(I just recently had time to sit down and process some of the things I learned this summer. Sometimes it takes a while.)
As I sat in the auditorium with thousands of other people, the speaker shared what he had been learning in the last year about himself and things God had been pointing out. Have you ever had someone share something they’ve been learning and you felt like they had actually been peering into your life and telling you the things that they had seen you struggling with? That’s how I felt that morning. God put his finger on some things that I had been feeling , striving for and and trudging through. Four simple words, control, comfort, achievement, affirmation. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but they can produce negative things in my life when I am not experiencing them in the way I had hoped for. I mean really, who doesn’t want to be in control, be comfortable, achieve much and receive affirmation? I certainly do and this summer it was very obvious in my life that those are areas I struggle with.
I love to be able to control my environment for myself and my family. When that was stripped away this summer in sharing an apartment my mind went a little crazy. It’s not bad to want my house to be a sanctuary, a safe haven and place of rest, but when it’s not happening can I still rest in the presence of God?
I love to be comfortable. I like to know what to expect, not be pushed too far out of my safety bubble and well, control things to make me more comfortable (stupid control issues). Being around people all day, living in small spaces, taking classes that required public speaking almost every day, make me incredibly uncomfortable. I found myself asking daily, “Am I looking for comfort in my circumstances or in the Lord?”
I have always been a high achiever, at least try to be. Growing up I always did the extra credit in school to assure myself a good grade. I was brought up to be a hard worker and when I didn’t achieve or accomplish a lot of things I felt like a loser really. So when I was stressing out about all my reading, all the work for my seminary classes, worrying about failing and on and on, my husband was quick to point out that I needed to give up on perfection. He said I needed to go in with the attitude to learn and grow, not just to get a good grade. Did he really understand who he was talking to?! Would God really want me to let go of the achievement of an A? Perhaps. Sometimes I miss out on much of the journey because I’m too focused on the end result or accomplishment.
And then there’s affirmation. I don’t mind a little positive affirmation or pat on the back for my achievements. This summer I had to take a class that really was my worst nightmare if I’m honest. I had to take a Biblical Communication class where I had to do speaking drills, write a sermon and then give it to a group of people. Giving the talk wasn’t my worst nightmare, but after you speak, then they critique you, publicly. One of my worst fears is to be judged and critiqued verbally, in any area, let alone one that I’m not used to doing, and that’s what was a daily part of the class. I was told what I needed to improve on and how to get better at speaking in front of groups. Yes, they affirmed my strengths but my fear of failure and looking stupid in front of others was at an all time high. I’m pretty sure I worked on a large ulcer and sweat more that I have in the past 5 years while I was there. But God kept asking me, “Who’s affirmation are you seeking, theirs or mine?” If I’m honest, a lot of the time I want the affirmation of others first.
I’m still slowly processing my summer, the good, the bad, the ugly. It was a pressure cooker type of summer for me. Things bubbled up and at times came exploding out that were just a mess. The good news is that it was no surprise to God and he specializes in making great things out of messes.
These 4 things didn’t present themselves only throughout summer. I deal with them every day in some way or another. I’m daily left with the question, will I be content with just God? Will I let Him be the one to give me all these things? Will I let Him be in control? Will I seek Him for comfort? Will I seek to Achieve only what is pleasing to God? Will I look to Him first for my affirmation?
Hard questions my friends and even harder to live out. I’m so thankful we have a gracious and patient God who continues to teach me and change me.