Please be sure to read Made for More, a short introduction into the two-part series written for the Sigma Phi Lamba Retreat in October 2019.
Sometimes I wonder, how did I get here? To say that God has worked a lot in me over the past 20 years would be an understatement. Without sharing my entire story, I can say that there are a few things that have a tendency to still haunt me today if I’m not careful:
- Caring too much about what people think
- Looking for happiness in the wrong places
- Not knowing my worth
God has been working in me for years to prepare for this time, I just didn’t know it until recently.
3 years ago…God told me to quit my job. So in my practice of being obedient, I did. I thought it was to start writing the book He had put on my heart. Nope. Not yet He says.
2 years ago…I shared my testimony in front of about 30-40 high school students at our church.
1 year ago…I shared part of my story and a message in front of 100+ women at a ladies breakfast, also at our church.
6 months ago…I shared a message with 50+ elderly in the poorest community in El Salvador, with my pastor as my translator.
1 month ago…We were on a mission trip in Brazil when our team was told that two people needed to share a message at the mission base. I didn’t hesitate to raise my hand and share a message that God had been preparing in me for that very evening, translated in Portuguese to the missionaries and Satare villagers who were present for the service.
I tell you all of these things, not to be boastful, but so say that they were all truly a calling from God. In my past, speaking in front of people used to be my biggest fear, trembling at the knees, making me want to throw up kind of fear. But when it’s a calling from God, He takes the fear away – when we walk with Him and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. I will be honest though and say, that I have never been more concerned with what to say until preparing for the message I shared with these young ladies.
When a good friend reminded me that this group of ladies was much like speaking to my daughter, I knew that I needed to step up my game. I was not speaking to someone who was like me at that age. I was speaking to ladies who are much like me now. Point taken God. Now let’s keep going…
When my friend reached out to ask me if I would be interested in speaking at her daughter’s Christian sorority retreat, my response was less than confident. I just happened to be in El Salvador at the time working with, Janis, a missionary to El Salvador, who has become a good friend. What she said to me that day in a stern, motherly voice, was that I should never have responded the way that I did [about myself]. When God calls me into a position, it’s because He feels I am the person for the job. Her words were probably much more eloquent but when they were said, they were meant for my ears at that specific moment. I needed to be confident that I was the person for the job and I was created for a time such as this [Esther 4:14].
I wanted to share this profound message but every time I tried to sit down and work on it, my mind went all over the place. This was partially because I wasn’t focused but also because God was still working. I realized at the beginning of the week, however, that God just wanted me to share the journey He has had me on the last few years, not my testimony.
He will work on us for a lifetime to prepare us for eternity with Him. But when He wants us to fulfill a calling, however big or small, He will equip us after we trust Him and start following Him. We take a step and He gives us what we need. Then we take another…and another.
When I left the job I had had for seven years, a friend said to me something that I will never forget:
God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.
That has stuck with me ever since – realizing several years later that this was actually a paraphrased version of Philippians 2:13
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
I had a hard time coming up with a message for these beautiful ladies because I failed to realize my vulnerability, my struggles were exactly what He wanted me to share. I can tell you who I am in the flesh, even sharing my weaknesses along with strengths and abilities. But what I struggle with is carrying the confidence that I am worthy, called and equipped.
These struggles can not only hold me back from fulfilling His calling on my life, but they can hinder others from hearing something significant in the stories He wants to share through my life.
When we don’t know our worth, it will bleed into other areas of our lives. It wasn’t until I was very sick earlier this year that I realized a deeply rooted emotion that was hindering me as a wife. It was the belief that because of my past, I didn’t deserve such an amazing husband.
I couldn’t be the wife He called me to be or find the joy in my marriage until I realized that I am worthy of everything that I have, everything that God has called me to, including spending time with these young ladies.
I was sitting in my hammock the other day, thinking to myself, maybe I just need to write for awhile. God made me a writer, not a speaker, or so I thought. Being able to spend time in an area I feel gifted helps build my confidence in areas I may be weak. Here’s what I wrote that day:
We waste so much time trying to make it look like we have it all together that we can’t possibly put anything together. I have been praying for what God wants me to share, yet everything I come up with has already been said except my story, my struggles, my fight in grabbing hold of the identity I know I should already be clinging to.
They say people can argue with “truth” but they can’t argue with your story, your testimony of how God changed your life. But what about the story where victory is followed by defeat, then it seems as if the work begins again, that we have to start from scratch after making so much progress. It’s a never-ending cycle called life, where we have to choose our attitude, keep our enemies closer than we’d like, fight battles, wear armor, carry swords, stand strong and whisper under our breath when we’re wrestling with something we can’t handle or bear to share.
At some point, it became a bad idea to share our feelings, to have a bad day, to actually be the flesh that we are here on earth. We set expectations so high for ourselves but yet we give grace to others because we know they’re unrealistic. We forget our perfection isn’t found in anything earthly yet we feel as if we’ve failed when we can’t reach it.
Our lows begin to get lower, our attacks less frequent, our momentum dull and eventually, non-existent. We don’t give up on life but we resign ourselves to the idea that we’ll have anything close to what she has, what we thought we would have. Our days aren’t anything to speak of, they’re less than ordinary, occasionally ordinary, but infrequently extraordinary.
Then something happens. A light peeks through the trees and shows us a little color that we hadn’t seen before. A reflection in the mirror catches our eye and it doesn’t make us turn as quickly as it had in the past. The days seem to get a little longer, we notice, because we are able to get a little more accomplished. God is a little closer in this time. But where has He been? Why is He showing up in these moments when I needed Him in all the others?
The reality is, we haven’t been pursuing Him. We expect His rescue, His answers, but when His response isn’t what we expect, we turn elsewhere, to people, things, places where we can feel better instead of recognizing all those are temporary fixes for momentary situations. There is a cure that is permanent and it makes even the toughest days easier to walk through.
My message on identity can’t start with knowing who you are or even knowing who you are in Him if you aren’t truly ready to give it to Him — all of it. I want you to close your eyes and really listen to the words of this song. I read it to the ladies who were there that day after they had heard it in worship. Listen to the personal touch of these lyrics.
The Lord, your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.Zephaniah 3:17
I believe this is the song He would sing to you!
We are on a journey with God. It’s inevitable that at times we will be closer to Him than others. Some days we’ll wish He would rescue us, then others, we’ll understand why He didn’t. Each day we have an opportunity to turn to Him with a new attitude and a fresh perspective. There’s only one thing he can’t do and that is to walk the journey for us. He will bring people to us to help us, to guide us, to instruct us, but He never wants us to take our eyes off Him because, when we do, we may stumble or even worse, we may begin to walk down a path that wasn’t meant for us.
I could list dozens of scriptures of who God says you are, but I want to know…
Are you looking at Him? Are you looking at others? Are you looking at your situation? Where are you searching for your identity? Are you trying to find it in everything other than Him? Your spouse? Your job? School? Your friends? Your church? Your service? Yourself?
Instead of telling you all the scriptures that will help you to know who you are in Him, I want to tell you some things He told me to share with you…things He told me I need to remember too:
You are made in His image.
You are because He is.
You were created on purpose for a purpose.
You are saved. You will be redeemed. You will be restored.
You are worth it.
I sent a survey to out prior to the retreat for the ladies to fill out. It gave me a chance to really see where the group as a whole was. I shared with them some of the things the enemy is saying to their friends:
- I am failing.
- I’m too fat, I’m not doing enough (lazy).
- I’m unworthy, unlovable, ugly and boring.
- You’re not worth it.
- I annoy everyone around me.
- I’m not getting enough done. There’s not enough time to do it all.
- That I’m not worthy of Christ’s love because of the temptations I’ve fallen into & sins I’ve committed.
- That I am behind in life. That I am not doing enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough.
About half of these bright young women feel like they have a solid idea of who they are, which is pretty significant considering many adults still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up! I found it interesting, however, that all of them know Whose they are and have a clear idea as to why it is important to know that, yet struggle with the same things as those who have yet to be introduced to the message of Jesus Christ. I don’t say this to be condemning, I say this because when I was struggling in El Salvador, something I read in my morning devotion jumped out at me.
The scripture referenced was John 17:23 where Jesus prayed that you will know with confidence that your Heavenly Father loves you in the same way [he has] loved me. I felt convicted when the next words said, “So treat God as your Father and start acting like His child and enjoying the benefits of family membership.”
When we put our faith in God, it doesn’t mean that our old ways of thinking will disappear without a trace. It will require work, hard work at times, to stay focused. It will require committing scriptures to memory that we can use in certain situations.
We must believe 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! But we also must put forth the work to show evidence of this in our lives.
Knowing our identity is a key to being led by the Holy Spirit. Thinking about who you are in Him with His Spirit in you will help you to have faith that, no matter what, you will always have what you need to handle anything (from Freedom Group, Church of the Highlands). When we allow the Holy Spirit to be in control we will see that we already have the Fruit of the Spirit inside of us. Attributes that sometimes seem so hard to grasp all together:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
One of the things I have done to help me on my journey was join a group outside of my church. In this study through Church of the Highlands, I read this: “The moment we are saved, we are made alive in Christ, forever redeemed and made righteous before the Father, along with the gift of Eternal life, we receive the Holy Spirit and immediately have the ability to be in relationship with God.”
When we receive the Holy Spirit, there becomes a clear difference between relationship and responsibility. We begin to want to learn His Word, follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting and be obedient BECAUSE we are in relationship with Him. It means the difference between devotion and duty.
We must believe that, when we ask Jesus into our heart, that God will provide a piece of Him [the Holy Spirit] to remind us that He is always there. He will use the Holy Spirit to speak to us, through us and allow us to step into the calling He has for us. We mustn’t forget that, along the way, He will prune branches. Much like a tree, we need those branches pruned, sometimes removed altogether, because they are hindering us from growing. Sometimes those branches are relationships with people keeping us from becoming who God has called us to be.
Whatever God is saying to you, I encourage you to write it down. While you’re at it, write down some positive things about yourself and scriptures that will help you to stand in the identity of not who you are, but Whose you are. With God as your Father, you have all that it takes to walk confidently in the right direction. You just have to lean into Him. Ask Him to search your heart, your mind, your life for any branches that need pruning. Don’t be surprised if things begin to change [for the better] when you do!
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.John 15:1-17