As I mentioned yesterday, focusing on Adoration the last few months has allowed for me to have a healthier focus. I also said yesterday I would elaborate.
The definition of healthier focus for me has meant many things. Today I will explain 3 of them. 1) Focusing and narrowing down priorities 2) Working hard to not respond or make a choice out of fear or a defense 3) Looking Upward instead of Inward.
First, focusing and narrowing down priorities. As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is the head coach of a college football team. We live a very non-traditional lifestyle that includes weeks where I “single parent,” months of travel on the weekends, and most importantly, a constantly changing group of college students we feel called to be in ministry with. In addition to this, we have 2 young sons who need us and deserve our time, and I have a thyroid issue that cannot be ignored. Here in the mountains, we are surrounded by a supportive community that has given us space to grow spiritually, professionally, and personally. It has been amazing, and at the same time, within that support and freedom, there have been times where I have found myself stretched too thin, or feeling overwhelmed of my own doing, simply because I had too many options to say yes to! Such a good problem to have, and such a change of pace for me. Taking a tip from many before me, I stepped back and used 2 different guides for formulating a mission statement of sorts. Restless by Jennie Allen and You Were Made For A God-Sized Dream by Holley Gerth were both great resources that helped me slow down and focus on where I should prioritize my energy and effort.
2) After many years of being told that I was not qualified for ministry in areas I was passionate about volunteering, or not good enough, in general, I discovered a pattern in my life that was not healthy. I allowed others to box me into their definition of what my actions should be. I allowed others words to define me, and I became so fearful of disappointing those who boxed me in I accepted their words a truth above everything else. It was utterly unhealthy as those closest to me would tell me over and over. It was fear alone that I responded to and was crippled by. It was also fear alone that caused me to accept the words of my loudest critics as more truthful than my dearest friends and family. Through the practice of Adoration, I began to finally allow God’s voice to be stronger than memories of the criticisms those of people I had been surrounded by. Because of this, God being biggest and first as He should be, I began to also accept the truth in other areas of scripture. Here is a recent scenario I will be vague about to protect those involved.
A few weeks ago a college student I had been reaching out to since last October finally texted and asked if I was free for lunch. I had already driven the 15 minutes from campus back to my house, but quickly agreed and hopped back in the car to drive back. I wasn’t sure what the subject would be, but I would soon learn within minutes of sitting down that her intent was to criticize me. Usually I would have accepted her judgments of the subject as truth. Her statements surrounding shallowness and my failure in leading, amongst many other things, would have felt convicting and would have changed the pace of my ministry. Instead, I fought back. I pointed out flaws in her criticism and even tried to share my heart and perspective. After 2.5 hours I felt we had come to an understanding. She even spoke words of affirmation to me, agreeing that her judgment was not as she had decided and that I was, in fact, doing things well. Turns out, whatever words of affirmation were short-lived as I’ve discovered since her judgments stand. Instead of working to seek out this student, change her mind or judgments I have spent the week pondering and praying for my next encounters with her, and reminding myself I’m actually likely on the right track. James 1:2 tells us that we will face trials, and for me, this is a trial. I walk in the conviction that if things were needing a course correction, they would be done in a healthy way and with consensus, not through the scenario that occurred. A side note: please do not read this and assume I feel this scenario played out perfectly. I am open to the fact that further conversations may occur, and will work to move through that process well if it is needed. I just will not allow one student’s criticism to be louder than the voice of God.
Finally, looking Upward instead of Inward. In the above scenario, my past decisions would have included listening to that little voice in my head confirming that I am shallow. I would have played the conversation over and over accepting the words of this student to be truer than the words of God which remind me I am the Bride of Christ, that He delights in me, and that there is a difference between self-hatred and humility. Instead, I fight that voice, and I look to what God has to say, asking Him alone to search my heart and thoughts and reveal anything He doesn’t wish to move forward to stop it.