One random internet stumbling ago, I found that quote and tapped it out on my phone to save for later. Isn’t it perfect? Profound? Poetic?
As pragmatic and rational as I can be, there’s a part of me that’s also unfailingly wistful, naive, and a bit nostalgic for some idealized perfect future or circumstance. (Can you even be nostalgic for a future thing?)
I love the quote’s ability to hide the passion and emotion implied in the words with its dry delivery. Part of the beauty of those words are the breadth of human experience they capture, but I’m just going to focus on the few that struck me most: hard work and emotion. It amused me how my subconscious idealized those things without experientially knowing what they were.
In its own way, DTS taught me more about those two things than anything I’ve done in my life thus far. Some people are, by nature or by nurture, able to function freely in those two things. I am not one of those people. I’ve always tried to overcome this with the pressure and stress that’s induced by procrastinating on deadlines and analytically breaking down emotions, respectively. Not the healthiest ways to function, let me tell ya.
Much of it came from living out of insecurity—of acting and doing because I wanted to prove my worth by being better than the person next to me or earn and justify the love/approval from my parents (and thus God). Raw and unbridled emotions were simply a mystery and an inconvenience that seemed only to cause pain.
True humility (thus confidence) only comes when the Father whispers the ultimate reality to you: “I love you. Now. In the past. In the future. Nothing will change that”, and then you believe it.
When I returned to Kona, it gave me proof of my growth. I was constantly forced to think about my 19 year old self vs. my 26 year old self. It was so significant for me because my growth is something I am always taking for granted. I’m far more comfortable obsessing over my shortcomings rather than the ways in which I’ve matured and improved.
As I wrote back in January, my tears helped to discover a part of me I’d let grow hardened. My hurts and bitternesses began thawing and it allowed me to simply love myself and receive love from the people around me.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with leadership. Maybe that’s true for a lot of my generation—a generation that was shielded from failure with awards and assurance that they were special or extraordinary. I consider my first leadership role to have been in Kona with YWAM staffing a DTS and leading a team on outreach to China. I was 19, wildly ambitious and desiring perfection. I returned a little wiser, but still not fully having dealt with the pattern of leading out of striving that had taken root.
At UCLA, I assumed leadership roles among a group of passionate and idealistic college kids who wanted to see God move dramatically there (I’m oversimplifying a bit). With that root issue unresolved, I came out of those four years tired and a little disillusioned, but onto a new high—a romantic relationship!
I married soon after without fully dealing with my heart issues and went straight to a 9 to 5 in a foreign country with no community around me.
It took those years outside of the familiar, discovering what it meant to be known by another, and being humbled by my inability to easily live out my ideals, to process and better appreciate what I now understand to be such an important, beautiful, and courageous period in my life. This was a marked difference from the scorn with which I viewed my many mistakes and regrets, but it was also a tough period where my heart began to shy away from living with confidence, vision, and integrity, choosing instead to live mostly for my flesh.
It’s no wonder when I returned to Kona with no real objective but to receive love, I broke down. God gently reminded of how my heart and my daily life choices had grown to prioritize my flesh over my spirit.
Seven years prior, I asked God to teach me how to cry. Seven years later, he answered that prayer—just not in the way I expected.
One day, God showed me the two paths I could have taken after I prayed that prayer. One was a path of confidently living life based on the reality that I was loved by God. The other was to live life consumed with earning love based on earthly standards. Both would accomplish the goal, but I chose the latter. Looking back, many of my life decisions in the day to day things were made more out of the fear of failure and rejection than confidence in the reality of my worth. God showed me a bruised and beaten heart from choosing to operate out of fear, rather than accepting and living from my true identity.
I’ve noticed that I tend to place most of my effort on making wise and love-filled decisions on the bigger, overarching things in life instead of the quiet moments when no one’s looking.
I’ve always loved the latin proverb esse quam videri, “to be rather than to seem”. It’s because I suck at it! It’s really hard for me to be genuine because I’m always overthinking things and really conscious of how I appear to other people. I’m the worst critic of them all! It’s because I’m so judgmental that I’m so careful and want my outer appearance to be without fault. What a horrible way to live!
Being in community forces you to trash the notion that you can be perfect in front of others. You’re always showing your bad side in one way or another—how beautiful is that! I have a feeling God intended us to live that way.
In outreach, you can’t be perfect. But, just like it did on my own outreach seven years ago, being in Africa on outreach forced me to cling to God which, paradoxically, freed me to be myself! I definitely wasn’t perfect at it, but boy am I excited to get better and grow in it.
You know what I learned? To start sweating the small stuff. It’s the small decisions in your day that help you learn how to sweat—to put in the difficult work that’s necessary to achieve something of worth.
DTS taught me that discipline is so important in the little things. And for me, I could only have learned that through hearing and believing that I am loved.