The Christian Woman I Will Never Be Again. What I Was Doing Wrong.

I hope you’ve gotten off to a great start in this new year; this period of 365 days that stretches out before us full of… What, exactly?

 

What will 2014 look like?

 

What do you want it to look like?

 

What will you do over the next twelve months to make the year ahead better, easier, more productive than last year… to be more thoughtful, compassionate, attuned to needs in the world around you?

 

I have my own list of things I’m choosing to focus on differently this year. I want to be the “new and improved” version of me when 2015 rolls around. In some areas, it’s way past time… You don’t have to know what’s on my list–and I don’t have to know what’s on yours–but we can still encourage each other… and hold each other accountable. Just writing these words “for God and everyone to see” is one giant step for this woman.

 

I suspect you’re here because you and I have something in common. Perhaps we met because we both enjoy playing in the dishes… or because we both have a “thing” for vintage linens… or because we share a love of children.

 

I’m pretty sure we both want, in at least some small way, to make our world a better place. Otherwise, I seriously doubt you’d be hanging around here.

 

But since you are – and I’m really glad you are! – I’d like to share something with you. Something I’ve noticed for awhile about women here in Blogland and in “the real world”.

 

Something that stirs my spirit… and scares me silly.

 

I’ve noticed it because I’ve been those women. Both of them.

 

For many years, I was the woman who professed to be a follower of Christ, attended church every time the doors were open, living her life–and raising her children–according to biblical principles. I provided supplies for Vacation Bible School in the Summer, non-perishables for “needy families” in the Fall, and filled shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse at Christmas. I regularly attended a women’s Bible study, sang in the choir, and occasionally invited senior adults to my home for lunch. I practiced stewardship of time, talents, and money. I prayed regularly, observed a daily “quiet time” sporadically, and knew the names of some of my neighbors.

 

I liked nice things and, as family income increased, I rewarded myself with a few of them. I knew I was blessed, and, if I’m honest, I guess I thought I deserved it. Lucky me being born in an affluent country. How sad for the poor people who weren’t… or who were but fell upon hard times. I was thankful there were people “called” to help people like that… and thankful it wasn’t me. Thankful there was no need for me to reach too far beyond decorating my house or entertaining my friends.

 

Oh, I had committed years ago to always be involved in missions–reaching beyond myself–but I was perfectly content that God hadn’t called me to go anywhere… or to adopt. Doing an occasional hands-on project or writing a monthly check fit just fine into my lifestyle. Obviously, God didn’t expect me to do anything more than shake my head in sadness, and perhaps say a quick prayer, when the daily news contained stories of broken foster care systems, nursing home abuse, meth lab busts, sex trafficking, human slavery, homeless children.

 

A few years ago, I began to shake my head in sadness–grief, really–for how misguided that woman was. How a “good Christian woman” could miss the Truth so badly for so many years.

 

Today I still profess to be a follower of Christ and strive to live my life on biblical principles, but I’m beginning to understand that being a follower requires much more than professed beliefs and a few good works. Following Christ means having a faith that requires me to get my hands dirty when I walk out the church doors. To be willing to turn into reality the words of Scripture I say I believe. To be food for the hungry; clothes for the naked; home for the homeless, voice for the voiceless; freedom for the prisoner.

 

But dirty hands require a different perspective, and to view things from a different perspective, I have to change where I’m standing.

 

But I’ve been in this position for a long time, and it used to be comfortable… but now it’s not… and what does that mean?

 

Where do I go from here?

 

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I know I’m not alone in my questions. I’ve watched God stirring complacent hearts of women; mine–and some of yours. I’ve seen women the world over choosing to re-focus their lives, replacing mental and physical clutter with a renewed faith. I’ve felt the hope, the excitement, as small steps were taken out of comfort zones and into new places of obedience; sensing, like Esther, that things are changing and there is something very right about this journey into the unknown. That somehow they, too, have a “for such a time as this” role to play… even if the script is unfinished.

 

That’s where I find myself here at the beginning of 2014: stepping into the unknown. Oh, sure, I took similar steps several years ago when Renaissance Man and I became involved with Hope Unlimited for Children… and there’s still a whole world of “unknown” surrounding that part of my life. But, quite honestly, the more I watch God work in lives of desperate children, the more I understand with my heart (not just my head) that all Christians are called to minister to people Jesus called “the least of these”. To practice hands-on, dirty-faith obedience in the everyday parts of our lives. To choose to look beyond the walls of our comfy homes and churches and see the ugly, dirty, smelly reality of need. No amount of church attendance or Bible study participation, worthy as it may be, can replace that.

 

My hands-on work with the children in Brazil is very limited, so I don’t get to “ride on the coattails” of Hope and say I’m doing enough. No, this God-stirring I feel in my spirit tells me there’s more required of me… and so I’m praying and listening and looking around me to see what’s next. God, you know I don’t like ugly, dirty, smelly… or too hot… or too cold.

 

God, help me.

 

What about you? Are you content with your life as it is here at the beginning of this new year, or is there a voice deep inside telling you, “There’s more”?

 

Are you wanting to be willing to step into the unfamiliar but need some encouragement–or maybe just some courage?

 

I hope we can spend 2014 having an ongoing conversation together. Now that I’ve told you where I am in my life, I hope you’ll tell me about you–at this point in your life.

  • Are you happy, or is there something missing?
  • Have you discovered your purpose in life, or are you searching?
  • What tugs at your heart?  The elderly, children, prisoners, illiterate, homeless, terminally ill?
  • What keeps you from stepping out of your comfort zone?
  • In your quietest, most honest moments, what message is your heart whispering?

 

If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment, then please send me an email. I’ll be reading the words you entrust to me–and praying for you–and I’ll be here in 2014 to encourage you.

 

I hope you’ll be here to encourage me, too.

 

Oh, and one more thing… If anything you’ve read here has caused you to pause/agree/disagree, why don’t you bring up the topic with your friends? Share this post on your social media–or via email and get their input, too. After all, if we’re going to have an ongoing conversation, we may as well hear what people have to say!

 

If there’s any truth or benefit to this stepping-out-and-getting-our-hands-dirty-thing, then I’m just crazy enough to believe that the more women there are who catch a glimpse of the end goal, the bigger difference we’ll make in the world.

 

Why not sign up to get future conversations delivered straight to your inbox? Just think… Someday we can look back and say it all started with a conversation among friends!

 

 

Comments

  1. Well, gulp. This actually doesn’t start the conversation. It continues one that was started among my closest bible study friends (and my family too) as we did the Bible study “Follow Me” as our most recent challenge. David Platt poses the same question right off the bat, and I have not been able to untangle from it since.

    In full confession among sisters in Christ: I sort of stuffed it away for the Christmas season. I’m not proud of that. In fact, it wasn’t until beginning this comment that I actually realized it.

    As I read here just now, it was as a woman confirmed in the conviction. I’m still wrestling with the answers to your questions. For me, I (far too) often think that I need to jump to the calling that God might have put on someone else because it *looks* right to me. I’ve realized lately that though it springs from good intentions, it is still a way of putting God in a box. It also makes me more important than I think I ought to be.

    Is there something missing? Yes. I want more. I know He wants more for me and from me. I really don’t think I’ve discovered my (specific) purpose in life. I loved how you asked the third question: What tugs at your heart? My problem tends to be that so much seems to tug. Guess I’m too tuggable because suddenly, I feel royally pulled into 25 directions like a piece of silly putty spread too thin. I am truly, truly praying to feel the tug of God more distinctly this year.

    Sorry for the ramble. I will be coming back here to see if anyone has some words of wisdom for me.

    • Debbie, I’m not at all surprised this “continues the conversation” for you. Like I said, I’ve been seeing God stirring the hearts of women, and He’s obviously been allowed to work in your world. Keep allowing Him access and your clouded vision will eventually become clearer. That will be my prayer for you just as it is for me. The main thing is that God is working… and we’re listening.

      I totally understand your third paragraph, by the way.

      As for “rambling”, I don’t hear that at all! Quite honestly, when I’m feeling God’s pull but don’t know where it’s leading or how I need to respond, my head and heart are a constant, messy, rambling circle of (sometimes frustrated) questions. “Extremist” women like us (yes, I read your post; will comment soon!) tend to like order, so conviction without clarity is an uncomfortable place for us. But God is bigger than our discomfort and questions, and I’m confident if our hearts remain teachable and our focus is on Him, the path will become clear… even if perhaps it looks nothing like what we might expect!

      I’m praying for you and those in your life who are searching, too. I hope you’ll point them over here to join the conversation! I’d love to meet them and hear their hearts.

  2. The Quintessential Magpie says:

    Happy New Year, Susan!

    First, let me thank you for the IPAD advice. I have been pulling my hair out. I am also afraid I am going to insult someone as I don’t always read what I type because I have always been such a good typist. Now? This keyboard is a major challenge. 😉

    As to your question, my heart has been and is for the elderly, and I do volunteer work in that arena. When I was younger, I volunteered full time and worked in a lot of different areas, but the main thrust of the organization was for children.

    Right now, I am at a point in my life where I am letting The Lord love me as I am. I am trying to develop a deeper and more personal relationship with Him where I recognize beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is exactly who He says He is and is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That He still performs miracles, that He wants to heal people and does (and that is in every arena), that He sent the disciples out to teach AND to heal and nothing has changed except us, that He came to give us life and life more abundantly, and that He tells us to choose life as opposed to death (and the way that leads to it). It is our choice. He wants children and disciples, relationship, and He wants us to be so in love with Him that we are giddy to do His bidding because we love Him so. Like first love and then like a devoted companionship where He is first and foremost to us.

    I have also been toying with the idea of going to Bible School online, and I am at a point where toying with that idea is becoming a reality. I need it. From there? I will follow His lead, but I want to practice being still and not being anxious. I have a tendency to be so ready to “do” something that I fail to spend the time in mediation and prayer that brings me closest to Him. Oh, and I am trying to encourage my young friends to love their husbands and children and each other. To put aside divisiveness, strife, etc. and to avoid it for the sakes of their well being.

    On top of that, I need to lose weight and declutter both my house and my mind.

    xoxoxox

    Sheila

  3. Nancy Howerton says:

    Susan–this really speaks to me. I’ve just finished praying for comfirmation that I should sign up for the mission trip to Haiti that our church is planning in March. And then I “just happened to read your blog”–seriously I just finished praying this 5 minutes ago! So this just might be what I needed to hear–today! I have to commit by Sunday! You should also know that it’s a working/construction type trip–and I’m 60+ years old. Physically I don’t know what I could possibly do to help! But I feel like I’m being led to go. Thanks for this word of encouragement and for the first of my nudges from God in answer to my prayer! I’m ready to get my hands dirty!

    • Nancy, your words bless my heart! I’m humbled that God used my post as a first answer to your prayer — and praying for you as you make your final decision. As for what a 60+ year old woman can do on a construction site: Get her hands dirty, of course! 🙂 Besides that, (at the very least) there are always “gopher” jobs that really need to be done, and having someone there to do them allows skilled workers to stay focused. You might be surprised how God will use you to bless others when you make yourself available.

      Can’t wait to hear more! I’m so glad you’re part of this conversation!

  4. Great post. I feel I have been pushed outside my comfort zone for the last five plus years. Since He dumped me outside of my comfort zone, I am noticing that He and He alone is bringing about a ministry from what I have walked through. I am excited to watch God use what the enemy meant for evil in my life and allow it to be turned to His glory, by me walking in obedience to ministry to those who are also walking through the same. My word has always been…minister in my own back yard.
    Thanks so much.

  5. Awesome, awesome post. As I take baby steps in the “meant” direction for my life I continue to learn from women like you and the others who have commented. I’m so happy to have “found” you again–I still have your old blog in my sidebar, waiting for the new link, which of course I now have. Thank you for your sweet and inspiring comments about my Three Kings celebration. I’ll be here watching and reading and learning.

    My best wishes to you for the blessings that are His to give, and for His guidance. ~Zuni

  6. It’s amazing that you came to these conclusions that you weren’t living life as full as you could and you had the heart to share it.

    Sometimes, for me at least, being that Christian woman/friend/person means befriending someone who isn’t necessarily “the least of these” or homeless or in jail or something “low” like that, but someone that I see regularly at the grocery store. Or the parents to one of my kid’s friends. Or the babysitter.

    As Christians we are seen as the most judgmental and rude. Isn’t that sad? Anyways I enjoyed your post. I found it via Risk Rejection. Now I have to finish reading that post!

  7. When i read what you have written, i feel it’s like having a conversation with myself. So wonderful to know that people even though so far away from each other can think similarly. It’s inspiring to know that you also feel that there is much more to life than searching for happiness for oneself. All the best to you and keep writing…

  8. Great post, Susan. Made my way here from Foreshadowing.
    It’s impossible to read your blogs (old and new), and not see God’s work.
    I agree with what you share here, especially ” No amount of church attendance or Bible study participation, worthy as it may be, can replace that.” I learned this through much pain and suffering many years ago. I’ll only add that some of us are called to very difficult fields within our homes. Missions only God sees., where crops will one day yield fruit only by His grace. I think there’s a devotional in Streams in the Desert (L.B. Cowman) that speaks of this.
    Let us continue to pray for one another, dear Susan. The Lord knows I sure covet those prayers now.
    Thank you for visiting, and for your kind comment on our daughter’s wedding. Wonder and splendor…all about Him, I’m sure you’ll agree. 🙂

  9. Love the post! I absolutely agree. We are called to move beyond our comfortable space. We are called to be His hands and feet. Amen! We made the leap of faith and adopted a sibling group of four. We had to wrangle with the questions, doubts, fears, easy rationalizations of why we shouldn’t do it, But in the end, we know we were called to step out of our comfort zone and we have been blessed by doing so! 🙂