Just a few weeks ago, I was sitting in bed accusing God of being silent about my life and what He wanted from me. The verse that crumbled my anger that night was 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
He is faithful indeed.
Since that night, when I realized I had been measuring my life by what I do for God rather than by what He has done for me, I have felt like every message, discussion, song, and verse has been tailored for me, meeting me right where I am and giving me the exact encouragement I need in that moment.
Like last week, our care group discussion was about how Christians can make a radical difference in very “un-radical” circumstances. How do we live so that others notice we are different than the world? Very interesting conversation indeed.
My study of Romans has shown me that God had a purpose for my life even before the foundation of the world.
The book I’m reading, You Matter More Than You Think: What Every Woman Needs to Know About the Difference She Makes by Dr. Leslie Parrott, has reinforced what I have been learning about what makes life significant and meaningful.
And then Greg’s message last Wednesday during chapel was about how to continuously improve, not just in our spiritual lives but in our everyday lives.
Since all of these sources have impacted the thoughts running around in my head lately, this post may seem a jumbled mess of ah-ha moments. I will try to communicate as logically as my brain thinks (that’s a joke…)
In the post following my aforementioned revelation, I typed out a conversation I had had with God that morning. As a person who is usually skeptical of anything super-spiritual like hearing God actually speak, I have wondered if those words were contrived out of my own mind or if it was really God. While it did sound like me talking to myself in my head, the answers were immediate and formed like a response to my question. So I have to assume that the Holy Spirit was at least involved.
Because I like the conversation so much, I’m going to cut and paste it again here:
“But God, I still want my life to matter,” I said.
“My child, it already matters. I was willing to send my only Son to die for you and your life,” God replied.
“But I still want to do big things for you.”
“I know, Kathy, I know you do. Just be patient. I’ll open the doors for you.”
“So what do I do in the meantime?”
“Live your life for me and for others.”
“What does that look like?”
“Draw close to me and you’ll see.”
That little line “Live your life for me and others” is the key to a meaningful life, I believe. I think back over all the things I’ve struggled with over the past year or so…being convicted that I don’t share my faith enough, being self-conscious and lonely living in a new state, feeling lazy and self-centered in my hobbies and free time, wanting to see a tangible way that I am making a difference. All are solved by living a life of love for God and for others.
In her book, Leslie Parrott writes, “One of the fundamental truths I’ve learned about making a difference on this planet is that the road less traveled is not actually found in Calcutta or on the mean streets with the down and out. The road less traveled is ultimately found in the heart. It’s found in the heart of every woman who wants her life to make a difference and realizes that the difference is found, quite simply, in love. You walk the road less traveled whenever and wherever you bring more grace, compassion, understanding, patience, and empathy. More love. Why? Because a life of love is rare” (22-23).
Women, by nature, are designed to be relational and nurturing. We are designed to be intimate, intuitive, and loving. We are detail-oriented so that we can notice changes in a friend’s mood, sense a child’s hurt spirit, or remember our husband’s favorite dessert. We are multi-taskers so that we can run households full of children, dirty laundry, piles of dishes, and meals to cook.
But women can also feel incredibly under-appreciated. Though my husband does a wonderful job of thanking me for cleaning and cooking, I still have those moments when he does something inconsiderate (in my eyes) without his being aware of it. I have discovered the truth in Leslie Parrott’s words, “A woman’s pain either makes her bitter or makes her better.” And how do we women use pain or suffering to make us better instead of bitter? Gratitude.
A few more phrases from Leslie’s book: “…The more gratitude I cultivate for the suffering I endure, the less tethered I am to its weight…Gratitude unlocks a loving heart…The more gratitude you cultivate, the more grace you have for others…Grace and humility are two key components of gratitude and essential ingredients of love.”
[Good stuff, no?]
So the way I bring the most glory to God is by loving the people in my life, the people I come in contact with every day. These principles about gratitude, grace, humility, and love are biblical: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
I would be tempted to think “Ok, so now I know that I should be loving people. But who? And how?”
That was the question answered by Greg on Wednesday. In essence, the part of his message that was most poignant to me was this: “Make the most of now. Be faithful with your slice of the kingdom pie, which is what God has called you to do right now. You may not be called to whatever you’re doing for the rest of your life, but it’s what you’re called to do now. We miss out on God’s future vision for us because we don’t make the best of our current situation. Be faithful now and God will open up other doors down the road.”
Amen, brother. This puts into words what God has put on my soul for the past several months. And reassures me that I am where I am for a reason. Right now, I am living God’s purpose for me. God has given me today. He has asked me to be faithful with this day. To strive with every fiber of my being to live a life of love in order to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.
Greg also talked about pain, like Leslie Parrott does in her book. She writes, “Ultimately, the pain we carry in our hearts [or experience in our days] is the grinding stone that shapes us to love. It sharpens our capacity to be tender with another’s wounds and to empathize without judgment.” Greg said, “Pain is spiritual protein for us. It develops our spiritual muscles. So we should be grateful for every experience. If you are feeling frustrated at your job, slighted by someone, persecuted or mocked, the pain makes us stronger. Pain, it’s what’s for dinner.”
When I view struggles as contributing to my ability to love, then I can indeed be grateful for their presence in my life. And gratitude unlocks a loving heart.
I’ve already been able to put these realizations into action. Even though the non-profit ministry I work for is small (around 25 employees), there can be some tension between what we call the “sides” of the office (because we literally have 2 different offices that are across the hall from each other–admin/donors/events on one side, sales/marketing on the other side). After having some drama this past week between sides, I thought maybe Admin felt underappreciated, like the Mktg department always expects them to bend over backwards while jumping through hoops to do whatever we want done. So instead of getting angry and frustrated, or gossiping about how they’re not acting like Christians, I suggested our side throw their side an appreciation breakfast. Just so they know that we really couldn’t do what we do without them. My team liked the idea so Phil is going to bring it up to Debb and Jason (VP and Director of Sales). Hopefully it’ll work out…