Confessions of a Tortured Perfectionist

My jaw slacked slightly as I continued reading the results of this particular personality test.

“This is so me,” I thought to myself in astonishment.

Despite the many personality tests that I have taken in the past, I still get excited about seeing my results. I find these kinds of tests incredibly interesting.

However, upon completing this most recent personality test, I experienced a slightly different response.

I was discouraged; maybe a little hopeless.

After finishing the Enneagram Personality Test, I got my results and it was exactly what everyone had anticipated…

I’m a One and a Six.

What does that mean? Well, here’s a brief description…

Enneagram Type 1, The Reformer – Perfectionist, responsible, fixated on improvement.

People of this personality type are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who desire to reform and improve, idealists who strive to make order out of the omnipresent chaos.

Ones have a fine eye for detail. They are always aware of the flaws in themselves, others and the situations in which they find themselves. This triggers their need to improve, which can be beneficial for all concerned, but which can also prove to be burdensome to both the One and those who are on the receiving end of the One’s reform efforts.

Enneagram Type 6, The Loyalist – Conflicted between trust and distrust.

People of this personality type essentially feel insecure, as though there is nothing quite steady enough to hold onto. At the core of the type Six personality is a kind of fear and anxiety. This anxiety has a very deep source and can manifest in a variety of different styles, making Sixes somewhat difficult to describe and to type.

What all Sixes have in common however is the fear rooted at the center of their personality, which manifests in worrying, the restless imaginings of everything that might go wrong.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that these results are very accurate.

As I continued reading the description, I noticed a sinking feeling in my spirit. The perfectionist in me saw only the negative aspects of these personality traits; the responsible part of me started fixating on all the ways I could improve myself based on these results.

And as I started writing this article, a sudden war broke out between trusting God as I confessed my shortcomings and wanting to hide for fear of exposing my flaws.

Yep, I’m definitely a One and a Six.

After finishing all the different descriptions and associated articles, I realized why I had begun to feel so discouraged…

I am not what I ought to be – ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be – I abhor what is evil, and I want to cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be – soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection (John Newton, 1772).

I realized that the personality described on the screen in front of me was that of a person who was nothing like Jesus Christ.

A tortured perfectionist … ‘to all perfection there is a limit,’ (Psalm 119:96) so why are you even trying?

An impulsive ‘goody two shoes’ fixated on constant improvement … ‘apart from Christ you have no good thing within yourself after all.’ (Psalm 16:2) You will never be good enough.

A conflicted soul caught between a desire to trust and inherent suspicion … ‘you’re supposed to trust in the Lord with all your heart you know.’ (Proverbs 3:5) You must not really trust God. You’re such a hypocrite.

Ah, how painful the war between flesh and spirit is. My thoughts continued to spin on this carrousel of internal conflict and desire.

This was everything I didn’t want to be; it was nothing of what I wished to be; and it was everything I hoped I wouldn’t be tomorrow.

But then the still small voice of Love and Truth broke through the chaos:

‘I AM your perfection. Remember that you are not who you were yesterday because of my grace.’

John Newton went on to say that yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge that, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Because of my perfectionist tendencies, by the grace of God it doesn’t take much for me to realize that this imperfect world is not my home; that I have a perfect eternity waiting for me. It’s not difficult for me to tap into that sense of eternity that He has placed in my heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

By His grace, I desire to be holy because He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

Through my internal conflict between trusting and being inherently suspicious, God graciously reminds me to depend on Him as the only steadfast One in this life and the next.

Indeed, to all perfection I see a limit, but praise God that His perfect Word is limitless. (Psalm 19:7; 119:96)

It is true that without God I would have no good thing, but how joyful it is to know that I will never have to live a day apart from His goodness. (Psalm 16:2; Deuteronomy 31:6)

Yes, I know that I need to trust in God, but my heart is assured that when I don’t, I will not be alone. The Holy Spirit will help me in my weakness. (Proverbs 3:5; Romans 8:26)

So remember that despite what you lack; regardless of your good qualities and bad habits, all that you are is because of Him and everything that you’re not, He is.

The Fear of the Lord in the Shadow of the Cross

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you…(1 Peter 4:12, NIV)

Fiery ordeals are a regular part of life. We struggle against trials and temptations such as lust, idolatry, fear, anxiety, and depression on a daily basis while some of us may encounter the horrors of sickness, tragedy, loss, heartbreak, and injustice. Regardless of the degree or nature of our fiery ordeals, our tendency is to fear those things. We avoid them, we lose sleep over them, and more often than not, we allow them to consume our every thought.

It is from this place of fear that we often turn to the Bible. With a heart that feared man and the world, I so often reached for the Bible not as the holy and infallible Word of God, but as a remedy for my fear. One of the biggest oversights that I have seen in my own Christian walk is the omission and misinterpretation of what it means to fear the Lord and how that kind of fear forms a vital piece of our foundation as Bible-believing Christians.

who do we fear?

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV)

Let’s consider the story in Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm. When we read about this miracle and the many like it throughout the Bible, we tend to insert our own personal ‘storm’ into that particular scenario. The violent waves that threatened to vanquish the disciples are often interpreted to be the fiery ordeals that threaten our lives – the tragedy of cancer, the heartbreak of a lost relationship, the loss of a job, or the injustice of abuse and neglect. We are encouraged through this Biblical account to not make the same mistakes as the disciples did but to instead trust that Jesus will calm the storm; that he will cure the cancer, restore the relationship, provide an even better job, or impose His rightful justice on those who inflict harm on the innocent and helpless.

Rather than a right and reverent fear of the Lord, it is our daily circumstances that we use as an elusive reference point for our Biblical interpretation, understanding, and wisdom, which is then easily corruptible by emotion and sentiment. We therefore tailor God’s promises and miracles according to our present circumstances, inadvertently missing the grander purpose of the story. This interpretation that God will ‘calm our storms’ may be applicable, but it is not exactly foundational. Rather, this interpretation places a subtle emphasis on our fear of man and circumstances, subsequently identifying God as a simple remedy for such fear rather than the ultimate object of our fear. This then makes Him out to be only slightly larger and more powerful than the fear that we face. It places God’s power to save in relation to our fear rather than submitting our fear to the one and only powerful and holy God, thus shrinking God down to be nothing more than a modern day Hercules.

How do we break this pattern of thinking?

We must first come to realize that the entirety of the Bible and the mission, person, and office of Jesus Christ here on earth points to a greater, more eternal reality than the harsh realities that we face on a daily basis. While it is easier and certainly more manageable to associate our daily battles with the storm in Mark chapter four, it is important that we pull back and realize that the storm in this story and the many stories like it points to a greater, far worse ‘Storm’ that we all inevitably face as a fallen and broken people.

the wrath of god

If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. (Psalm 90:11, NIV)

Throughout the Bible, the sea often serves as a representation of God’s wrath. This is evident in both the Old and New Testament. We see this representation very clearly in the story of Jonah (Jonah 1:15-17, NIV) as he plunges himself into the raging sea to calm the storm. He is swallowed and remains in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights until being spit back up onto dry land. The entirety of this story points to the greater sacrifice and coming glory of Jesus Christ. Just as Jonah plunged himself into the depths of the sea to calm the storm so too did Jesus plunge himself into the depths of sin to satisfy God’s wrath. Just as Jonah was spit back up onto dry land three days later, so too was Jesus resurrected from the grave three days after being buried.

Even in the book of Revelation, there are a number of references made to the wrath of God being like the sea (Rev. 18:21; 21:1, NIV). Babylon, which represents the seat of all idolatry and the enemy of Christianity, will be cast into God’s wrath as a boulder would be cast into the sea, never to be seen again and with the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, the wrath of God will be no more as His justice will have been satisfied in and through Jesus Christ, thus bringing to completion the original covenant made with God’s chosen people (Gen. 17:7-8; Rev. 21:3, NIV).

We can therefore delineate that Mark 4:35-41 is not necessarily a display of Jesus’ power or will to save us from our daily fiery ordeals, but rather that this story and the many stories like it is pointing to a much greater salvation that Jesus provides – salvation from the wrath of God.

The disciples rightly expressed a deep, unnerving fear of the sea. They were afraid of the unstoppable power that this storm possessed and were even more afraid of being consumed by its waves. In similar fashion, humanity throughout the Old Testament expressed the same kind of trembling before the presence of God Almighty. One such example of this can be found in 2 Samuel 6:1-7. After being commanded by God to not touch the holy things secured in the Ark of the Covenant, we read about a moment where the Ark of the Covenant begins to topple over the edge of an unstable cart and in what we would consider an act of valor, the Israelite named Uzzah reaches out to steady this precious relic. In response, the Lord’s anger burned against [him] because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7, NIV)

Even our best intentions are infested with sin and insolence towards God. As Isaiah 64:6 says – all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Jerry Bridges explains this concept beautifully as he considers how ‘even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.’ Even on our best days, we are helpless against the vast and just wrath of God. In front of the Holy of holies, the Great I Am, and the Creator of heaven and earth, sin cannot stand. In its entirety, sin must be destroyed. David understood the necessity for this kind of fear of the Lord as he penned Psalm 90. He knew how essential a right fear of the Lord was to the foundation of his faith. He knew that the entirety of who he was – good and bad – could not bear under the holiness of who God is, and therefore he knew this fear; this appropriate and right fear of the Lord and His holiness and righteousness. It is only when we have a knowledge of the magnificence of God’s holiness and perfection that we recognize the depth of our own depravity, causing us to tremble at His Word. And it is in that moment as we stand trembling before the transcendent God that our hearts are humbled and prepared to behold the glory of Jesus Christ.

the shadow of the cross

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

Imagine that you are on some country road all by yourself. There are no other cars around and no indication of civilization anywhere to be seen across the acres of one corn field after the other. The only thing that disrupts your endless view of the horizon is this ominous, terrifying F-5 tornado. Your car radio blares with emergency warnings, instructing all who are in this tornado’s path to find shelter immediately. You realize that you are in the direct path of this tornado, but even more alarming is the realization that you have nowhere to go. You are in fact helpless.

That’s when, out of the corner of your eye, you notice someone waving their arms, trying to get your attention. They seemed to have shown up out of nowhere but are now motioning for you to follow them into what appears to be a bunker; an underground refuge. So you follow in faith that this bunker will protect you and suddenly find yourself out of harm’s way. From the refuge of this bunker you are now able to see this F-5 tornado for what it really is – a magnificent, overwhelming, unnerving natural phenomenon that possesses unspeakable power. Without fearing your own demise, you are able to take in the full magnitude; the awe-inspiring massiveness and greatness of this F-5 tornado. And not only do you observe with fear and trembling as the tornado passes by, but you also experience a reverence and an awe-inspired gratitude for the bunker that protected you from such inescapable annihilation.

The disciples had an experience similar to this as the storm raged around them. They experienced a fear for their own lives. They knew that they were helpless against the unstoppable power of the storm and therefore feared that they would be lost to the violence of the waves. What is interesting about this first-hand account of Jesus’ miraculous power is that Mark mentions the terror expressed by the disciples only after Jesus calms the storm. Of course, their cries – “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – imply fear, but it is only in verse 41 after Jesus rebukes the storm and tells it to be still that Mark actually notes the terror of the disciples.

Likewise, there is a certain fear that we get to experience in the shadow of Jesus’ power to save unlike the fear expressed by Old Testament believers. Just as the disciples trembled at the power that Jesus demonstrated in calming the sea, so too do we tremble at the power displayed by Jesus on the cross as he satisfied the wrath of God against all sin. Our trembling at the cross however can never be fully known or truly expressed until we first recognize what exactly it is that the cross continuously saves us from.

the fear of the lord

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)

Pastor J.D. Greear describes the fear of the Lord as ‘a recognition of the size of God.’ Aside from a real trembling before the Lord in right, reverent fear of him, we will never, as Proverbs 9:10 assures, attain a true wisdom and understanding of God. When our view of God grows too small, we do not fear His sovereignty. When our faith and trust in Him becomes too manageable, we begin trusting in ourselves rather than His omnipotence. When He is diminished to a mere being that is only slightly greater and wiser than ourselves, we become arrogant and lofty in our thinking; becoming wise in our own eyes rather than dependent on His omniscience. How does this happen? Consider the words of Grace Thornton in her book, I Don’t Wait Anymore: “If we don’t realize how big the Kingdom on the horizon is, we risk seeing God as really small here. And if the Light on the horizon isn’t so bright that it’s nearly tangible, the small here can become really big.”

When we reach for the Word of God as a remedy against our fear of this world, God only becomes slightly larger than our fears or problems. He is diminished to be only wise enough, powerful enough, and sufficient enough to ease our fears, and that’s it.

Think about the massive F-5 tornado that you encountered on the desolate country road for a moment. What would the bunker have meant to you apart from the presence of that F-5 tornado? Nothing. It would have been a simple bunker with no real or necessary power to save. Without an acknowledgment of God’s wrath and an assent to our own helplessness in light of His justice, the cross of Jesus Christ would bear no real necessity or power to save.

The unstoppable and overwhelming, indisputable justice of God serves as an agent that prepares our hearts to deeply treasure the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This right understanding and fear of God’s wrath is necessary for us to recognize our deep-rooted depravity, which then elicits in our hearts a true and appropriate reverence and awe for the saving grace of Jesus Christ which stands between God’s wrath and our immorality. We tremble before the cross only when we recognize what the cross actually defends us from and then assent to the fact that we could not and cannot defend ourselves. When we recognize that the entirety of who we are as sinful human beings cannot bear under the weight of God’s holiness, we start down the path of wisdom; understanding the extent to which we need the cross. This prepares us to approach the cross of Jesus Christ with a humble and contrite spirit; trembling at the glory of His sacrifice and standing terrified at His power to save. A deficiency in understanding the magnitude and severity of the Storm that is God’s wrath and justice results in a minimized and diluted sense of Jesus’ love, grace, and power to save us from that Storm. When we lose sight of the greater problem that we inherently face as a fallen and broken people, we naturally become preoccupied with the ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Cor. 4:17, NIV) of this world rather than remaining eternally fixated on ‘God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6, NIV). A fear of man is derived when we forget to look beyond the cross into the ‘consuming fire’ that is the one and only sovereign and holy God Almighty. The beauty of the cross diminishes only when the reality of God’s wrath becomes inconsequential in our hearts and minds. When we rightly understand what it is that Jesus saves us from and firmly place our faith and confidence in the love and mercy of Christ, only then are we able to witness the magnificence and fullness of God’s righteous and holy power; bearing a right, reverent fear of the Lord from the security we have in the shadow of the cross.

Teach me your way Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. (Psalm 86:11-13, NIV)

More and More

One of the major lessons that I’ve learned in the year I have been writing grant applications is that this line of work is a continuous cycle of research and writing/submitting applications.

The more I research the more grant applications I submit and therefore the more funding the agency receives.

Grant research is not always easy though. Sometimes you get stuck and can only search for funding so many different ways until you completely run out of options.

But I do it nonetheless because if I stop researching then I won’t produce any results and therefore grow stagnant in my profession.

1 Thessalonians 4 encourages us to continue on with the good already instilled in us; to do more and more of what good we have been and are currently doing.

…brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more…(vs. 1 and 10).

Do so more and more…

That sounds exhausting.

I struggle with growing idle in my faith because I often take on the ‘diet’ mentality – I do good one day so I relax in my efforts the next and eventually this cycle turns into a ‘one-step-forward-two-steps-back’ routine, ultimately cultivating a complacent heart.

This is the exact mentality that Paul warns us against, encouraging us to combat these complacent behaviors by way of continuous growth and continuous development in our faith.

John 15:4 explains that in order for us to produce; in order for us to avoid complacency, we must remain firmly attached and grounded in Jesus Christ. We are stagnant and dying only when apart from Him. It is when we remain in Him and in His Word that we grow in faith, produce fruit, and continue to do so more and more.

However, if we fail to remain in Christ as John 15:4 instructs us to, we eventually forget where our true ability to produce fruit comes from.

Take Deuteronomy 8:10-18 for example.

Verse 18 sums up this passage by instructing us to remember the Lord our God, for it is he who gives us the ability to produce, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to our ancestors, as it is today.

It is only in and through and for Jesus Christ our Lord that we produce fruit.

However, it is in pride that the wicked man does not seek him [Jesus]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  – Psalm 10:4

A complacent heart is rooted in pride. When we start believing it is from our own doing that we can produce any kind of spiritual fruit we will eventually grow stagnant because we detach ourselves from the only true source of Life.

When there is no room for God there is no room for growth nor is there room for a spirit that does good and continues to do so more and more.

Jeremiah 10:21 says that the shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flocks are scattered.

Tying in directly with John 15:4, when we are not inquiring of the Lord; if we are not rooting our lives in Him, we become senseless in our pursuits and do not prosper in our actions.

I’m learning this very lesson today as I continue growing in my writing.

In order for me to produce any kind of Godly wisdom or understanding, I must first remain completely dependent on Christ and the only way to do that is to eliminate any trace of pride that I may have in connection with my writing.

If I am at all prideful in my work, it won’t be very long before I begin relying on my own abilities, forgetting to inquire of the Lord and therefore growing complacent in my faith.

If our work is not done in and through and for Jesus Christ, then it is void of divine impact and everlasting hope.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  – John 15:4

Only in connection to the Lord our God are we able to produce any kind of good work and it is only by continuous growth in Him that we are able to do so more and more.

This We Know

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

How often do we say this and actually believe it, or act on it for that matter?

We like to think that our hearts are content in all circumstances, but when push comes to shove, we find ourselves striving harder and harder towards fantasies of satisfaction.

Why is this?

Why is being content so hard?

Why does even the mention of that word cause a collective sigh of frustration?

I remember in late High School or early college working my regular night shift at Perkins Bakery. I was in the back baking up some pies while listening to the radio like usual when the song Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave came on.

I had heard this tune before so I didn’t really pay much attention to it until the lyrics began to pull me out of my distracted thoughts.

 

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise, oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

 

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

It hit me. It was more than just head knowledge this time, it was a true, deep-rooted belief in my heart – I. Am. Content.

I was content right then and there, in the Perkins Bakery covered with flour. I was content and fulfilled with all that Jesus was in my life.

I was content with simply knowing Him and seeing a future with only Him in it.

Contentment is hard though. One minute it’s there and you’re happy with life – where you’re at, who you’re with, and where you’re headed.

Then out of nowhere something changes and suddenly what you were aiming for and patiently (or anxiously) waiting for is gone; replaced by something different and often times not what you were hoping for.

Contentment is pretty hard to maintain, but perhaps that’s because it is dependent upon things that are ever-changing.

In order to be content in all circumstances we need to find our contentment in the One who is consistent in all circumstances.

A couple of weeks after this ‘ah-ha’ moment, a friend of mine started dating this guy she had been talking to for a while. It was cute and all, but gosh – I wanted that too!

And wouldn’t you know it, my contentment somehow shifted from the all-sufficient God to an ‘ideal love story’ I was certain was just around the corner.

*insert exasperated sigh*

I told God that I was content in Him, but not in Him alone. Sure, I could be content with God for now, but eventually the thing that I really wanted would come and only then would I be fully, completely satisfied.

Jesus was enough…but only for now.

It wasn’t until about a week ago though that I realized my misinterpretation of what it means to be content.

Often when we ask God to make us content, we think in terms of what we want. We have this mirage of happiness – marriage, children, white-picket-fence lifestyle, a career, or wealth – whatever it may be, we have it dangling in front of us as we run around in circles trying to attain this idea of happiness.

We say, “God, please make me content in waiting for this or for that. Make me content and patient to wait on You.”

But what are we really saying?

Our contentment is based on that idea – that ‘ideal, perfect life’ that we have pictured for our future, and yet we wonder why our sense of contentment falters in the face of change…

We are asking God to make us content on our terms, and according to Paul, that’s just not how it works my friend.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment is not found in waiting for what we hope will be.

Contentment comes when we find fulfillment in what we know to be true today; right here, right now. Today.

So we ask ourselves, “What am I absolutely certain of in this moment? What are the truths that I can hold onto right now?” Consider the following…

**This is an excerpt from my prayer journal on June 14, 2017 –

Help me to be content in the only things I know for sure:

  1. You are good;
  2. You are faithful;
  3. My purpose is to glorify Your Name;
  4. Today I am alive;
  5. Tomorrow I do not know.

This we know to be true.

Each of these statements are unchanging, never-ending, and ever-present in each moment of our lives.

These truths are consistent in all circumstances. You will never find yourself in a situation where any one of these is not true.

Therefore, if your faith and contentment is found and nurtured on these consistent truths, then believe it or not, you will have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

This we know, and it is in this that we find true contentment.

The Love of a Father

I remember looking on as my older brother, who was probably six or seven at the time (putting me around the age of five), pulled himself out of the pool and turned to offer me a hand.

We had managed to make our way over to the deep end against the very strict rules of our parents, and at the age of five, I hadn’t quite mastered the skill of swimming yet, though I had no fear.

My trustee floaty was keeping me safe.

Or so I thought.

In an attempt to get out of the pool, I slipped off my floaty and before I knew it, was sitting at the bottom of the deep end.

At five years old I suppose I should have been freaking out, but I wasn’t.

I very distinctly remember sitting there, not really knowing what to do, but knowing without a doubt that my dad would come.

I remember thinking, “…any minute now. I know he’ll come…”

Sure enough, my dad was there, pulling me back up to the surface where my mom was looking on. I knew it had scared them terribly, but I was as calm as ever.

I knew he would come.

And he did.

I’ve found myself at the bottom of the deep end many times since then. Not in the literal sense of course, but rather in my walk with Christ.

The deep end can be a very scary place. Our vision is blurred by the confusion and tears, we can’t seem to breathe and every time we try, we suffocate on the pain that’s overwhelming us, and the surface is so far away we find ourselves way in over our heads.

We sit at the bottom and hope to God that we are rescued, because we know we don’t have it in us to rescue ourselves. We don’t know how.

So we panic.

We fight to get back to the surface on our own, and when we’ve fought long enough, we simply give up in our frailty and accept what our lives have become.

I’ve been in over my head many times, fighting back with every ounce of strength I’ve had left because that’s what we do as Christians, right?

We fight.

We fight to be okay.

We fight to be happy.

We fight to have it all together.

We fight to have hope.

We’re always fighting, and for what? Why?

I think little 5-year old me was onto something.

She knew that there was someone who would, without a doubt, rescue her. She had no need to fight; to try and get back to the surface on her own because she knew the love of her father.

She knew that her father loved her too much to leave her there at the bottom of the deep end.

Jennie Allen sheds some light on this topic in her book Nothing to Prove. She explains that the reason we can rest; the reason we can sit calmly at the bottom of the deep end is not because the job is easy. We have a long ways to go to get back to the surface and it is certainly not because we have the capability of doing so on our own either.

No. We can rest because we know the love of our Father in Heaven.

I think too often we forget that God doesn’t want anything from us.

He isn’t sitting at a distance, allowing us to approach only if we’re okay, happy, have it all together, and practice hope and trust in Him without fault.

This is why we fight so hard though, isn’t it?

We think that if we’re not fighting, we’re not living passionately.

My friend, fighting and living with passion are two very different things.

In order to show my passion for baseball, I go to the College World Series with my dad and family every year for Father’s Day.

We enjoy ourselves; taking in the atmosphere, having our fair share of hotdogs, and making many wonderful memories along the way.

There’s not a whole lot of fighting involved in this scenario, is there? Sure, we might have to fight the crowd, but you get my point.

God wants us, He doesn’t want what we can give Him.

Instead of fighting to earn enough money to give my dad a ticket to the Series, I can say without a doubt that he would much rather go to the games with me rather than receive a ticket from me.

Jesus wants you. He wants to be with you.

When we quit fighting and rest patiently and contently in the knowledge of His unending, perfect love for us as His children, passion will come more naturally than breath itself.

To live with passion for Christ is to live with Him, not for Him.  -Jennie Allen

If you’re sitting at the bottom of the deep end right now, I want you to remember something. Remember that the God you serve is a BIG God; a perfect God, and an all-loving Father.

He doesn’t need your fight, He wants your heart.

I know it might hurt and I know it can be scary, but be at rest in knowing the love of a Father that loves His children way too much to leave them at the bottom of the deep end forever.

 

*This blog post is dedicated to the man who pulled me out of the deep end that day 18 years ago and has continued to remind me every day since then how much I am  loved by my heavenly Father. You have shown me how to live life with purpose and have taught me how to face the challenges with strength and humor.
I love you Dad!
Happy Father’s Day!

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

The whole idea of starting my own blog came from a small email chain between several close friends of mine. Since my nose is constantly in a book, I decided to start sending out daily emails with encouraging tid-bits that I had learned from the previous night’s chapter.

This was manageable.

With an English minor in my back pocket, I knew how to write, I knew every person who read my writing, and I knew how to tailor my writing for each of them.

Though it was all Scripturally-based, it required very little faith on my end.

Everything fell within my control and my understanding.

When God laid it on my heart to start expanding my reach from a few emails to blog writing, I was really excited.  I had grown to love sharing stories, lessons, and Biblical wisdom and couldn’t wait to start sharing that on a larger platform.

Eventually though, as I started taking the first steps toward this change, I began to recognize my own capabilities, which were nowhere near enough for this kind of ministry.

I couldn’t do this.

I didn’t have it within me to continually pump-out Godly wisdom week after week.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Believe it or not though, my own inability has turned out to be the best part of blogging for me and the only part that keeps me coming back week after week.

I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay!

In fact, it’s more than okay because it has opened up my heart in such tremendous ways. It has allowed the Holy Spirit to flow through me in ways that are nearly impossible to explain, but I’ll do my best.

All of my blog posts are inspired by someone or something. Most of the time I’ll get ideas from church services I attend or sermon podcasts I listen to. Other times, it will be through simple conversations with friends and family (that is why I always have a journal and pen on me).

The fact that I have to rely on God’s daily inspiration and intervention to provide me with the wisdom and insight I need for my next blog post has stimulated a whole new approach to life and dependence on God.

I see circumstances – good and bad – in new ways. I see people and my conversations with them differently.

Everything is inspiration, and I truly believe that is how God intended us to live our lives here on earth – in full anticipation of being inspired each and every day by His marvelous glory!

He is everywhere and in everything if we’ll only look to see. We can ‘see God’s heart ten billion different ways’ in His creation of man, not to mention in all of nature; earth, water, and space.

Once God plants an idea in my heart, I start formulating it through rapid note taking, doodles, and exploring different avenues until I eventually land on a solid platform.

Once I have my format, I start writing. I do what I like to call ‘word vomit’ (gross, I know, but it’s the best way to describe it). I just write and allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

By the end of my writing session, I’ll look back at what I’ve done and see a mess of ideas, but when I read through it, I see unbelievable beauty; as if I’m reading each piece for the very first time.

Each blog post is new to me; a new story, a new idea, a new facet of faith.

When I sit down to write, very rarely do I have a complete – beginning to end – idea laid out. I usually know how I’m going to start, but have to trust God to guide me to an end, and without fail He always produces a lesson that I need to learn.

God has spoken to me through my own work because I have to be unreservedly dependent on His wisdom flowing through my fingertips.

In other words – none of this is me. I am but a tool in His hands writing what He speaks to my heart through whispers of inspiration.

The God of all glory speaks when we completely depend on Him.

I literally sit down to an empty slate and fully expect Him to show up…

…and believe me, He does.

I recently had a friend describe to me her first experience with this kind of writing. She explained that once she started, she just kept going on and on and on and by the end of it, she looked over what she had written and didn’t see her words, but rather the words of God.

She looked at me with amazement in her eyes and asked, “is that what it feels like when you blog? Because if so, I now see why you love doing it so much, because the Holy Spirit moves so powerfully through that kind of unrestricted writing.”

I just smiled and nodded because that is the exact experience I get every time I write.

I get to feel the Spirit move through my fingertips; orchestrating a beautiful string of letters into words that inspire with wisdom and understanding that are far beyond my own capabilities.

It is an experience unlike any other.

Now, don’t think for a second that you have to write to experience this though.

Absolutely not.

I’ve just discovered that writing is my way of worshiping and drawing near to Christ.

There are so many other ways of doing this!

Music.

Art.

Creativity.

Dance.

Even exercise and working out.

The list goes on and on. God has created each of us with a unique trigger in our hearts; that thing we do that is our own personal act of worship to God Almighty!

When we fully embrace this kind of personal worship and follow its guiding to the point where our ‘faith is without borders,’ we experience the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit, molding our passions into a purpose that will glorify God to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.