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In which you are a beloved warrior

beloved warrior

Who do you think you are?

It’s the lie that whispers like smoke, breathes down our necks, and dismantles our vision and hope.

How odd that a simple question can sound more like an accusation.

Who do you think you are?

And as women, we often hear this as the answer: insecure. manipulative. can’t be trusted. gossips. bossy. only valuable if beautiful or married or the mother of children. controlling. catty. easily deceived. victim. used. damaged goods. too emotional. not logical. terrible friends. high maintenance. untrustworthy. dangerous. afraid. too fat. too thin. too smart. too ignorant. too strong. too weak. too pretty. too ugly. too feminine. too assertive. just too much and not enough. on and on and on and on….

Who do you think you are?

I think it’s a question that might change our lives, if answered honestly.

My life today looks very different than I expected or intended. And if I’m honest – with you and with myself – it has required and is requiring more courage than I often think I have.

It seems like every time I have entered into a new season or a new calling or a new opportunity, the voice in my head has always been, “Who do you think you are?”

Who do you think you are? to preach? to write a book? to raise these beautiful children? to pray for someone? to love? to lead a home group at church? to speak up? to challenge authority? to teach Scripture? to talk about marriage? to even try to move with God towards justice? to talk about peace making? to try to work with a developing nation towards justice? to push back on the powerful? to tell your story without sanitizing? to advocate for others?

Who do you think you are?

My insecurities – and answers – are likely different than yours but for me, learning to answer that question with the truth has changed everything.

Our lives often preach a very different Gospel than the one we think we believe. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded us that we must begin with our own life-giving lives. Our true being brims over into our true words and deeds.

It’s an important question because to truly be able to love God and love others, to move with God to rescue, restore, and redeem humanity, we have got to know who we are.

Who do you think you are?

I’ve started to answer that question with one imperfect phrase: I am a beloved warrior.

Here’s why:

Right at the beginning, God separated day from night, land from sea, created animals and fish and fowl, and then on this sixth day, he creates humanity. And here, after creating man from the dust of the earth, God says in Genesis 2:18, “it is not good for him to be alone. I’ll make him a helper.”

That word, helper, is a Hebrew word, EZER. The word that accompanies ezer is “kengdo” which is often translated as “suitable”  so that is why translators often list this reference for women as “suitable helpmeet.” Many of us have heard a teaching or two on the word helpmeet, which solely focuses on woman as a man’s wife, mother, or homemaker for this defintion. But that narrow view excludes more than 60 percent of women. How many millions of girls and women are we leaving out? Focus on women as “helper” has led to the belief that God gave primary roles and responsibilities to men and second or supporting roles to women in the Kingdom of God. It has even led to practices that communicate that women are second class citizens at home and sadly sometimes in the church. The fallout from patriarchy chokes us still.

Ezer Kenegdo actually means “man’s perfect match.” It is the help that opposes, two parts of equal weight leaning against each other to stay stable and strong. It means that women were created to be man’s strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes.

In the Old Testament, the word EZER appears 21 times in 3 different contexts: the creation of women, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s helper for military purposes. God isn’t a “helpmeet” in the watered down way we’ve been taught or understood that word in our churches though, right? No, our God is more than that: he’s a strong helper, a warrior, an ever present help in times of trouble, bringing more than simple might or power.

God created the first woman out of Adam’s side, and he named his daughter after an aspect of his own character and nature. By naming his daughters – us! – ezer kenegdo, God did not name women as secondary helpmeet “assistants.” No, women were created and called out right at creation as warriors.

You are a warrior, right alongside our brothers, on God’s mission in the world, an image-bearer. (The other reason why this makes such sense is that it isn’t exclusive to men and women in a marriage relationship: holistically, men and women together in the Kingdom of God are meant to be allies.)

Throughout Scripture, we can see women of valour, women operating in their anointing and created purpose as ezer kenegdos. Warrior is an ethos or attitude, not necessarily a vocation, gathered against the forces of evil and darkness. We are deployed into creation as the perfect ally. And then we have a lineage and legacy of Church mothers, women of God, who were warriors in the situations where God placed them, in ways unique to their temperament and character, callings, gifting, and even choices. Women from Ruth to Rahab, Deborah to Mary Magdalena, Corrie Ten Boom to Evangeline Booth.

As we live in a world desperate for a glimpse of God, desperate for a rescue, crushed by evil and poverty and war and the grind of lonely existence in quiet desperation, we, the Church are part of God’s plan to push back that darkness and make space for his Kingdom. We are commissioned to multiply his image bearers, care for the poor, and minister life and hope and healing in the name of Jesus to the glory of God. We are warriors.

I’m a pacifist so my definition of warrior is a bit more spiritual, perhaps. I see it as an advocate or a peace maker or a shalom prophet, a warrior living into the Kingdom of God, a worshipper, a disciple – courageous and unafraid.

Who do you think you are?

Warrior.

Sometimes the truth of who you really are is a wake-up call, and other times it’s a challenge. Because we’re not after behaviour modification. We don’t want to “try harder” to be warriors. It’s not another addition to the to-do list or an addendum to some weird Proverbs 31 job description: “be a warrior.” No, we’re after transformation.

And so, we are here, where I begin and end always: Jesus. (You know me.)

In 2nd Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes that therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

That old identity from your past or from your culture aren’t actually your identity. Not anymore.

Through the life and ministry of our Jesus, we know what our God is really like. He pulled back the curtain on all the ways we have misunderstood and mischaracterized his very nature. And what did we learn from Jesus: we are loved.

Who do you think you are?

Beloved.

We are worthy of a rescue, worth saving, worth loving. We are the one sheep in the ninety-nine worth leaving everything behind to rescue. We are redeemed. We are whole.

Loved. You are loved. You are loved. You can engage in your life from a place of love because you are.

We believe that we’re only worthy of love if… if we do this or if we do that. That’s what our culture or our broken world tells us, right?

But Jesus does not love us conditionally. In fact, if you look in 1 John 4

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God….God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

Are you weary? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Get away with me, you’ll recover your real life. Those are the words of our Jesus in Matthew 11:28. Walk with me, see how I do it, learn to live freely and lightly. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Abba invites us to the banquet tables, to communion, to community, and to life in the Vine, not to a religious treadmill or a life of conformity to someone else’s best-case scenario for your life until you finally measure up, until you are no longer too much or not enough.

We’ve not been called to the people-pleasing life, to the approval seeking life, to the bow-down-and-give-up life or the sit-down-and-shut-up life. We’ve been called to the peace-making life, the truth-telling life, the she-who-the-Son-sets-free-is-free-indeed life.

We’ve been called to the spirit-filled and God-breathed life, living out the ways of the Kingdom and the life in Christ to every corner of our humanity. We are, what N.T. Wright calls, parables of hope.

We’ve been called to the life of the beloved. We’ve been called to the life of the disciple.

Who do you think you are?

I am a Beloved Warrior.

Your true identity is this: you are a Beloved Warrior. Start there. And then we live out our lives and our callings, the seasons and roles, the challenges and the victories, the healing and the mourning, from a deep well of love and freedom and wholeness – because we are. Creation tells you that you are created, called, chosen, made in the image of God as a warrior. Jesus tells you that you are loved, you are free, you are redeemed, you are beloved. Even – maybe especially – our imperfect, contradictory lives are singing a beautiful prophetic song of invitation: you are so loved.

Who do you think you are? 

And I know now to say and to live out the truth: I am a beloved warrior. 

And in the midst of my life, as it stands, I’m walking out that truth, sometimes moment by moment, choice by choice, sometimes faltering and stumbling but still walking in faith. Old things are passed away. New things have come.

Wherever life may take us, regardless of our choices or our roles or our story, regardless of the seasons of our lives, of our failures and imperfections, let us make living like we are beloved warriors the radical discipline of our lives, filling our minds and our hearts with the truth of Jesus Christ, and the goodness of the freedom he offers to us as his own.

Who do you think you are? I am beloved. And I am a warrior. 

 this post is based on a sermon that I recently preached at our church

(There is such richness in our identity in Christ – too many to name – but I’ve had my life changed by this one in particular.)

Continue Reading · faith, jesus, Jesus Feminist, journey, love, women · 33

In which we are learning the unforced rhythms of grace :: my If:Gathering devotional

image source: Jennie Allen

Two weeks ago, I wrote my full devotional for the If:Gathering. Like many of the conference speakers, I was planning on sharing a meditation about Hebrews 12:1-2. I got on a plane at o’dark early and headed for Austin, ready.

But on Friday right after the first day of our gathering, I sat bolt upright in my lovely hotel room at midnight with one thought in my head: no one needs to tell these women to keep striving.

Hello, Holy Spirit, it would be nice if we could have had this chat two weeks ago, but sure, let’s go with this.

And so I rewrote most of my If:Gathering devotional just hours before, refocusing myself on the unforced rhythm of grace, the release of our tendency to work-harder-run-faster-do-more, and the life that feeds our work: our friendship with Jesus, our life in the Vine, our work as a natural consequence of the sacred company we keep.

Since Saturday morning, I’ve been asked by several people if I could make this devotional and the prayer available, so I’ve decided to share it here. This is likely a bit different than what I said from the stage, but these are my notes. I still have a few more thoughts about the gathering itself to share, but I’ll hang onto them for a few more days, I think.

*****

Thank you so much for inviting me to this gathering, for making room for me and people like me at your table. You see, I wasn’t quite sure that I would fit in. I’m not American. I’m not a preacher or a teacher or a pastor. I’m too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives. I believe that shoes should be comfortable. I’m in what Madeline L’Engle called “the tired thirties” of my life – I’m a wife and a stay-at-home mum of three tinies and my days are spent in predictable rhythms in our small community in western Canada. I’m a happy clappy tongue talking post evangelical Jesus feminist.

The only thing to really warn you about- although that might have been enough right there is this: I love Jesus. I do. Even after – or maybe because of – my years spent wandering the wilderness, in the midst of my doubts and questions and uncertainties, all of it, I still have stars in my eyes about Jesus.

Jesus.

Our Jesus. I loved what Ann preached last night – is Jesus useful to us? Or beautiful to us?

Because my word for you this morning, if I could say one thing to you from this stage, it is simply: Jesus. 

Don’t make this weekend about a to do list. Don’t go back to your life with a crippling evangelical hero complex.

Turn to Matthew 11 – and yes, I’m using the Message for or a any theologians out there who needed to have a heart attack.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:21-30 MSG)

Keep company with me – you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. That’s not something we usually hear at conferences, is it? Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

in the Gospels, Jesus said no longer do I call you servants, I call you friends.

In John 15, right before he went to the cross, he said abide in me.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. (John 15:4-8 MSG)

Jesus told us in the account of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6 that we must “begin with our own life-giving lives….Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”  

When I chose to follow Jesus, it meant that I apprenticed myself to his way of life because I love him. Me, even me, in my little life in western Canada, I matter in the global story of how love wins.

Walk with him. Fall in step with the man from Nazareth.

Your life, as it stands, right now today, is an altar. A path. A temple. A parable.

So let me ask you, gently: What is the truth of the gospel that your life is declaring? Is it your own belief that you have to earn, work hard, run faster, do more? Or are you walking in the unforced rhythms of grace, abiding in the vine, a friend of God?

John wrote, “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”  If we are disciples, we are participating in the life of Jesus now. And the way in which we engage in our lives matters.

This is how we will be known: by our love.

God saved you because he loves you and delights in you and longs to restore you to relationship. You were rescued and redeemed to be with God. He yearns to walk with you, to be with you, to see you become fully human, fully alive, fully your own self, fully engaged in loving and rescuing this beautiful world of image bearers.

God does not just want to use you: God wants to be with you because he loves you.

There’s the hint in his name itself: Immanuel. His very name is God with us. Not God to us. Not God using us. Not God for us. Not God managing us. Not God working us. Not God manipulating us. He tipped his own hand right there in Isaiah with the word about the Word, he is God with us.

Do you see the difference there? we are walking with God, holding his hand, in step wherever we go, whatever we do, “important” to the eyes of the world or not.

I’ve learned to replace the word “use” with the nouns and verbs of the New Testament: grow, disciple, walk in the way, beloved children, co-heirs, co-labourers.

And don’t forget now: Jesus called us friends.

Friend of God. Child of God. Beloved of God.

Taste and see: we are invited to the God with us life.

In co-creation with the creator, you’re a namer, a maker, an altar builder, a lifter-up of the name and the Cross, and you are a pilgrim, a disciple, made in the image of God, you are the one who walks with God.

So those things we do in this life? Great. Wonderful. Good.

But may we learn to just go do them because we love to do them, and w love to do them with Immanuel. Let them be the natural consequence of the sacred company we keep, but those things aren’t my identity, they are not The Thing or The Point. They’re not our pathway to God, or our status updates to the Most High, our measuring sticks or progress reports, our star charts in the sky.

May our daily work and our voice and our words and our prayers matter in our homes and our churches and our neighbourhoods (because for many of us, right there is the whole world). When we love Jesus, when we are free, when we are walking with, then we are a sign and a foretaste of how it was meant to be in the Garden, perhaps, God’s way of living overflowing organically: the disciple, the friend, the daughter, the heir, the beloved.

Let me read this to you from 1 John 4: if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!… When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us…” .

And now, let me pray for you as we begin our day together.

Father, here we are.  We love you.

Jesus, we just want to be with you, walking in your ways always,wherever you lead us.

I pray that that you would fill my friends here with peace that passes all understanding. I pray that we will be drawn into community so rich, so deep, so diverse that they will disagree and fight and remain in fellowship together anyway. I pray that we would bring casseroles and prayer and laughter and tears to one another. I pray we would have our toes stepped on, our feelings hurt, and that we would forgive. I pray that we would be given the gift of realizing we were wrong about some important things. I pray that we would be quick to seek forgiveness and make it right when we are the transgressor.

In the name of Jesus, I pray that we would have the guts to follow where you lead us.

I pray for freedom to reign. I pray for us to be a sisterhood of grace. I pray that our lives would become outposts, holy signs along the path, giving a lost world a glimpse of the abundant life we have found in you. Father, may we begin with our own life-giving lives.

I pray for messy living rooms, for late nights, for dirty dishes littering our counters; and I pray that we would all be given a faithful handful of friends and family to call when the darkness presses in close. I pray we would be the ones who are quick to show up at the right time for another person.

I pray that we would embody the truth that you didn’t save us, set us free, rescue and redeem us simply to “use” us. We aren’t here to earn our way, we’re not just pew fodder or a cog in a machine. Thank you being the Immanuel, God with us. Thank you for delighting in us, for walking with us.

Jesus, you have called us your friends so may we begin there, in friendship with you.

May we proclaim the Kingdom of God, your wild counter-cultural upside-down-kingdom beautiful ways, with our hands and our feet and our voice to every soul in our care and influence. I pray that we would long for prayer and for the  Scriptures. Father, may we keep secrets, may we be the ones who give away money, who share meals, who make room at whatever table we end up at, and sit alone in silence outside under the sky and be satisfied. May we hold babies and comfort the dying and be the voice of knowledge tempered with grace and wisdom.

Beautiful obscurity | Sarah Bessey

May we be the ones who do not despise the days of small things, but instead find You in our beautiful obscurity.

I pray that no matter our tool or method – parenting, preaching, cooking, writing, organizing, teaching, pastoring, whatever – all of our whole lives encompassing it all – that we will walk in the knowledge of the sacredness and purpose of our callings. I pray for dreams and visions, for the active leading of the Holy Spirit, and I pray we would never forget that we are loved, that love is our identity, our calling card, our home. As John wrote, may love have the run of our house.

I pray for perseverance and for discipline. I pray for speech seasoned with salt. I pray that when we are bored and tired and discouraged and frustrated, when we feel futile and small and ridiculous that we will remember your words in Matthew and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I pray that we would have the courage to turn around and face our lives, as they are right now. We could look it in the eye because this, right now, this is it. If we are surrounded by jelly-faced toddlers or thousands of longing, hungry souls, or if we lift our heads to find ourselves in a hospital or a back alley or a boardroom or in our own kitchen, father, may we know the truth: we are the people of Love.

I pray we would keep our eyes open for signs of your presence. Thank you for the joy of walking with you.

Jesus, we love you. And we trust you.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

*****

Some parts of this talk are from my book, Jesus Feminist, particularly the prayer.

The videos for the If:Gathering will be available for purchase soon, I believe. My personal favourites were Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, Rebekah Lyons, and Amena Brown but really, the whole thing is amazing.

And the big idea moving forward? Stay local, stay connected to our communities, and read Scripture together. Yep, it’s rocket science, indeed. Sign up for If:Equip here for starters, I’ll be one of the folks in the daily videos now and again.

Continue Reading · faith, If, jesus · 47

In which I think community is worth intention :: or, why I still “go to” church

Why do I still go to church?

Because we drive by the farms on the edge of town and the tinies watch for sheep.  Because I almost always consider pulling over on the side of the road just to take photos of our Sunday drive: the crisp blue sky and the sharp green rolling hills, the turning-red blueberry bushes squatted across the fields, the rise of the mountains in the haze of morning, but how can you Instagram the rush of cold air in your lungs and how it makes you feel so beautifully, so fully, alive?

Because we walk in and Pat will hug me while she hands Joe the bulletin. Because after a week of Facebook and school pick-ups and drop-off lines, a week of writing and laundry, a week of working and to-do lists, I hear my name called out in the lobby and, maybe for just a moment, someone sees me.  Because we laugh with one friend, ask how another one’s health is doing, figure out who needs a meal this week. We exchange quick hugs as placeholders for the conversation that might unfold this week or next, maybe next month. We engage in all the small talk that precedes the heart-talks. I hear about a dear young couple whose baby might be coming home soon and now I’ve got a little tunic to knit for a beloved and longed-for baby to cast on later this afternoon.  Because someone is always glad to see my tinies. Because these are their friends. Because my tinies head for the kid table of colouring pages and crayons just to offer up a high five to their children’s pastor, they are home.  Because we sit in folding chairs in a rather drafty school gym and our tinies sprawl on the floor at our feet or perch on our hips or stand beside us and watch it all, all, all, taking it in.  This is what we do on Sundays, we tell them, we live it with them, we gather.

Because my friend Tracy leads worship, she wears biker boots and sometimes her hair is pink. Because when she begins to stomp those boots on that wooden stage and when she stretches her arms out wide, tips her head back and cries out to God like she believes it, it makes me want to sit down and cry. Because the guy who play the piano sings old Keith Green songs, the same ones I used to sing to my babies in the sleepless nights. Because my son wants to sit in the front row. Because my toddler raises her hands up and warbles and hollers a song, she thinks she’s singing along, and no one gives her a dirty look. Because my eldest is twirling in the back with her best friends, eager for the worship dance class starting in November.

Because that couple over there just got married and that other one has been married for forty years. Because that dad has his arm around his teenage son and that lady took my exhausted friend’s little baby right out of her arms with a gentle smile and said, go on, you go on and sing or sit down, I’ll look after her for a little while, and I saw my friend’s eyes well up with thankful tears. Because this guy is in recovery and that guy is his sponsor. Because all these teenagers like to sing their hearts out and because I can hear babies and restless toddlers making noise without restraint.

Because I love to sing and where else in our lives do we get to sing communally anymore? Because I love happy-clappy choruses and sober hymns, because “I love you, Lord” sounds so beautiful in my own mouth. Because I love to worship with my people, and these are my people.  Because I chat in the always-long line-up for tea and coffee.

Because I sit beside my husband and we whisper back and forth during the sermon, it’s the closest we get to date night some months. Because we know and love our pastors for their humanity, not in spite of it, for their expansive pastoral hearts that make room for all of us, because of the way they show up for us. Because sometimes it’s an amazing sermon and sometimes it’s, um, not. Because we pass the bread and the cup, and we give each other communion and there is room at the table for everyone in this room.

Because I’ll see this little group of people on Thursday night for our Bible study, and that is where we’ll talk about the real stuff, show up, be disappointed and forgive, love each other a bit more every week. We’re friends now, but I see the promise of a sense of family coming.

Because even though the phrase “going to church” kind of bugs me (we don’t go, we are), and even though it’s messy and imperfect, even though I’ve let them down and they have let me down, even though there are disappointments, even though I don’t agree with everybody and they probably think I’m crazy sometimes, too, even though I don’t think we need an official sanctioned Sunday morning thing to be part of the Body of Christ, because even though I think the Church crosses a lot of our self-made boundaries and preferences and gatekeepers, I keep choosing this small family out of hope and joy.  

Because I want my children to grow up with the imperfect community of God like I did.Because I want to reclaim my heritage of faith as worthy of intention. Because I need to receive and I need to give. Because I want the tinies to know that however much I mess up, however much I fall short of my own ideals, I was planted in the house of God because this is where I practice it, learn it, start all over again. Because I want my tinies to know what my voice sounds like when I sing Amazing Grace.

Because at the end of the service, they practice the priesthood of all believers and anyone can pray for anyone else. Just go ahead and pray, go ahead. Talk to each other, you don’t need a sanctioned commissioning, you are already part of this Body so go on then.

Because I need to be around people who love Jesus, too.  Because I know Jesus better when I hear about Him from other people who follow Him, too. Because I almost always encounter the Holy Spirit in a profound, sideways sort of way when we’re gathered together in His name.

Because then I leave and I go back out into my world, my neighbourhood, my life, and there is always the promise of next week. Because some of my greatest wounds have come from church and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.

In a fractured and mobile and hyper customized and individualized globalized world, intentional community – plain old church – feels like a radical act of faith and sometimes like a spiritual discipline. We  show up at a rented school and drink a cup of tea with the people of God and remember together, who we are, why we live this life, and figure out all over again how to be disciples of The Way, because we are people of hope.

A repost from the archives

Continue Reading · church, community, faith, family · 41

In which I was a try-hard writer because I had a try-hard life

Six years ago, I quit writing. After more than 20 years of calling myself a writer, I laid the dream down in the ground, heaped on a bit of earth, and walked away. There were many reasons why I quit writing, but the final nail in the coffin was the literary agent who told a roomful of hopeful writers if we didn’t have a huge platform (think: mega-church pastor) to recommend us, then we’d be lucky to have a unique enough voice to ever be published.Quite right, quite right, murmured the packed room taking notes at the writer’s conference, all while my carefully curated dreams of sitting across from Oprah discussing my book’s inclusion in her book club crumbled to dust.

I knew the truth in that moment: I had no Voice. None. I loved to write, of course, I had a knack for a phrase now and then, but before I could happily delude myself out of the frank honesty, I knew, quite clearly, that my Voice did not exist and so, I could not be published. That night, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in my hotel room: it sounds a lot more romantic than it was. In reality, there was a lot of wadded up tissue and the bitter sense that I had been chasing rainbow gold that did not exist, a failure.

Before that moment, I had tried to be strategic about a writing career. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being strategic, not at all, but for me, I was using strategy to mask the lack of substance, strategy as smoke and mirrors to distract from an inauthentic Voice. I had read the tactics and tutorials for being a better blogger-turned-writer and so I tried them.

If a blogger was popular, I tried on their voice or topics for a while, imitating style and substance. I thought that I needed to narrow my focus a bit more because I couldn’t find my fit in the progressive Christian blogosphere – I wrote too much about my life and motherhood, perhaps. So I tried writing proper fodder for mum-bloggers: tutorials and tips, lists and anecdotes. This was a disaster because I was not made for do-it-yourself crafting or potty training tips. Then I tried the Christian-lady-blogger world with blog posts as devotionals but I was bored to tears and my own experience defied tying my spirituality up in a neat package. I tried to write like wry and smart feminists, objective and logical, then I tried to write like a serious social justice advocate for women. One persona after another after another, all were inadequate and fragmented snippets of my own self, masks for my whole self, and so it’s no wonder that I went to that writing conference discouraged and frustrated and unfulfilled.

Soon after I buried my dreams of being a writer, I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount when I read a few words from Jesus that felt new to me – this wasn’t really possible: I’d read them dozens of times, no doubt. But the Holy Spirit has a way of illuminating the words I need to know or live into at that moment. The words were spoken by Jesus in Luke 6:43 – “You must begin with your own life giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.”

The truth broke through again: my scattered copy-cat writing voice was simply evidence of my scattered copy-cat real life.

For years, I had a try-hard life. I tried to match my spirituality to certain men and women, a pastor here, a famous preacher there, a worthy mentor, or a compelling writer, until I could parrot the “right” answers without any real truth or discipleship on my own part. I could cry out, Lord, Lord but I didn’t know the voice of the Shepherd. As a mother, I would put other women on the pedestal above me, trying out their tactics or methods with varying success, always feeling like somehow I didn’t measure up, always feeling guilty and inadequate. As a wife, as a disciple, as a woman, as a writer, you name it, I was a scattered people pleaser looking for her real self. I was an inauthentic performer on the page because I was an inauthentic performer in my life.

If you’re a Today’s Christian Woman subscriber, you can read the rest of this article here. (It’s behind the paywall so you have to have a subscription to read it.)

P.S. The article is about finding your authentic self in Christ, not simply about finding one’s voice as a writer.

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