Work, Success, Perfection… And How God Addressed these Idols in My Life

Each day this month I will be answering one question from these December Journal Prompts.

Day 5: What was the biggest lesson you learned this year?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons this year. If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll already be acquainted with quite a few of the lessons that Avra has taught me over the past twelve months. But I think it would be almost impossible for me to identify which was the “biggest” lesson I learned this year. So instead, I’m just going to pick one and write about it!

This summer, a few friends and I journeyed through a great devotional book by Annie F. Downs called “100 Days to Brave.” Every day we read a short excerpt from the book, each one challenging us to “be brave” in all kinds of different ways.

Day 21 was all about hearing God’s voice. The challenge was to be brave enough to believe that God wants to speak to you. Listening to God can be scary at times, because it means putting yourself out there. It means dealing with the frustrating inner battles that rage when your mind says, “but was that REALLY God?” And sometimes it means choosing to step WAY outside your comfort zone when God says something that you weren’t really hoping to hear.

A huge focus of my prayer life this year was asking God to help me understand my next step after my maternity leave ends. I have been in my role as Director of Children and Family Ministries at First Baptist Church since 2011, and I have become extremely passionate about what I do. My “job” is much more than just a job to me, and I have poured so much of my heart and soul into it over the years. Staying home this year was a big challenge for me in a lot of ways, but an even bigger challenge was not having a clear picture of what happens next. Should I go back to work full time? Should I stay home with Avra? These are big decisions with big implications for a family.

I feel so connected to my work. It would be hard for me to imagine not continuing to do what I do because, quite frankly, I think I’m good at it. I believe that God has gifted me with a high capacity for leadership and positioned me to accomplish my role well. And let’s just be real here. I LOVE accomplishing tasks well! It makes me feel good about myself. Even though I know my sense of value and purpose should always come from God alone, the place where I most often slip into drawing it from is my own accomplishments.

And on Day 21 of “100 Days to Brave”, when I decided to be brave enough to really listen to God, I realized that a big driving factor behind my vocational goals and aspirations was not God’s leading. It was my desire to check boxes, to live off the high of my own productivity, and to achieve great things… for me. It wasn’t so much about the calling, or about accomplishing God’s will, but rather an attempt to personally fill the void that has always existed in my heart. That void that only God, and His love flowing into and through me, can fill.

And here’s what God said to me.

“You need to do what you’re doing because you CARE, not just because you CAN.”

There are a lot of times when I question and doubt whether or not I have heard from God. But then there are also times when I feel certain. Every once in a while, God speaks to my heart in just such a way that I can’t deny the divine nature of the message. And this was one of those days. This was one of those messages.

I knew in my heart that it was God. I knew that He was addressing an idol in my life. Work. Success. Achievement. Perfectionism. Some of the things that push me to do my job really well… but not the things that should be motivating me to continue in ministry.

He reminded me that the gifts and abilities that He has given me are to be used for His glory, not for my own. He pointed out that if I am to continue in ministry, it shouldn’t be just because I am good at it. It shouldn’t be just because I can. It should be because I care. I need to care more about the people God has given me to minister to, than about the work I do to minister to them. I need to care more about the state of peoples’ hearts, than about the state of my to-do list. I need to care more about doing God’s work, than about doing my own.

God didn’t really give me the answer I was looking for that day. What I wanted was a clear picture of how things were going to play out in my life—what God was going to do with to my hopes and dreams for the future. But instead of talking to me about the “what”, God dug a little deeper into my heart and spoke to me about the “why”.

So, what happens next? Well, I think we’re extremely close to having a final answer. But I’m leaving that in God’s hands!

I’d love to hear about some of the lessons you have learned this year! Leave me a comment below and tell me about it!

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