In a world where bills and diapers and to-do lists distract, how can we be sure our lives are making an impact? How can we make a lasting difference?
For the past two years, I’ve traded in my typical list of New Year’s resolutions, boiling my focus down to just a couple of words. In 2014, Freedom and Gratitude stayed at the forefront of my heart all year, and God did some miraculous works in my life. 2015 had me continually returning to Live Today Fully.
I thought I’d found my word for this year…but God began to make it clear to me that I hadn’t quite gotten it right. So, I had a choice: ignore that check in my spirit and go with the warm, fuzzy word I wanted or lean harder into Him and hear what His heart is for me this year. And what I heard sure didn’t sound comfortable.
As soon as I heard it I knew. He’s asking me to mature into patience and perseverance this year. To not grow weary. To not give up. To do the hard things.
I’ve found that I seem to hear Him more clearly when I’m either in the shower or on a road trip. During the “lost” week between Christmas and New Year’s, my family made a cross-country trek to visit family. We make trips like this several times a year, so we’ve gotten comfortable being confined to a small space for hours upon hours. Those long hours on the road offer us time to focus on each other, dream, take silly pictures, make plans, have sing-alongs, play games, and so on.
And when it’s my turn to drive, my family naps while I sit alone with my thoughts, accompanied by the noise of the road and worship music turned high…and God speaks. This time, when I asked Him for clarity for 2016, He said, “Press.”
Press IN. Into His Presence. Into the present moment. My original, warm and fuzzy word comes in here…Presence. His Presence and mine. But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge His Presence, I need to press into it. It’s not enough to realize my own presence in a moment. I need to press into it.
Press ON. This is where it gets uncomfortable. Press on forward towards the goal. Press on past the excuses that have ruled me. Do not grow weary. Do not give up. Do not retreat. Do not give up ground in my soul. Press on! Persevere.
Press OUT. Those sins and weights on my soul that I’ve allowed have to go. They must be deliberately pressed out of my life. And I’m the only one who can do that. God will be there along every step, but it is my decision as to what I allow to give residence to in my life. And, the beautiful part? All this pressing into Him, pressing on forward, and pressing out sins I’ve grown accustomed to will result in a pressing out of worship that is like pure oil, healing and fragrant. That is the purpose here.
The most prized oils come from the first pressing. The most nutritious juices are from a fresh pressing. The most readied clothes have been pressed free from wrinkles. The most successful athletes have pressed past their own boundaries.
Press. When I don’t feel like it. When I’d rather lie down. When it’s difficult. When God seems distant. When my sins are comfortable. When my excuses seem like right justifications. When I’d rather sit back and coast. Press.
What is God showing you for 2016? Where is He calling you to grow with Him?
I sat restless, my certainties from just hours before upended. Surrounded by coffee house chatter, the smell of roasting beans, and a sense that life was about to shift in a dramatic way, I poured out my heart on paper. The years and my choices had taken me far from God. My dreams, ambitions, they had nothing to do with Him anymore. My world centered firmly on me. But my world was experiencing an axis-shift.
Just 19-years-old, my future before me, a longtime dream in my hands, I finally opened my ears to hear His opinion on my future, my identity, my purpose.
My dream: to become a recording artist and producer. My reasons: I loved music and I wanted the spotlight. Surely my career was supposed to be all about me. Right?
But as my world shifted and turned, poles realigning, and I heard His voice, suddenly what I wanted shifted too. In a matter of moments, I’d stepped out of the center of my own life and invited God in to be the new center. With fresh eyes, with a heart finally opened, I began to care more about what He wanted than what I’d had planned.
And He asked, “Will you give Me your dream?”
I paused…not quite resisting, just facing the depth of His question to me. Finally, my heart spoke, “Yes. Here’s my dream. Here are my plans, my hopes. I don’t know what You have in mind, but I’ll trust You.”
My hands unclenched, opening palms up.
He wanted to talk about who I was before He would let me in on what I was supposed to do. He wanted to focus on my being before my doing. We spent months chatting in journals and quiet moments, speaking of things like identity and being and His truth.
One day, sitting outside the student union building between classes, He was suddenly there, radiating light…sitting in the patio chair across the table from me.
And I asked, “Lord, since I’m a part of the Body of Christ, what part am I? What is my purpose?” I was ready to see a glimpse of what my being was designed to do.
“Be My hands. Be My voice.” Somehow, I knew this meant to write and speak, though both things were alien to me at that moment. “Be there, not to stand in the spotlight, but to reflect My light.” And He was gone. The patio chair empty once again.
Now, journals stacked two feet high show me more than a decade of conversation between us in the years to follow. A non-writer began writing. A blog began, space dedicated to continuing this conversation about Who He is and where He is to be found. A book written and published, all about identity. More writing projects stand on the horizon. A perspective shifted, a new dream discovered. Doors opened that I never could’ve imagined on my own.
It’s the most exciting journey of my life, following Him each step of the way, wondering what’s next, still dumbfounded that He would choose to work through me in any capacity. It began with a conversation. With unclenched hands, opened to new possibilities. With willingness to let go of what I thought was best. Given a new hope and a new future.
Are you stuck in a cycle of wondering if you are in God’s will…asking “What is my purpose?”…”What does God want me to do?” God is everywhere and can be in every situation. So, instead of sitting in this stuck place, hoping, wondering, unsure…let’s stop and take a look at a few places where God is already working and how we can join Him.
Me…God created me and He is highly vested in His creation. So, before I try to go “out there”, I need to ask God what He is doing and what He wants to do in me! What is He trying to teach me? Where is He leading me? How can I trust Him more? This place of opening myself up to Him is something I can always come back to. He will only work through me and in me as much as I am willing to allow Him.
And, if you’re married, the next place to look is what God wants to do in your marriage and in your spouse. How can God work through me to bless my husband? How can I encourage and trust my hubby more? Not only did God create something new when He created your spouse, but He created something new the day we committed our lives to each other…the day we became one.
Do you have children? If so, they are gifts from God…whether they’re throwing a temper tantrum or coloring you a beautiful picture, they are precious! How am I partnering with God to guide them? How am I showing them love? What can I do to show them who God is?
Do you see the ripple effect happening? God invites us to join with Him, to partner with Him in His work that’s already in progress…starting with ourselves and moving outwards.
Each ripple, just like a single drop into a pool of water, affects the next…outwards to family, friends, co-workers, strangers and eternally onward! When we partner with God He multiplies our efforts!
How can you join His work today?