We are thankful to God that Lizzy Smallwood will be joining the KCC platform as a speaker at OneLove women's conference. In this interview, Lizzy shares about life, faith and how Jesus promises so much more than the cult of "Self Love".
1. What takes up your time during the week?
So, as the wife of a Christian Minister, it's different every day and I love that because I think I have a random personality.
Monday is Women's Bible study in the morning and a family food shop in the afternoon (which I find strangely soothing) before picking up my 9 year old Beatrice from school. Tuesday involves running the Parent & Toddler group at Church and then trying to do some studying in the afternoon; reading & preparing for talks. Wednesday and Thursday I teach in the local primary school and running the Junior Choir. Wednesday night we always have about 12 people from Church for supper. Friday is a mash up of checking on my very spritely 86 year old mother and getting ready for the weekend and church on Sunday. Saturday is a day off with the family and then Sunday is church. We have lunch every Sunday after the service which is a great way to get to know people.
There are groups using the house throughout the week so there is a constant stream of people through the door which makes life very colourful and nicely messy. We are a very culturally diverse church which means we get cooked some amazing food by some amazing people.
2. How did you come to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?
Like many, I was brought up in a Christian home and always knew about the Lord Jesus. I used to pray a prayer of commitment in the back of a little leaflet called "Journey into life" regularly - just in case. I finally understood that Jesus died on the Cross once for all my sin on the eve of my 11th Birthday on a Christian youth camp.
I was a fairly nice teenager - didn't do anything particularly shocking so bumbled along, always at church & youth group, ticking all the right "keen youth" boxes. But I think there was a flaw in my understanding - in my heart - and it was that I was happy to have Jesus as my Saviour but didn't really think too hard about what it meant that he is my King.
So then I went away to university and did the Prodigal Daughter thing. I thought I needed to be in the bar witnessing to my friends and just wandered off the path - I never stopped believing the Gospel was true but I knew my behaviour didn't match up to what I said I believed. So I shut up about what I believed and drifted further and further away from the Lord. Finally, having done all the stuff the world and Satan say is such fun and finding actually it's just a big fat lie and leaves you feeling wretched, the Lord, in his mercy, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and pulled me up out of the pigpen.
Although I would never recommend a spell away from the Father, in God's glorious economy I finally understood grace and that I bring nothing to the party and it is all Him. Being nice, being brought up by Christians, being in church a lot, being married to a minister isn't it. Doing loads of stuff for the Lord isn't it. Giving talks to women in Australia isn't it. It's all grace. It's all Jesus.
3. Who is someone who has inspired your walk with Jesus?
Her excitement in anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face confronted how comfortable I am in this world, how easily I forget: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God..." And her funeral, which she had planned down to the last detail was all about Jesus (except maybe her 1970's Motown Disco playlist at the refreshments after the service).
4. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing women in the Western church today?
The challenges are many and varied but I think the one I come across daily is the cult of "Self Love". I see it in the way we raise our children to believe they are the centre of the universe with the resulting carnage in homes and schools. I see it in the way we deal with each other in church - falling out over the slightest misjudged comment or perceived offence. I see it in the way we deal with the problems and issues living in a fallen world throws up. The irony is that believing the world, the flesh and the devil's lies about 'self' leads to fear and anguish - not freedom and happiness. Eventually, I think the cult of "Self Love" will be realised as the cause of some mental health issues, addictions and the breakdown of family life.
The world tells us that we are special, that we deserve to be happy, that we deserve to be treated in a certain way by those around us because we are worth it. We are constantly told we need to work on our self esteem; our self confidence, our self worth or our self actualisation. This all sounds well and good until you realise it actually doesn't work in practise. This is because in order for us to do whatever we want to feel good about ourselves, we are going to make a lot of people around us unhappy. It is a counsel of despair. I'm either going to make you more insecure as I place my worth and my happiness above yours or I'll become more insecure as you don't treat me the way I have been led to believe I should be treated. As Sharon Hodde Miller helpful puts it in her book Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You:
"The reason self-preoccupation causes insecurity is that it raises the stakes - on dating, parenting, working, and serving - by turning it all into a referendum on our worth. Every slight, every rejection, every awkward interaction must be about us.”
One of the most helpful books I have read on this was Timothy Keller's "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness". It outlines how God calls us into the bigger story - His story - where we learn to live for him instead of ourselves, as we were designed to before we went for self rule. When we shift our focus off ourselves - our fears, our appearance, our success, our self-doubt - and fix our gaze on Christ alone, we encounter the freedom we were created to have. When we learn what it means to be "In Christ" and we find our identity and security and worth in Him; as we learn to serve rather than be served, we will finally learn to be free of me. If we could learn to live this out as women of Christ I really think it would transform our families, our churches and attract a lost generation to Christ.
5. What can women expect from your talks from Hebrews this year?
I want all women - but especially those who might be feeling discouraged and worn down - to be blown away once again by Jesus Christ. I want them to know who He is; what He has done and how He is all we need to persevere in the Christian life and to cross the finishing line. So I hope we will meet Jesus again in his word and get a glimpse of his greatness. That we will become ‘besotted with’, ‘captivated by’, ‘hooked on’ Jesus again, and as a result - perseverance will rise in our hearts and we will leave determined to keep on trusting in Jesus and following Jesus even through the dark cold winter nights of the soul.
Early Bird tickets now available!
Whether you have been a Christian for many years or are still seeking answers about God, come to OneLove and experience life changing preaching, inspirational testimonies, delicious food, amazing music and fantastic fellowship!
This year we're excited to have Bible teacher Lizzy Smallwood open up the book of Hebrews to encourage us that there is purpose in our perseverance, and Anne-Sophie Rowcroft will share with us from her experiences as a missionary in West Africa.
OneLove will be held on Saturday, 31 August 2019 in the heart of the city, at the beautiful Sydney Town Hall.
CLICK HERE to register now.
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