leaders in my life, I found myself silently disappointed in church and church followers.

Next followed a series of geographical movements on a journey to pursue Purpose. I was unconvinced that I needed a church or accountability, and I had a strong, independent spirit and a deep fear of being ‘bound down.’ As soon as I was confronted or bored in any way, my escape route was always to ‘run as fast as I could’ to my next location.

For my community service year, the government placed me in a rural hospital in Harding, KwaZulu-Natal. I found myself away from my family, culture, and social life, and placed in my ‘African dream’ environment.

Initially, it ‘looked’ very much like the childhood perspective of where I wanted to serve, but the Lord used that year to break down any romanticized ideas I had about working in a rural setting. I was overwhelmed by the need and paralyzed by the lack of effective systems and strategic vision. I found myself drowning in a mixture of compassion and frustration. But even though I was disappointed in the governmental medical system, I discovered a deep sense of dependency on Holy Spirit for guidance with my patients. So in a very raw, desperate, and uneducated way, I started experiencing Jesus’s miraculous ways in my workplace.

After that year, I wanted to move as far away from a failing medical system as I could. I wanted to experience the extreme opposite. So with childlike faith, I confidently asked Jesus if could work at Oxford University’s hospital in the UK. Against all the odds, He gave me exactly what I asked for, and four months later, I started working at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

It was an incredible learning experience, and I will forever be grateful for that season in my life. But during that season, even though my life looked glamorous and full from the outside, I could not deny a growing discontentment and an increasing desire to belong. This made me uncomfortable, so I decided, “It must be time to move again.”

Around that time, I visited South Africa and was randomly asked by a dentist friend if I would come to Jeffreys Bay for two weeks to run a friend’s Physiotherapy practice. I immediately said, “Yes!”

When Sunday arrived, my friend suggested that I also visit his church. I decided to go alone, just in case Jesus said we needed to ‘run’ again. But to my horror, as I entered the church, I heard that familiar voice clearly say, “THIS IS YOUR HOME.”

I spent the rest of the service fighting with Jesus, explaining exactly why I think He’s making a massive mistake. I heard Him say:

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 1.00.47 PM“My Hanani, I’ve shown you many sides of what you perceive the plan I have for you should look like. I allowed you to run ‘free,’ experiment, and grow. I’ve given you nearly everything you’ve asked for, protected you in your lack of discernment, and even blessed your impulsive ways. But still, your spirit is unsatisfied. So will you trust me now?

“Allow Me to show you what I have planned next. It won’t immediately make sense, and it won’t always be easy, but the calling for your life stays the same, and I won’t disregard your heart’s desires. The only difference is that I know best what you need, and I know what the vision I showed you should look like. So TRUST Me, and allow Me to mould you into who I know you are. And in the process, I will show you how my Kingdom works.”

Now up to that point, even in my very independent lifestyle, there were three certainties in my heart:

  • I loved Jesus.
  • From an early age, I could recognize His voice and clearly identify when He was speaking.
  • Being disobedient to that voice ALWAYS lead to massive chaos, sticky situations, and uncomfortable guilt-drenched consequences.

So when the physiotherapist returned from her two-week trip and informed me that she strongly felt that God wanted me to open a practice with her, I knew HE had won. I arrived in Jeffreys Bay six months later, knowing no one except a dentist. I still thought that Jesus was making a mistake; a private physiotherapy practice was something I clearly stated I’d never do. It was too constrictive and doesn’t serve the ‘people group’ that I thought I was called to serve. AND to top it all off, God also asked me to join my friend’s church.

So why did I say “Yes”?

Because HE SAID so. The verse, “Do not lean on your own understanding but trust the Lord with all your heart,” suddenly became a very practical instruction. I obeyed but continued to struggle with accepting that this was relevant to my journey.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 1.01.14 PMAfter six months of asking Jesus “When can I leave?” He gave me a vision of a Scripture that I wasn’t familiar with. So I looked it up, and this is what it said.

“Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.” Genesis 26:2-3 NIV

I experienced a supernatural heart-shift and decided to fully commit myself to this church family. He gently showed me who He always knew I was, and how He never intended for me to live life outside of church-community. The shift went from ‘me’ to ‘us.’

It wasn’t always easy, and I had to grow in my understanding, but by getting involved and allowing leaders to speak into my life, I discovered new depths of who Jesus is and what God’s Kingdom looks like.

And above all, He showed me His love for His church. I saw how spiritual families love, support, and fight for each other. Fault-finding became an opportunity to ‘participate in change’ rather than an excuse to ‘run away.’ In His family, there is grace for each other as we unite in a common vision of seeing people discover Jesus’s intense love for them, and seeing His Kingdom established.

My calling has never been more clear and my passion more alive. He blew my mind, and He never went back on His Word.

  • I have gone on countless adventures: mission trips to India and Sri Lanka, a medical outreach in Zambia, medical training in Australia, prophetic training conferences, and a Medical Healing Conference in the USA. All perfectly planned to train me and help me discover His love in more radical ways than I could ever imagine.
  • He stayed true to His promise, unlocking my heart’s desires that I didn’t even know existed. I let go of my ideas and fears of losing my freedom, and He restored to me the saturating reality of what true freedom looks like.
  • Oh, and if that was not enough, Jesus also gave me an amazing husband who encourages and supports me wholeheartedly in my dream and vision.

Today, seven years after arriving in Jeffreys Bay, I reflect back and can’t stop laughing at God’s goodness and the beauty of His process. I would never have known what incredible and adventurous plans He had in store for me without it.

I only saw glimpses of what I thought my calling was, but Jesus showed me how to hold onto the vision while trusting the process. And by His grace, I will continue to learn what Kingdom Medicine is and see how His miraculous love heals all people.