Tag Archives: Christian life

I Used to Think God Wanted My Service #OutofSortsBook

17 Nov

Based on a recommendation from my friend Cathy, I started reading Sarah Bessey’s blog a little less than a year ago. She was pregnant with her fourth baby and I was pregnant with my second. Our due dates were a few months apart, but just being pregnant at the same time made me feel a bond with her. That’s what started me reading her blog, but I kept reading because Sarah’s blog is inspiring, well-written and thought-provoking.

I’m horrible at commenting – partly because I’m lazy, partly because I read while I’m nursing and let’s be honest, typing on a phone is a PITA. But I’m breaking the silence for a synchroblog in honor of Sarah’s second book (just out a few weeks ago) called Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. (I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my to-read-soon list because it sounds right up my alley.) She has asked her blog readers to tell “our stories of transformation, of the ways we’ve changed and evolved and grown, the ways we’ve changed our minds or our hearts in response to the unchanging Christ.”

Here’s my story.

I used to think God wanted my service and now I know He just wants me.

I became a Christian the summer after my sophomore year of college. I went from living the typical party lifestyle to spending all my free time with other Christians involved with a campus ministry. I soaked up Truth like a sponge, learning things like the five points of Calvinism (TULIP), segues for cold evangelism and how God’s steadfast love was better than life.

Then I got married and moved to Colorado from Minnesota, and everything I had taken at face value about following Christ no longer made sense. I still believed that I needed a Savior, that Christ had died for me, and that I was going to heaven to spend eternity with Him. But I didn’t understand what practical impact those truths had on my current life.

Marriage was incredibly hard. Instead of the love I wanted to have for my husband, I felt anger and bitterness. I acted toward him in a way that made me hate myself and wonder what had happened to me. Instead of marriage being a sanctification tool, it just kept bringing out more and more sin. I knew that the Holy Spirit could help me change, but how did I tap into that power? How did I stop reacting out of my own power and instead react out of His?

Meanwhile, I was convicted through a handful of books and sermons that I needed to be living radically for Christ, that my life needed to be noticeably different. The only problem was, I didn’t know what that looked like specifically. I tried volunteering, serving at church, hosting get-togethers and dinners, sharing the gospel with neighbors and friends, fasting from shopping. No matter what or how much I did, I was consumed with guilt. Because I thought I should be doing more.

I was driving from Wheat Ridge to Boulder along the foothills covered in sagebrush when I finally realized that I had been so focused on my own contribution to God’s kingdom that I had taken my eyes off of Him. Instead of defining my life by what Christ had done for me, I had been defining it by what I was doing for Him and undertaken the responsibility of making my life eternally worthwhile, something only God and His glory could do.

I had been running after duties and activities to prove my heart was right, to show that I was living out my faith. But I had left out the idea of God wanting me to know Him and enjoy Him, to find joy and pleasure in life, and to become more like Christ on the inside through spending time with Him. He wanted my heart, my surrender, my devotion, my yielding, my rest. Living a selfless life would grow out of a deep, intimate relationship with the Father, not from some divine ability to be the Incredible Christian Superwoman.

At first sight it seems heroic to fling our lives away in the service of God and of our fellows. We feel it is bound to mean more to Him than our experience of Him. Service seems so unselfish, whereas concentrating on our walk with God seems selfish and self-centered. But it is the very reverse. The things that God is most concerned about are our coldness of heart towards Himself and our proud, unbroken natures. (from We Would See Jesus by Roy and Revel Hession, emphasis added)

It has been over five years since that day. In that time, I have birthed two babies, gone from working full-time to being a stay-at-home mom, and moved back to my home state. This truth has been re-proven hundreds of times, in every circumstance. When I focus on my relationship with God as an end in itself, instead of simply a means to growth in the Christian life, I not only get the joy of focusing on God, but the very things I desire to be done within me are accomplished by the Spirit. I get the joy; He gets the glory.

And now when I hear sermons on evangelism, missions, prayer, or service, instead of feeling like a failure for not doing more or being better, I take whatever emotions I have to God in prayer, saying, “God, I agree that this thing is good and I’m thankful for those who do it well. I admit that I’m not where I’d like to be in regards to this. I want to grow but I am incapable of changing on my own without a burden of legalistic guilt. So I ask You to do it for me and in me. Help me see what this looks like in my life. Give me eyes to see You at work and a heart of obedience that follows where You’re leading. I trust that You will accomplish Your purpose for me. Thank You for the relationship that I have with You through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen.”

I used to think God wanted my service…

But now I know He just wants me.

A Spirit-Filled Life

31 May

I just bought a new book from Barnes and Noble called The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life by Charles Stanley. I’ve never heard of the guy or the book before but I’m pretty pumped about it. I’m hoping that it will give me some insight into what it means to rely on the Holy Spirit. Right now, I just know that I don’t do hardly at all…and I feel like I don’t know how to.

It’s one of those Christian phrases that are tossed around loosely, assuming everyone knows the definition and is on the same page. And when I first became a Christian, I didn’t question it. I felt the Spirit working. I saw my life change. I did a complete 180 in my lifestyle and values.

But over the past year (and especially within the past couple of months), I’ve really started questioning what it means and looks like to depend on the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to do things in God’s strength?

I have to be honest, a big reason why I struggle so much with relying on the Holy Spirit is that it sounds like a bunch of hooey (this is my unbelief talking). Maybe I’ve just become really skeptical and cynical about the whole thing (though I don’t really know how I got this way…oh wait, I bet it’s because I’m a sinful human being…never mind!) But I just can’t wrap my mind around a Spirit living inside me, enabling me to do what I couldn’t do on my own, even though it’s still me actually doing the actions.

In short, I wonder what the difference is between my sheer willpower and the Spirit’s work in me. How do I tell the difference? How do I keep myself from acting out of my own power and instead act out of the Holy Spirit’s power? Especially in those moments when I’m angry and need some help to not rage on whoever is making me that way.

When I don’t rely upon the Spirit, it’s totally obvious. I sin constantly and usually end up lamenting and mourning what a horrible person I am. And then, inevitably the questions creep into my head, “Where is the Holy Spirit? And why isn’t He doing anything about this? Why isn’t He helping me not sin as much? Why don’t I see any change in my life? Why am I still struggling with this?”

I’m only 27 pages into Charles Stanley’s book but I love it already. Everything he has written about the Christian life being about “just doing my best” for many Christians hits home with me.

I just want to share 2 excerpts from the book that have had an impact on my thinking already:

1. “The Christian life is not simply difficult. It is not something that gets easier with time. It is not something you grow into. It’s impossible. You can’t live it. I can’t live it. God doesn’t expect us to live it. He knows it’s impossible. Jesus knew it was impossible. It is time we come to grips with this liberating truth–it is impossible…The problem is that you have been trying to live it apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.”

[This is totally true in my life!! And what a wonderful reminder that it’s no surprise to God that I continue to fail at living the Christian life…because for a sinful human being like me, it’s impossible! That’s why I need Jesus as my Savior!]

2. “To tap into the power of the Holy Spirit is not to enhance one’s ability to carry out one’s will. Oh, no! On the contrary, the power of the Holy Spirit is available only to those whose intentions is to carry out His will.”

[For me, these sentences help define what the Spirit does. He enables me specifically to carry out God’s will, whether it be trusting in God, forgiving my husband, or loving a neighbor.]

Those passages are hopefully just the beginning of revelatory study and look into the Holy Spirit. I pray that it will make me more attune and perceptive of the Spirit’s work and presence in my life.