I can somewhat relate to Simone Biles, but on a smaller scale, of course. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and being pressured to be the Best by oneself and those around you. I can also relate to the feeling that you have let everyone down if and when you fail. I can relate to the burdens of having to conform to 1,080 (a hyperbolic estimate) or so expectations of you placed by those around you. However, God used my feelings of stress and overwhelm to teach me many things about being human and coming back stronger.
Last year, in late October, I became so overwhelmed with the pressures and stress of work that I had to take a leave of absence from work. I had just moved from the state where I lived in all my life, about six months prior, and suddenly I felt like everyone had just abandoned me because I didn’t meet their expectations. Additionally, since this was in the midst of the pandemic, I could not attend church or meet new people. I thought my life was over.
However, even though I had significant stress even in my leave, one of the good things God brought me from this situation is to make time for self-care. Often, Olympic athletes like Simon Biles and Kerri Strug are pressured to do so much for others’ viewing pleasure that they are forced to neglect rest and self-care. This needs to change. The Bible says self-love is wrong and is one of the negative qualities listed in 2 Timothy 4. However, I don’t think the Bible means that taking care of one’s physical and emotional health is wrong. What I think was meant by that passage in 2 Timothy is one that is self-indulgent to the point where they neglect others’ needs or that they love themselves in such a way that they become vain and self-serving. Also, not taking care of one’s own emotional and physical needs in order to meet someone else’s expectations could also be considered the self-love that is condemned in the Bible because we are withholding part of ourselves just so that people would see us a certain way or as stronger than we really are.
Another good thing that I learned during my time off work last year is to not worry so much about other people’s expectations of me. One of the things my friend Alex taught me is to be more comfortable in being who God has created me to be, and to weed out those who try to change me into the image that they think I should be. What if we valued these Olympic athletes, and more importantly, those we say we love and cherish the most, by demonstrating in word and deed that they are loved unconditionally? After all, the Lord also loves us unconditionally. It even says in Romans 5:8, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV).” Even when we were yet sinners, God loved us. Even when we were actively rejecting Him and His ways, He still loved us.
I still struggle with not worrying about others’ expectations of me, but I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am becoming more confident in how God made me, and this has in turn made me more able to minister to others who are struggling.
Through this trial, God also taught me to not be paralyzed by my fears. He has helped me through times even more recently where I felt like my performance at work wasn’t as good as it could be, and not delve into the belief that I am a complete failure. God has made me realize that being true to myself and glorifying Him are more important than meeting all the metrics that people may expect me to meet. Yes, I still want to do the best I can at work performance-wise, but I don’t want to stress if I cannot do as well as I (or others) may expect or want of me. I can also remember what one of my managers said to me, “ I assure you that all of the management team know your work ethic and how consistent you are so don’t stress out if you have a slower [performance] occasionally.”
I also wish all the Olympians and anyone else who feels pressured to perform at a certain rate would know that it is OK to fail sometimes or not be able to be the Best all the time. I wish those around them would remind them that they are still worthy as human beings even when they show vulnerabilities and shortcomings because we all do. No human is perfect, but every human has intrinsic value. That is what I ultimately learned during my time off work last year.
God has taught me so much over the last year or so since the pandemic started. One of the most significant lessons He has taught me is how to be more real both to Him and to those around me.
It’s always refreshing to be able to be around those who are honest in both their character and their demeanor. Being genuine, or real, to me involves possessing these characteristics. A lack of or deficiency in these traits may indicate a lack of authenticity in a person.
Being real involves a willingness to be honest about who you really are–The most genuine people don’t only talk about the best parts of their personality or their lives, but they show the tough stuff that they have gone through as well. A good example of this is my friend Alex, who has revealed himself real and raw whenever he shares something with me or the world. Several of my pastors have also strived to be genuine by revealing their struggles with sin and temptation, as well as how they have overcome some of them, and how they are constantly working to become more godly. They don’t lord over people or have a holier-than-thou persona.
Being real involves being able to be honest about how you are really feeling.–Nothing is more surface than answering the question of “How are you?” with a flat “fine,” especially if that is not the case. What’s even worse is when someone is trying to answer the “How are you?” question honestly, and the person asking the question blows them off and doesn’t really care for their true answer. When you create an environment that is free of judgment, ridicule and condemnation and really take the time to care about how a person really feels about something, the more likely the person will be willing to share their authentic feelings about a situation.
Being real involves losing the need to always impress people and instead just be our true selves.–I felt that my one ex-friend always wanted to impress me with her “holiness” and her supposed religiosity. I finally saw through that, and now that is one of the reasons why she is now my EX-friend. If a person consistently expects you to impress them with a certain type of persona instead of being who you really are, including your flaws and foibles, chances are they are toxic to be around. You should probably show them the door. Either way, we should strive to be our true selves around those we care about in order to free them to be who they really are. The people who truly love us will want to know our real selves, and not just the persona you are trying to create to impress them or the persona you feel you must show to the general public.
Being real is crucial to building trust and maintaining good and lasting relationships with others. If you cannot be who you really are, then people are really not getting to know the real you. If they like “you” they are not liking the Real You, only the image of who they think “you” are. When people are acting fake or hypocritical to me, it feels like they are lying to me because in a sense they are. When one lies, they erode whatever trust I had in them. When one is authentic, however, it is one of the most refreshing, elating and freeing experiences one can ever experience in life.
According to a Forbes article on demotivation at work, two major causes of job dissatisfaction are unpleasant or incompetent bosses and unpleasant co-workers (1). I have certainly found that to be the case for many people I have encountered that have worked for various companies. It is true that we cannot change other people’s behaviors or hearts. However, in my career in retail sales, I have learned these things about how to get along with a manager or co-worker that was difficult:
Realize you cannot change a person’s heart towards you, work, or anyone or anything else.—I had a manager (see also:What I Learned From My Manager) who I had such a tough time dealing with that I used to pray to God every day for 1 1/2 years for our relationship to get better, not thinking God would actually really do anything to fix our work relationship. Finally, things got so bad, that I was full of wrath and anxiety when, on my day off, I walked into church for bible study! I wasn’t even thinking about God or church. I was consumed with both fear and anger of my manager. However, after my pastor at the time counseled me through the situation I had with my manager, I had an epiphany: I realized that I had spent so much time trying to change my manager, that I failed to look in the mirror and examine the things in my heart that I needed to change! Once I realized that I couldn’t change my manager’s heart, I began to shift into a more positive attitude towards him and I became free of my bitterness and anger that I had held inside for so long! When he left the company, I was on such good terms with him that we considered each other friends! I had a co-worker that I had a really tough time dealing with also, but once I realized that I couldn’t change them (or get rid of them), I became more patient and friendlier towards them. So I learned to not try to force someone to change their behavior by being vengeful or venting my anger towards 20 or so other people. You need to accept that you cannot change that person’s heart, and that only God can change them.
Be intentionally kind to the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Yes, this is completely against our human nature, but it is what Jesus would do. When I was having difficulties with my aforementioned manager, I realized that he was working very hard and not having enough time to eat adequately, so I shared some of my food with him. I am not mentioning this to pat myself on my back (after all, I was also the same person who treated him before with malice and contempt), but to illustrate how being intentionally kind can change one’s attitude towards another. This is why pastors advise their congregants to pray a blessing on a person whom they view to be “difficult” or the “enemy”. Other ways to be intentionally kind to someone who is difficult to get along with is to help them with their work when you see them struggling, compliment them in a genuine way about how they are working or if you see an improvement in some aspect of their attitude, and saying “thank you” if they do something nice for you that you do not expect of them.
Avoid gossiping about the person with whom you are having difficulties. –Most people have gossiped about someone that they did not like and with whom they were having difficulties. I think most of the problems that I have had would have been avoided if I did not “vent” about these people with whom I thought were “difficult” to other coworkers and managers, and I instead talked gracefully towards the person directly. However, fear, coupled with my prideful attitude towards the situation prevented me from talking to that person directly. If someone else gossips to you about a person that they are having difficulties with, a good question to ask them is, “Have you talked to that person [with whom you are having difficulties] about this?” If they haven’t, tell them to either talk to them directly or a manager if they are having fears about confronting that person alone. Remember, it is gossip if the person you are talking to about the situation is not part of the solution or problem.
My pastor talked about showing grace to others today, especially in this chaotic time we are in these days. When we realize we can’t change anyone’s heart by ourselves, when we are intentionally kind to others, even our enemies, and if we avoiding gossiping about co-workers and bosses we don’t like, we will not only be able to show more grace at work, we will receive the same as well.
I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general. Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad. Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.
Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life. Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another. I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies. I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins. For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride. Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset. However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have. In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours! Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).
When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!
As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a
memoir about things that I have had to overcome to be who I am now. One of the toughest parts to write so far has
been a period in my life where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the
tunnel, and when I felt like I had little hope or future in my life. Those were
my middle school years—when I was about 12-14 years old. Sometimes, I wish I knew all that I know now,
back then, so that I wouldn’t have been so miserable and hopeless. However, if I didn’t go through what I did
back then, I would have never become the person I am today either. If I could go back and mentor my middle
school self, this is what I would advise her:
God will always bring good out of suffering.–If I knew that all the pain, heartache, and hopelessness that I felt when I was in middle (J.R. high school) school was going to amount to something even half-good, I would have not felt as miserable as I did. The fact is because of the bullying and the pain I experienced in middle school, I am better equipped to help others who are struggling similarly. Because God and others helped me overcome the pain I endured before, my story can give others hope that, they, too can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. In fact, if you are struggling right now, or have struggled, and you don’t know if these challenges are going to add up to anything good, know that your story can one day give others who are struggling, hope, if you don’t give up now. Many times during that dark period in my life I wanted to commit suicide, but God, in His sovereign wisdom did not allow me. Thank God He didn’t, or else I wouldn’t be here sharing this!
If people don’t accept you for you, don’t try to please them or let them rent space in your life.—In middle school, I struggled to gain the acceptance and the close friendship of my peers. All in all, though I may have appeared happy, I was really dying inside. I tried to learn from them sometimes in an attempt to mimic their behaviors, so I would be more “acceptable,” but it never seemed like it was enough. The same people I wanted to impress probably saw through me, and, in the end, I was still in the same spot I was in the first place—lonely and unacceptable to my peers. Now, I have learned that if people want me to change things that are part of how God made me, like how I look on the outside (like my ethnicity), or don’t want to accept that I am an INFJ on the spectrum, that I should not put stock in trying to please them. In fact, I have had to let go of several people in the past ten years that haven’t really accepted me for who God made me to be. It really is better to be hated for who you are, then “loved” for who you are not, as people will find out the Real You anyway. Be authentic to yourself and others.
Grades aren’t everything.—I was so fixated on grades, that when I did poorly, I was deathly afraid that I would make my dad livid and more so, that I would flunk out of school. Even though I tried my best to do well in school, and had decent grades, they had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me find the job I have now! Some teachers may say to a student who is struggling that if they don’t improve, they will end up working at “McDonalds.” What these teachers don’t understand is that one could make decent grades and graduate from a half-way decent college, and STILL work at McDonalds! Also, someone could graduate with a “C” average in school, but end up making millions of dollars in acting or even starting their own business if they know what they are doing. I would still advise my middle school self to work diligently in school, but not get too anxious if I failed one test!
Having convictions and drive will make you more successful in life than if you are just “getting by.”—Although I worked hard in school, I only did so to make my parents happy and for fear of failure. However, I have discovered in the past few years that my attitude back then is similar to how many people view their jobs, as just a way to “get by”. Yes, we should make sure we are making enough money in our jobs to make ends meet, but it shouldn’t be about just that. Although I don’t make even close to a million dollars a year at my job, I still strive to go above and beyond and do the best I can every single day. Why? Because I want to glorify God and show people that working diligently can be a more satisfying and enriching learning experience if you approach your job as a calling, and not only to make money. Because I am convinced God has placed me in my job to impact a certain group of people for a reason, I am more motivated to do my best, even when I may not get a raise for years. If I approached my school as a calling, rather than just trying to gain the acceptance of love of people who were already set in their opinion of me, I think I would have been a lot happier.
I am convinced that if I had learned these lessons in middle
school, I would not have struggled as much back then. However, I am glad that I
did eventually learn these lessons, though, sometimes, like other things I have
learned, sometimes I need to go back and review them. I am glad for these lessons, because without
them, I would have never grown into the person I am today. And I am glad for the God that helped me
I am saddened and dismayed by the political vitriol and discord that has gone on in my country, and frankly, around the world as well. Unfortunately, I have taken part in heated and aggressive arguing before. It was about twenty years ago in an online forum. I may have considered myself a believer in Christ, but I doubt I really was at the time. Worse yet, one of my hateful messages became a featured message on that particular website! I regret writing that message to this day, and hope it is not still up there. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know it didn’t build up or respect anyone at all. Thankfully, God did not leave me hate-filled and aggressive like I was before, and He has taught me, through many respectable and grace-filled Christians, how to speak my mind more gracefully. Here is what I learned, and continue to learn:
When confronted with a person or person with an opposing view, make sure you understand what they are actually saying, and define terminology. —I was in an online discussion on a social media platform that got heated because both sides seemed to not understand what the other person’s view actually was. That’s why I asked them to define terms. For instance, I’ve seen and heard people arguing against the stay at home order in their state. Other people accused them of being “selfish” because they are arguing against it. In order for either party to share their beliefs with grace, they need to try to understand where the party with the opposing belief is coming from. The party that called the people protesting or arguing about the stay at home order “selfish” could instead see what part of the stay at home order they are against. The people protesting may not be against all stay at home orders, but just the more restrictive parts of it. The people who are for the stay at home orders may just come out of a concern and care for others’ well -are and safety and are not intending to be “tyrannical,” as those protesting the orders may think. Also, it would be useful for both parties to define clearly and precisely the term “stay at home order.” What would it include? What would it not include?
Focus on what you agree on, not on what divides you.—In my example about the stay at home order, it may be useful to focus more on what unites you, not only what you disagree about. Both parties in arguing about the stay at home order issue seem to come out of a concern for what they feel is the greater good. The party that supports people staying at home until COVID-19 passes wants people to stay safe and not potentially spread the virus, especially to the most vulnerable in society. The party that supports lifting some restrictions on the stay at home order in their state may want the economy to recover so that less people would be out of work and have income to buy food and other necessities.
Never name-call or denigrate the other side.–What I see in many bitter and contemptible debates is that people tend to demonize and denigrate the opposing side. They do not see the opposing side as humans with goals and dreams like us, but instead as a demon or even the devil himself! If we want to speak our mind with grace, we can never demonize the other side. We must remember that no matter what side a person is on, they are humans, created in God’s image, like we are. They have hopes, dreams, and families, like we do. If someone, especially in an online forum, starts resorting to name-calling or otherwise denigrating you, you can shut down the conversation by not responding to their comments and getting out of the forum. This will allow both parties to cool down, or, at least stop the verbal escalation from getting worse. Sometimes, I even refrain from sharing my beliefs, not so much because I’m afraid to, but because I do not want to get into a name-calling, hateful debate with others.
I find that when we try to understand where our opponent is coming from, when I focus on where I agree with my opponent instead of only what divides us, and when I treat my opponent with respect and grace, that we will understand and love each other better. This pandemic alone won’t unite people, but a heart that respects and gives grace to even our opponents, can and will. Let’s feel free to share our beliefs, but let’s do so with a humble and a gracious attitude.
I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every
person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics.
No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently
embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in
close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to
embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:
The most important trait that my close friends all have is
authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy,
and genuine. They do not act one way towards
others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior
motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something
from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their
lives. Also, another part of how they
are authentic is their honesty. For
instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me
the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth
because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked
upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth! I appreciate this about my friend because her
honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed
trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling
me that I am worth what is true. Sure,
some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that
because it shows that she values honesty.
Another trait that my closest friends all have is a
servant’s heart. All of my close friends
have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve
others. Some are serving the Lord as
missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has
abandoned them. Still others are serving
their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the
same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to
die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those
of the one who would eventually betray Him!
They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make
the world a better place for everyone.
Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the
willingness to be vulnerable. I define
vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and
victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I
see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not
always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no
one, except God, is really perfect. Mark
Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t
doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we
don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being
vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her. In years past, I admit I have struggled with
being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me. However, I have realized over the past five to
ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share
their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond
between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each
other. It also enables others to help us
through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in
our pain and struggles.
Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is
thoughtfulness and care towards others.
Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the
needs of others. One of my close
friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness
that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would
help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings
that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday. I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of
that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other
very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about
several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to
take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she
sensed that I was hurting and sad. I aim
to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants
moral support in a time of need. All my
close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give
them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.
Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have
spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life
more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these
friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around
them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level
with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in
this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows
this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about
these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ
to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to
relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to
church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate
better to the world around them.
I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you
know who you are—who embody these characteristics. I pray that we all would strive to embody
authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our
lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from
their pain and fears.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am blessed that
God has provided me with two wonderful pastors, and one Pastor Emeritus who
have served and labored over my local church for many years. I have been in several different churches,
but my current church has been the best so far.
I have learned more in the past three years, than I have in the previous
sixteen years in the Lord. I owe all this to God and His sovereignty in placing
the people in my life today, especially the pastoral leadership of my church.
One of the major things my pastors taught is how to more
effectively relate to others. About
three years ago, I had a tumultuous work relationship with one of my managers
at the time. One day, things became so
bad between the manager and me, that I actually went into one of the services
upset and very bitter towards this person, even though I was not scheduled to
work that day and hadn’t even made contact with this person in a few days. So, I decided as a last-ditch effort to maybe
quell my intense emotions and be able to concentrate on the sermon that night,
that I would talk to Pastor John* about what was going on. (You can read the whole story here.) Pastor
John gave me a few poignant Bible Verses. I told Pastor John, “I tried to be
nice to him [meaning my manager], but I don’t think anything is happening. “ Then, Pastor John told me something I will
never forget: He said, “Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing. Just because your manager hasn’t responded
now, doesn’t mean God will not work in his heart later.” This not only convicted me to be more patient
with my manager, but also helped me to see that I hadn’t really been trying
that hard at all at being kind to him.
That night, I wrote an apology note to my manager, asking him to forgive
me of my bitterness towards him. The next day, I was able to see my manager as
a person in need of grace and love, rather than the monster that I crafted into
my mind for one and a half years. Thus, Pastor John was instrumental in helping
me reconcile with my manager, whom I’m pleased to say I’m on good terms with my
now-former manager and he’s happy where he is at now. Pastor John recently helped me to think
differently about my job, through one of the sermons he preached. Instead of
thinking of my job as a “necessary evil,” especially when I’m stressed, God spoke through my pastor, and they helped
me realize that I am at the job I’m in for a reason—to give hope to others
and to spread Christ’s love there. Yes,
my job gets very stressful at times, but as long as I’m doing what God (and
those He put over me at work) commanded me, God’s sovereign will and His
faithful love will cover me during those times.
Pastor Don* and Pastor Todd* also taught me how to more effectively
relate to others through how they are patient with others and willing to serve
wherever they are called.
Another thing that my pastors have taught me is how to be
more authentic, both in my relationship with God, and others. One of the things that I always appreciate
about people in general is their willingness to admit fault and to be
vulnerable, and not try to maintain this “perfect fake image” in front of
others. All my pastors model this to a
good degree, but I have especially appreciated this coming from Pastor Todd.
One time he admitted on the pulpit that he got pulled over for speeding!
Thankfully, because the police officer liked our church, Pastor Todd got off
with a warning. I found this
vulnerability and honest confession refreshing in an age where there are many
church leaders who will try to hide their sins and flaws; with the appearance
that they know “everything” and that they are “holier-than-thou.” There were
other times too that Pastor Todd was open about his personal struggles with sin
and temptation. This is refreshing to me because I feel that Pastor Todd’s
honesty makes him more relatable to someone like me, who also struggles with
sin and temptation on a daily basis. In other words, his vulnerability and
authenticity makes him more human and trustworthy!
One of the most important things that my pastors have taught
me is how to be more passionate about Jesus Christ. All of them have emphasized, over and over
again, God’s love and sovereignty over the whole world. I learned from Pastor John that God’s
sovereignty intervenes in our whole lives, down to the bosses we will have and
the parents we have. I learned from
Pastor John that if we loathe our bosses and constantly complain about them, we
also have a problem with God, because it is He who put them there in our midst,
possibly to teach us something or for God’s sovereign and good purposes in our
lives! This has taught me in order for
me to be more passionate about Jesus that I need to trust Him even in the
tougher circumstances of my life, and not to complain about the people He
decides to place in my life. I learned
from Pastor Todd that in order for me to be more passionate about Jesus, I need
to learn that Jesus loves me very much and He always has good in mind for me,
according to His purposes. I learned
from Pastor Todd’s teaching on the book, “God is More Than Enough,” that when I
become discontented with my circumstances, I need to check my heart to
eliminate any worldly and selfish desires on my part, especially the want for
something more than what Christ has already graciously provided me. Pastor Don, Pastor Todd, and Pastor John all
have taught me the importance of spreading the Good News and to show God ‘s
love to all those around us, even those we may consider our enemies.
Because of my pastors’ commitment to teaching exactly what
Jesus taught, and because they strive to live authentic and blameless lives,
they have helped strengthen and shape how my faith is today. Of course, none of
us are even close to perfect, but I will always appreciate the good that these
three men have done in our church and in my life.
I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that
nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I
have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to
life in eternity with God. I have sensed
in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia,
you don’t have much time left.” The
following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I
believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:
I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and
final—but it doesn’t have to be. Dying
well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One
can have that, and still not die well.
Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love
you. To me, dying well means to have
lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when
you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one
needs to find out what it is! I believe
that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter
Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy
Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose
However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you
will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the
people He puts in our path. For
instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and
continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting
people around me and to strengthen my character. In this job, I am learning, not only some
marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and
at peace with life. I have learned that
anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.
When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to
fulfill His purposes for me. When it is
my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments
He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.
Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She
became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used
people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her
character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be
recounted long after she had departed this earth. Although Rachel died what many consider a
tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to
her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have
in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and
fulfilled her God-given purpose.
I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact,
in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must
deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose
it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jesus is saying that in order to live, and,
ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires,
ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.
I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly,
I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before
me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry,
resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires
and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my
circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly. I also find the same is true for those around
me. Those around me who complain the
most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not
submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God! What a miserable way, not only to live, but
to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable
life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am
tempted to believe this very lie!
However, in reality, the opposite is most often true. When we are willing to sacrifice for others,
we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be
content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.
Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve
others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves,
it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we
are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to
focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and
service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather
than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means
having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not
just out for yourself.
In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to
fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to
live to serve God and others with a whole heart. As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You
don’t have much time left.” Yes, we
don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use
what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.